Growing up beneath Tennessee skies, surrounded by a multitude of waterways, I thought I knew the color blue well. Blue can be frothy, almost as white as the clouds on a bright April morning, or deep and temperamental, nearly black, just before winds stir up a poisonous yellow-green that means tornadoes will soon start grabbing at the land.
I thought I knew every trick of that color, until an afternoon in May 1991 when my husband and I crossed the sand of Coronado Beach and stood there, goggle-eyed, speechless. We had finally encountered blue.
Blue is spiritual.
We lived a mile off Loma Point in San Diego for three months, narrowly surviving on bare minimum military pay and young love. Our diet was mostly 3-for-$1 burritos so that we could put a little money toward touring the city, the suburbs, and the coastline whenever possible. I walked from work each day, happy to do so after an eight-hour shift on my feet, because the lightest salt spray would kiss my cheeks all along the half-mile concrete path to our apartment. That air! It was glorious.
If we hadn’t been so close to starvation, if we had no memory of the taste of real food, no one could have convinced us to leave that gorgeous corner of the planet for at least another decade.
We drove from the place we still refer to as Eden (if only there would have been a Tree of Affordable Fare in Eden). We drove for three days until we reached another military town, twenty miles off the North Carolina coast.
I, for one, began to look forward to being in the south again — I looked forward to slow soft drawls in conversation and the rise of humidity at midday, and good restaurants run by southern women who knew exactly what country ham was. Even if a decent piece of country ham ever existed in California, it probably cost a month’s rent. I daydreamed for most of that trip about country ham and biscuits, and getting change from a ten dollar bill.
I waited for that delicious sweetness of southern atmosphere to frizz my hair, for that damp scent of early autumn soil that I remembered. With the exception of some rather outstanding dining experiences, I discovered that side of North Carolina isn’t remotely similar to my beloved western Tennessee.
Green-gray mountains of pine trees swallowed us up. The musky scent of those Carolina pines saturated everything, the way the dense smoke of a house fire can still be detected in otherwise unscathed furniture and clothing. The scent was not wholly unpleasant, but distinctive. Green-gray. Powerful. Ancient.
How is your work going for ‘Local Color’? Want to workshop? Have any questions about the contest?
Read & Vote for our final week of February Drabble Love!
Local Color is our Week One Topic for March. Read, interpret, and #gowrite what you must my darling Flames and Embers. We’re looking forward to ALL of you writing!