Mississippi, you’re a wiry old bird, aren’t you?
I’ve lived in your state my entire life. I’d call it a love affair, really—we’ve broken up several times, and I’ve said that I’ve hated you in the heat of the night. I’ve wanted to get out so badly that I thought about transferring schools to some out-of-the-way, leaf-strewn place in Connecticut. Your antonym, out of pure spite, a chance to shed and change skins. But I’ve come back, time and time again, shame-faced and overwhelmed by your beauty, your understated charm. You’re like gravity—you release your natives to the wide world, but they are intrinsically marked by you, just the same. When we meet in another state or over the ocean, we’re constantly amazed by your pull, your warm broadness that extends past the crooked borders of your land.
Mississippi, you’re so pot-marked by your past. You’ve had it rough, and done rough things, too. It’s been a give-and-take kind of life with you. You are selfish and scared, but talented—just think of the artists you’ve produced, the writers, musicians. There are so many famous words about your orange-dappled sunsets, so many songs about your red clay and women and whiskey. Your terrain is vast, varying: from downright tropical, to the Oxford hills, to flatlands low and steady in their beat, to pine trees and magnolias and mockingbirds. You’re wayward, too, like a small, grubby child that’s focused on the obtuse. But, I hope, you’re learning.
And you’re brave—a bravery that’s hard to find these days. It’s a kindness that has soul and spark and gumption. You’re made out of grandmas, lemonade sales, and woods spirits—deep, earthy things straight from the beginning. You make your women strong and able. We’re tough old bats, full of aged wisdom and purpose. Some of us get sidetracked, of course, but there’s a fiber that runs deep, that ribbons us together, despite our occasional cruelties and triteness.
And your children, Mississippi, these are who you really care for. They are your future, and the generations that will bring you to better understand yourself. They will teach you and tend to you, if you let them. Be kind with them, Mississippi. Be brave and face this multi-faceted world that’s grown up around you. You’re used to older stuff, sure. You’re used to slow, languid days filled up with heat and chatter; to front-yard sprinklers and cul-de-sacs; to homegrown families that are content to stay put. But we’re in this together, Mississippi. This process called growing older, growing up. All growth is change and pain, but stagnancy is far worse. Life shouldn’t pass us by because we are virile, tough things. We are made from your delta, your seashore, and your folklore. Let’s give equal parts thanks and sorrow. Let’s mourn our wrongdoings and celebrate our indomitable spirit. Let’s be strong ladies, Mississippi. For, there’s a place for you, always, if only you look.