I was born in the red clay mud of the south, where it took mounds of manure and fermented discards twirled into the soil to sprout a squash plant in the summer. When the soil was rich with old stuff, my dad grew the best okra mom could fry up along with tomatoes, cucumbers, and corn.
Today we frown at tobacco’s harm to the lungs, but for me as a young girl it meant another season of summer smells—the curing of tobacco at the mud-packed log barn across the street where they strung leaves on wooden sticks and transported them to the barn for a week of curing. Today, those smells can only be found in my imagination.
Among those sappy, tall pines I explored every inch of our woods, dipped my toes in the tiny creek, and inhaled the dampness of leaves long since fallen from the trees. My bicycle traveled all those trails, even to the deserted house at the end of the path containing a rusty fenced graveyard where names on the headstones were barely visible. The presence of that eerie spot chased me home before dark.
Our driveway wasn’t always paved, the clothing lines were full, and the yards bursting with laughter from small children. The sounds of a tractor, barking hounds, and a push mower could be heard every evening around the hours after dinner, as it was early then.
When tired from the day, the neighbors gathered in our yard in a hodgepodge of swings, gliders and rockers nestled under the trees. Once a neighbor off her meds painted the swing red. Mom didn’t know what to say.
Always wanting to perfect our evening meeting place, Dad eventually added a covered shelter and fan. He brought large white stones from a mountain area miles away and cemented in a pathway, steps, and a stone wall to hold the cascading white, red, and pink miniature carnations.
The older I became the more I wanted to be somewhere else. Yet, now the older I become, the more I want only that place. There I gained the meaning of simplicity long since wasted in this hurried world of electronic nonsense: iPhone, iPad, iMac. I have them all. Yet, none of them can offer me the smell, excitement, and saturation of rain pouring off the sides of full gutters.
Today, sitting in the mountains watching the day fall behind the dark, fear slides into this night, wondering what will attempt to replace those hills when the dozers mow them over in preference for a flat place to better accommodate our loaded airwaves.
So this is why I write, to remind us how it feels to walk on grass barefoot.