Tuesday, April 11, 2017

In Search of the Crossroads

In my obsession with writing, I have rediscovered reading. I have read several books about the craft of writing from Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft to Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. One of the suggestions I have read and heard by King and others is that reading fiction is good for writing. King in his book has a lot to say about this: 

 I have been a voracious reader since I was a kid. I was the kid whose mom had to come in at midnight and threaten to take away the book before I would turn out the light and go to bed. This love continued throughout my adult years. That is until I got an iPad and the world was literally at my fingertips. Games, videos, social media all drew me into their web and away from my favorite pastime: reading. Mind you, I listen to audio books but mostly children's chapter books that Seth and I listen to together. It has been awhile since I lost myself in the dreamlike world of fiction. 

Now you know this writing thing is my latest obsession and unlike some, it has stuck so if Stephen King says good writers read, I'm going to read. I went on Amazon-I have an Amazon Prime account and a Kindle Unlimited account so I have no reason not to read. On Kindle Unlimited, I found Jilo by J.D. Horn. Jilo is wonderfully suspenseful and colorful. This is not the first time I have emersed myself in Horn's magical world. Jilo is the fourth in a book series that absolutely fascinated me two years ago and sent me on a journey of a lifetime. Sounds dramatic, huh?  So what was the series that sent me on my journey? The Witching Savannah Series by J.D. Horn. 

Witching Savannah Series

It was Christmas break 2015. I had had a really rough year. My mother who ha
d Alzheimer's and who lived with me had to be put in a rest home the previous July and passed away three months later in October just days after her eighty-eighth birthday. I could go into detail about her last year but it's too painful and I can't. Let's just say that for the three years prior to her death, I could hardly leave the house, except when I was at work and had a caregiver for her.  No road trips or a  weekend to see my sister, Linda, not even a trip to buy groceries. That became Kevin's job. My life became about caring for my mother. So in October, she passed away and it was like we were both free. She wasn't suffering and I didn't have to feel the guilt that comes from dreading my daily visit with the raving, child-like woman my mother had become. 

So fast forward three months later to Christmas break 2015. I was diagnosed with pneumonia the first Monday of my two-week vacation. Now you would think this would totally ruin my vacation but it didn't. In fact, it was awesome. I had doctor's orders to rest because my pneumonia was bad and I did rest and completely without guilt. I didn't worry about my classroom or even housework because Kevin insisted I rest. Within a couple of days, I had seen every Harry Potter movie and binge watched a couple of series on Netflix. I went to see what Amazon Prime had to offer and got sidetracked on Kindle Unlimited. One thing led to another and I downloaded J.D.Horn's The Line: Witching Savannah Book 1.  

I visited Savannah when I was fourteen for a weekend with my mom and sister back in 1977.  I loved that elegant old city and always dreamed of going back. I began reading The Line and fell in love with the character of Mercy Taylor, the only unmagical member of Savannah's premier witching family, the Taylors. Now Savannah of today doesn't quite look the same as 1977 but that wasn't a problem because Horn paints a vivid picture of Savannah, both real and imagined in his book. He does such a thorough job of creating this canvas of magical Savannah intermingled with real Savannah that this is believable. Do I believe there are witches in Savannah? No...sort of...well...you never know. 

Before long, I was on Google Earth trying to find the crossroads of Normandy Street and the long forgotten path where Mother Jilo performs her magic. There is a crossroad! Now whether anyone does their "root magic" business like Jilo is anybody's guess but I was sure it was possible. That's what good author's do. They sell you the dream they are weaving to the point where you believe it like a child believes Santa is going to shove his jolly butt down millions of chimnies on Christmas Eve! 

I finished that book within a day and I was hungry for more so I downloaded and began reading the second book, The Source and then two day's later the final book, The Void. I was now officially obsessed with Horn's Savannah. Now I suppose a good blogger would give more details about the books but I don't want to ruin it. Read them. If you like paranormal books about historic places and big magical families, you will love them. 

At the end of Christmas break, my lungs were better and I went back to school. In January Kevin got some great news from the V.A. His military disability rating had been upped and therefore he had several thousand dollars coming to him because his claim was retroactive. I had recently reconnected with Kevin's oldest daughter, Hollie and hatched a plan that my BFF Nessa C and I in the following June would drive all the way to Pennsylvania and back to pick up Hollie and her three daughters so they could spend a month with us. Kevin agreed. He was excited to see his daughter. Now Kevin hates to travel so with the exception of a short honeymoon to Fredericksburg, Texas, Kevin and I have never been on a vacation. I felt I was looooong overdue for a vacation and because I worried I might never get another, I was determined we were going to take the most scenic route to Pennsylvania. A route that included a three-day side trip to Savannah. I know. I'm the worst but I don't regret it. 

