When I arrived in Mississippi for Thanksgiving week, I realized that I left my camera at home. After about ten minutes of being disappointed, I realized that this was probably a good mistake. Too often, it is easy to use the camera and its ability to take one dimensional photographs as a substitute for really experiencing the best moments. Then, it is too easy to slap a picture or two up on the blog and call it good. I have lamented the decline in vocabularies of most Americans for too long, and probably an over-reliance on pictures instead of rounded out, complete descriptions probably exacerbates this phenomenon. It doesn’t take long being in Mississippi to remind me of the power of the spoken word and storytelling. And while words and a story cannot be a complete substitute for the experience, they can offer a depth to the description of an experience that a photo cannot convey. So here are some of my favorite Mississippi week moments in words:
1. Running, skipping, leaping and otherwise prancing with Knightley through grassy fields and tall hay. Knightley is covered with hay seeds and has long pieces of hay caught in the fur of his back legs. It doesn’t stop him from leaping through the tall grass and racing me back to the house from our walk down to the edge of the woods. Knightley doesn’t want to go back inside. The weather is too glorious and when does he ever have the opportunity to run this way in his day to day existence in the city?
2. I am listening to Dust in the Wind for the second time since I have crossed into the Central Time Zone. I am sitting in my dad’s air conditioned tractor cab “bushhogging“, as we call it, the tall fields of hay. Most people probably just refer to it as mowing. The breeze is gently bending the tall hay in front of me. I try to make my rows of cut hay neat and even, but I am singing at the top of my lungs and dancing in the seat. This means that every so often I hit a bump and swerve to the right or left, as I am not holding the steering wheel tightly enough. I glance in my left side mirror and I see the rows behind me are curvy and uneven. I resolve to concentrate on what I am doing and make the rows neater, but then, Don’t Fear the Reaper comes on the radio, and I am mentally cowbelling away and back to dancing in my seat.
3. I have finally resolved to clean the interior of my car and rid it of Knightley’s dirty paw prints from our long drive. But this is the country, and this means that I can wind all of the windows down on my car and turn up the XM 60s radio station loudly, as my parents don’t have nearby neighbors. However, listening to Lesley Gore only causes me to start dancing erratically. I decide that my car needs a host of other cleaning treatments, just so I have an excuse to keep the radio turned up loudly.
4. It is eight o’clock in the evening and pitch black except for the light of the fire pit that my family is gathered around. My cousin Danielle, her husband Trin, their three children and I decide to take a Gator ride through the woods with the spotlight. Noah, Danielle’s older son decides that this will be a vampire hunt. Trin takes the driver’s seat with Danielle beside him. The kids and I pile into the back. The vehicle is so full that we fail to move above 5 miles per hour. Nonetheless, the air is chilly and Connor, Danielle’s younger son, complains that his hands are cold. I begin to rub them to warm them up, the same way I recall my mother doing to my hands when I was young. We enter the woods and shine the spotlight ahead. “Look!” Trin yells! All heads turn. Is it Edward? Noah wonders. Nope. It is just a large, cotton tailed bunny. We spot five or six other bunnies before we return to the house, no vampires in sight.
5. My mom has the red Lobster tennis machine set up on the driveway. Dad spent the day before welding hooks to a pipe to make poles to hold the net. It is also set up across the driveway. My hair is newly cut and too short to pull back into a ponytail. I have my racket, but I am not wearing tennis shoes. Nonetheless, I run at full force at the tennis ball that is shot out of the machine toward me. I overrun it, and my first swing doesn’t hit the ball directly. I feel a wave of humiliation coming over me, my face turning red, before I remember that out here in the country, I don’t have to worry about the person on the court next to me laughing and making fun of me. I correct my approach and then start hitting the balls more directly. By the time I switch to my backhand, I am hitting shot after shot.