I thought I’d begin my sojourn as a writer for A Sense of Place with a bit of discussion of the particular place I find myself in now, and how I wound up here…
Recently John Beckett asked “Where are you from?” and relatedly, “where do you feel at home?” I’m from north Georgia, just across the state line from where he grew up, and like him I find that glorious southern Appalachian landscape stays with me wherever I go. But as for where my home is now…well, that’s a story.
Almost a year ago, I sat in a Beltane circle with my coven mates, discussing how our lives were going. Like you do. The main part of the ritual was over, but the circle was still up. I described the many changes that had happened in my life, including in my relationship with my (adult) son’s father who had moved across the country for a job. I was not planning to follow him.
“Things are going pretty well over all,” I said, “but I’m kind of lonely.”
Six weeks later, I was dating someone, a friend whom I’d met a couple of years previously when we were both in other relationships. By fall, I’d moved in with him, for reasons that seemed logical at the time. I swore I’d never date another writer, but I’m clearly not rational on this subject, and really, who wants to be? Aphrodite does not brook objections. She’s got her own agenda, and you either ride that pony wherever it goes or stay home. Besides, I’d asked. I am capable of some stupid things, but voicing what I want in a ritual circle, getting it promptly on a silver platter, then turning it down because it doesn’t fit my preconceived notions is not one of them. So here I am.
And where is here, exactly? Pine Lake is a strange little town. Incorporated in the 1930s, founded as a resort back when its location was “out in the country” away from Atlanta, it’s now just barely OTP (Outside the Perimeter for you non-Atlantans) but still maintains a kind of bucolic atmosphere, slightly askew from the surrounding metro sprawl, like Brigadoon off Rockbridge Road. The eponymous lake helps: fed by Snapfinger Creek and framed at each end by constructed wetlands, it is home to beavers, bream, mallards, a heron, a reputed fox, obstreperous Canada geese, the occasional coot, and many turtles. Many, many turtles. The human fauna are equally varied…you can hardly throw a rock here without hitting a writer, artist, dancer, musician, or educator. (And occasional coot, old or otherwise…) There are many same-sex couples in town, and quite a few Pagans. Yard art is a thing. To give you an idea, we held a Yule vigil at my house on the Winter Solstice, and found we had to schedule around the two other Winter Solstice events going on, one of which involved a candle labyrinth, plus a non-Solstice-related party. The town is not that big; you can walk from one end to the other in about fifteen minutes. That is in fact how people solved the problem: they simply meandered from one party to the next, on foot. There was singing. Because that’s how Pine Lake rolls.
What I am saying is, they are a bunch of weirdos here and I fit in. Not the least because there is a strong sense of community that includes and in some ways is built around the non-human community which shares this place with us. When the ducklings hatch and start tooling around the lake with their duck mamas, it is news. When an injured possum appears by the side of the road, it is also reported and discussed. Someone gets a crate and takes that possum to wildlife rehab. When a misfortunate squirrel took a wrong step onto a transformer and took out the power for the entirety of Pine Lake, I memorialized the defunct squirrel in verse.
…I may have mentioned this is a very small town. Sometimes we are a little ridiculous. Frequently, really; absurdity is the human condition. I don’t mean to imply that life here is perfect; the town has budget problems related to the housing crash a few years ago, which hit Atlanta harder than some places, and people are people everywhere. My neighbors can sometimes be tiresome in that way human beings have. And yet, they are overall kind, and I can see hawks and a heron from my dining room window quite often, and when you walk along the path between the lake and the creek in the summer time, the goldfinches rise up from where they are feeding in a wave. There is something here, a notion of human beings living in community with nature; not perfectly achieved, but present. An ambition, or a dream, manifest in typically messy human fashion, with tax issues, ludicrous town controversies, and renegade geese.
And the house next door to me is for sale.