The Most Beautiful Place on Earth

I visited Callaway Gardens on a perfect Georgia day. Warm. Cloudless. Soft breeze.

At the beginning, I wasn’t all that impressed. The place was scenic in a “seen it” sort of way. Roads meandering among wooded areas and around lakes. Golf course. Pastoral views. Then I reached the Overlook Azalea Garden, and oh, my!

Callaway Gardens calls the Overlook Azalea Trail the most beautiful place on earth, and although I would hesitate to agree — there are many spectacularly beautiful places all over the world and especially in the United States — the trail through the azalea garden is truly lovely. At times it seemed as if I’d wandered into an impressionist’s painting. Other times it seemed as if I’d turned a corner into a heavenly sent and heavenly scented eden.

I lucked out in that without planning it, my visit corresponded to the bloom season. Such beauty seems hard to fathom, but there it was, all laid out before me, as if the very earth were so glad I had come for a visit, it donned it’s loveliest raiment.

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(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.”)

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Seduced by the South

I’ve been struggling with allergies ever since I hit Florida, so when I discovered that I felt well driving after I left Amelia Island (outrunning the pollens that bedeviled me?), I kept driving.

I’d seen a picture on Facebook of Callaway Gardens near Pine Mountain in Georgia, and since Amelia Island was only a long days drive from Pine Mountain, I decided to head that way. I set my phone to Google maps and let Google lead the way. It took me through many small towns, some very lovely and oh, so southern, such as Euphaula, Alabama. (The tree-canopied highway swept past well-kept mansions, some with ornate gingerbread trim, some with classic columns.)

I’d planned to spend the night halfway, making it an easy two-day journey, but I didn’t see anywhere I particularly wanted to stay, and since I continued to be able to breathe easily, I kept driving. I was way too late to get a place in Callaway Gardens, but luckily I found a small motel in Pine Mountain. And what a find! White Columns Motel is family run, inexpensive, and has all the charm of a resort bed and breakfast. (In fact, they did fix breakfast for me after my good night’s sleep in a four-poster bed.)

I am now sitting in the sun on a swing outside my room, breathing azalea-scented air, basking under cloudless blue skies, bonelessly relaxed. A sporadic breeze blows away the flower scent and brings me the cool clear odor of pine from the forest behind me.

I suppose I should go visit the gardens as I had planned, but the swing has seduced me. I feel like a heroine in an historic novel, a southern belle with nothing to do but indulge my indolence. Luckily, I am not such a character, because after the indolence comes chaos (otherwise there wouldn’t be a story), and I am enjoying this moment far too much to have it interrupted with plotlines.

If you don’t hear from me in the next few days, don’t worry. I’ll still be here, letting the gentle movements of air and swing caress me.

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(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.”)

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