six Days south


My long suit is curiosity, which leads to discovery, and now that I think about it, wonder is likely to be at the bottom of everything I experience.

I am a gypsy, I refer to my Camry as Vagabond, and we have two destinations: St. Petersburg, Florida (when I leave Illinois) and Chicago (when I leave St. Petersburg.) I go off the map often. (That’s Kavanaugh’s Law #2.)

I use GPS on my smartphone, I like to look at the little map thing – it comes up with nice ideas: use this route, here’s the construction zone, your arrival time is 4:09, total miles 468, etc. I do use the GPS, but mostly for back up. Because I have a compass thing, too, and that’s in my rear view mirror. Me, I’m either pointed north or south. And then I take the scenic route. Interstates are in good shape these days and whipping along with everybody else is okay, but I’ve discovered empty highways that are in great shape and they take me to forests and mountain vistas and old-time hardware stores, all of them discoveries where I can feel the wonder  . . . breathing in and out.

I left Chicago in the early morning dark when the temperature was 28 degrees and everybody else was still in bed. That was last week. I took my sweet time  - six days – heading south into warmer weather. Each time I looked at the weather map, I refer to it a lot; I noticed that the cold front was right behind me. Each time I smiled at my uncanny wisdom on leaving town at just the right time.

I “wrote” while I drove.

Well, that’s a stretch. I made up dialogue - and I’ve learned mulling a conversation in my head doesn’t work. What worked for me is speaking it out loud! I find I need another character, and then I need to build him or her. I drove, imaginary people showed up, I wandered the back roads and took in the dilapidated porches and dead cotton plants and the tired folks pumping gas. I listened to the simple words spoken with kindness wherever I stopped.

I called on my GPS to get me out of the weeds of South Carolina and then again when night settled in and I learned that South Carolina doesn’t waste any of the taxpayers’ money on street lighting. That’s when I wondered why bother with the street signs if they can’t be seen in the dark?

I dallied southbound for six days, visited with family and friends along the way, sat in front of their fireplaces and swung on porch swings where the weather was warmer. I watched the full moon hanging in a black sky at 6a.m. as I drove through the Low Country marshes. A new scene for a story was the result.

I’m settled now on the south end of my world. I stuffed my parka in the corner of the trunk and put my thong shoes on after a getting a pedicure. I’m in the sunshine, the temperature is waffling around the mid-sixties, and next week I’ll attend the Writers In Paradise Conference at Eckerd College.

That cold front? I think it was chained to my bumper the whole time I was heading south.


January 10, 2015



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