It is amazing how we see everything over and over and over again—and then one day, purple flowers are really purple flowers, a picket fence stands out and you think you have never seen it before, or you notice the old signs in a corner cafe for the first time and actually begin reading them. Clarity, wisdom, and actually breathing in the surroundings of an old Southern town suddenly became a passion that cannot be fulfilled. That is how I felt one day walking on the James River with my wonderful, precious, half-red wolf dog. I am either foolish or have been blind—invisible lightning ran through my body and I never knew it hit me.
Seeing is truly believing and I am such a lover of the South and Southern people and living in the capital of the Confederacy gives us an edge on manners, history, and lineage (if you believe in that sort of thing). The museums and old hospitals turned back into houses as they had been prior to the “conflict” of the States. As my great-grandmother would always say, “Walk us into ghosts, spirits, up stairwells with the lead dust catchers missing and holes still present.” I cannot imagine Southern soldiers coming into homes and taking them out of your steps to make miniballs.
I am one of those fortunate people who has a copy of a transcript of a letter written by a great great great-grandmother, whose first husband died at Andersonville for being a deserter who joined the Blues; he was caught and literally starved to death. He died not knowing his three children had died with the measles that had turned into whooping cough. For this knowledge, I am grateful because I feel somehow joined to these people when I am on the river where Robert Duvall filmed a Civil War movie and is a direct descendant of Robert E. Lee. These things make me know my heritage—not my lineage, but my heritage. Being a woman is wonderful, empowering, literal, complex, beautiful, sensitive, and most of all, conceptual.
What I have done is pass on the love of all these things to my sons and I just cannot imagine having anything but male children. We are so joined at the hip that these beautiful people live almost on my James River, walk their pets there and talk about battles, Monument Avenue, houses where famous people stayed, Edgar Allen Poe, and most of all, how free and real it is to live in this remarkable place. This is emotional freedom.