Nessa and I doing the tourist
thing in Savannah's historic

Mine and Vanessa's road trip was an adventure that had pitfalls and wrong turns that made our trip very memorable but when we got to Savannah at 12:00 a.m. the second night of our journey, everything went right. We walked the semi-deserted riverfront-it was a weeknight, and I remember the smell and the moist breeze and thought, "At last." Our hotel was in the historic district just one street over from the riverfront. For the next three days, we walked and toured and saw all the sights Savannah had to offer. 

Our second evening, I decided to find the crossroads of Normandy Street and the forgotten path. As we made our way to that part of town, I watched with fascination how the houses turned from historical and genteel to shabby with people sitting on their porches enjoying their evening. These were true residents of Savannah who lived beyond the grand facade of the historic district.  When we finally reached Normandy, I was disappointed to discover a six-foot cyclone fence and gate barring my path. Now you may ask yourself, would I really have walked to the crossroads? No. I'm crazy but not that kind of crazy. I sure would have driven as far as I could. I was disappointed but I was also excited because the crossroads was somewhere behind those gates. Maybe not Jilo's crossroads but the one that J.D. Horn had decided to embellish on and put in his book. 

The entrance to the road known as Saul Court which according to maps, curved and led to Normandy Street. I looked at Google Earth and found this image which was exactly what Vaness and I found we went two years ago. However, upon moving forward on the map, I found an older picture that showed a housing project that had once been on this road. Interesting...

Earlier that day, we had gone to Tybee Island with Nessa's childhood friend Raymond who lived in a small town nearby. Raymond was a wonderful tour guide. We were going down the highway and he said, "Look over there." He pointed to a spot up ahead, under an overpass. He went on to explain that there was tent city under that overpass where homeless people lived. Bells went off in my head and I remembered in The Line, Mercy tells of a homeless encampment near the country club and very close to the crossroads. I immediately pull out my phone and look up our location on Google maps. Sure enough, that encampment is right near the fabled "crossroads."

Now Nessa and I chronicled all our road trip adventures on Facebook. Every post began with, "Dear Friends" and ended with "Your friendly Thelma and Louise." We however, did not share our search for the homeless encampment because I was rather ashamed of the fact that I found entertainment in such a thing. Why am I sharing it now? Hmmm...because this post is not really about the encampment. Instead, it is about chasing that elusive dream of magical Savannah and the mythical crossroads in Horn's book. It's about the power of books and how they can inspire you. 

 When I discovered I wouldn't be able to get near the crossroads, we went driving around the historic district and then I talked Vanessa into going to find the homeless encampment. As we made our way out of the historic district to head to our destination, we discovered a pilgrimage along the side of the road. There were people-individuals, couples and small groups leaving the tourist ridden historic district and heading the way we were. I saw the man who had sold me a corn stalk rose the day before. His enthusiasm and humor winning me over even as Vanessa gave me the stink eye to not encourage him. Where I wondered were all of these people going?  They were what my mom would have called down in the mouth. As we neared the point where we had seen the encampment, I realized that when the sun went down, and the tourists thinned out, these people who worked the tourist district in whatever manner, walked home. Home to the encampment. 

We don't like to think of the people who are part of the tourist landscape living like this but it is a hard reality. It seems so wrong that in a city so graceful and beautiful that there are people living like this. Especially for a small town girl like me who only see's homeless people when I venture into the city.  I had taken this journey out of the historic district in pursuit of entertainment and discovered these were real people's lives. This sadness did not dim my need to see the encampment. 

The sun was going down and I saw the fires before I saw the people and the tents. As we got closer, I begged Vanessa to slow down but she wouldn't go as slow as I liked. She didn't think it was a good idea and she didn't want the people to know we were there for a show. I'm glad she didn't. As we went past, I could see the movement of the fires and the people cooking their dinners over them and milling around their tents. The blur of our passing made it seem otherworldly. It reminded me of stories of gypsies around a campfire. I know it is fanciful but that it what it reminded me of. I made Vanessa make a u-turn six times so I could see it in detail. 

So what you may ask is the purpose of this blog post? It's to remind you that if you let it a story can move you, suck you in and take you on a journey real or imagined that you won't forget. I am enjoying Horn's latest novel, Jilo. I miss the modern story of the Taylors but I think I'm only a third of the way through Jilo's story and it is gooood! There are some scary, things that go bump in the night stuff in this novel set in the 1930s and 50s. If that is your thing, grab a copy of J.D. Horn's Jilo. 

Have a good night.