One of the best things about living in Kentucky is coming back after being gone for a while. When you turn in at the front gate, you know in your bones you shouldn’t be living anyplace else. This is where you belong. This is homeland.
There’s no mistaking home. The dogs come out to greet you. If they could talk they wouldn’t say, “What did you bring me other than yourself?” If the walls could speak, they might say, “Come on in here, prop up your feet, and tell me some stories, but not too much about the trip.”
You let your fingers turn the pages of the road map before filing it away on the memory shelf along with several new books discovered along the way.
Our journey to southern Florida–along the Gold Coast from Coral Gables to Palm Beach, a short stay in a high-rise hotel on the water’s edge at Fort Lauderdale where the luxury yachts pant at their moorings, a stop at Port St. Lucie, northward to Cocoa Beach–became a lesson in the accumulation of wealth. How much does a human being really need?
We came through a hard rain spawned by another season of hurricanes and tropical storms–Isidore and Lili were the latest–which was warning enough that we ought to be going home to Kentucky where our greater need was firewood and three-dog nights.
Multi-million dollar condo complexes stood vacant awaiting the annual arrival of snowbirds from as far away as Canada. We knew we had neither the conviction nor the wherewithal to be in their feathered company.
Most southeastern roads, notably interstates 75 and 85, lead through Atlanta. We stopped there and visited with extended family. The city destroyed by Sherman has risen to spectacular heights–the population of this metropolitan area is approximately the same as all the Commonwealth of Kentucky!
A ride on MARTA–the mass transit train from Doraville in the north to the airport in the south–is a space voyage that must have General William Tecumseh Sherman scratching his scraggly beard. Watching from the MARTA windows, the Peachtree streets fluttering by, brings back memories of 30 years ago when to be here as a correspondent for CBS News was to be at the top of a mountain. Maybe a Stone Mountain, but a mountain all the same.
What generals Sherman and Hood would have given for a cell phone or two. On the other hand, they might have invested in the Braves or the Falcons and fought it out there. CBS could have merged with CNN and saved a heap of money. Yes, a swirl of possibilities, enough to make Lincoln and Davis break out in laughter about such a book as Michael Graham’s Redneck Nation, How the South Really Won the War: “…we’re all croutons in the great American salad bowl, confederates of a thousand different secessions from the ideal of American unity.”
So we headed home to Kentucky where Lincoln and Davis first saw the light of day. Our bag of wintertime books includes the Bible, Bruce Feiler’s Abraham, A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths. And there’s Philip Gulley’s Christmas in Harmony.
We call to mind the first sight of the mountains of Whitley County as we come up I-75 along Hell’s Point Ridge past Jellico, then along Clear Fork of Cumberland River, the haze beginning to take on an unmistakable Kentucky hue. Makes us want to roll the window down and breathe deeply.
There’s much to do in our winter of content–appreciation of small treasures, the return to simple values, the building of a finer Commonwealth. We need neither mega-yachts nor rapid transit authorities. We need neither Appomattox nor Ground Zero.
We need quiet time, and maybe a good book or two, to bring us safely and truly home.