Still more adventures waited for me in Georgia, a state that seems like an unending park, with trees, green grounds, and flowering trees everywhere.
And memories vastly older than I am.
In the northwest corner of the state, in a town called LaFayette (emphasis on the fay), dwells a highschool classmate I haven’t seen since graduation lo these many years ago. (Incredibly, she is still friends with women she met in school, talking to them at least once a week.) We’d become friends on Facebook, and when she first heard of my planned adventure, she invited me to visit her.
Just about the first thing she asked me when I got there (after we’d hugged hello and eaten the best BBQ I’d ever tasted) was if I’d like to see the battlefield. I shook my head no, having little interest in historical sites, but later when I needed to find a cell signal so I could post my blog and let people know I’d arrived safely, she happened to drive past the national military park commemorating the battle of Chickamauga. I could only gape in amazement at the vast number of monuments and memorials dotting the 9,000 acres where once more than 120,000 men had fought and 34,000 died. (Before that, the Cherokee had been rounded up there and forced onto the trail of tears.)
I’m not really sure what amazed me — the scope of the battle, the weight of all that passion, pain, and death, or maybe just the dedication of those determined to keep the battle alive if only in memory. (Which leads me to wonder, if we commemorated all battlegrounds, large and small, would there be any land left for us to live?)
What stunned me just as much was the realization of my presence in the south. Having lived my life in the west, I am used to thinking of the Civil War as having taken place long ago and far away, and there it was — in my very presence.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)