Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Day at the Willacoochee River

April, a few years ago.

My dog's name is Brody. He's part this and part that, pit-bull and boxer. He's my gallivanting partner.

On this day, as we load up for a trip to the country, Brody jumps onto the back seat, over the console and arm rest, and lands on the front seat. I settle in behind the wheel of my car, an SUV I shouldn't be using to explore the countryside, to drive down dirt roads, to push through woods with low-hanging limbs and through brush growing over dirt paths. Even though I know I shouldn't be driving it, this vehicle is the only one I have access to on this particular day. It will have to do. 

I adjust a few nobs on the dashboard and the folksy sound of Lynn Miles fills the air. Tapping out the rhythm of the music on the steering wheel, I leave Tifton. The South has opened up to Spring, and the thrill of rebirth has settled in my joints, soaked into all my senses, and intoxicated me. I sip from the season like it’s a mason jar filled with peach moonshine. Brody sticks his head out the window, and I turn the music up loud. Tongue hanging red and limp from his mouth, his body shaking with excitement as he pants, my dog delights in this ride that takes us into the boonies. He is my buddy.

I park near the Willacoochee River, not far from a country church, behind some of my kin’s land, a place where my family went for picnics and swims in the 1960s, a place where we used to fish, a land and river I instinctively know through faded memories, scents, sounds, and stories told to me by my father, mother, and older siblings. I like to believe that Grandpa Jowers' spirit still lives here.

Brody leaps from the car and looks back at me for permission to explore. I nod, and he is soon chasing smells, rushing from one spot to another. I watch him go, his tail wagging, an essence of joy surrounding him. After several moments, I walk to the water’s edge, crouch down, and dip my hand in the dark river broth. Whispering to reflections of my own face and to the reflections of overhanging branches, I fish for memories. 

Brody waits in the car when I stop at a location too close to
the highway. Later, we go to the river and he jumps out and explores.
If not for Brody's sounds, his body sliding through bushes and brush, I would be knee-deep in silence. The land and water change with each slant of light. Everything here pulses with the rare beauty of the South. The river and the trees are one. Poetry is reflected in the water: trees dripping with green, dripping with birds, dripping with the face of Spanish moss, dripping with the face of a pit bull, dripping with my distorted face. April has settled over this place and colored it in a thousand shades of green. If I believed in ghosts, I would tell you that Monet and van Gogh painted throughout winter in anticipation of this one day. Perhaps I do believe in ghosts. 

Perhaps I do.

I come here for the solitude. I come to soak myself in memories before they evaporate, before they float so far from my memory that I can't catch them. I come so l can write about the days of my childhood and let my children hold those memories in their hands. I come here to be nothing more than a soft shadow beside a familiar river. 

The river

Brody explores this area with great joy, his tail wagging.
Brody died last year. I miss him every day. He took many of my secrets to his grave.

Written by Brenda Sutton Rose

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