Even though I’ve lived below the Mason-Dixon Line my entire adult life, I was born and bred in Wisconsin and my identity is that of a Northerner. I pretend that the Washington D.C. and Arlington, Virginia neighborhoods I’ve lived in aren’t the “real” South. But a visit to my friend Janet’s lake house in rural North Carolina: that’s away down South in Dixie.
This first weekend in November, the weather is temperate and the trees are just beginning to turn. But the sense of the South is most evident in the acres of cotton fields we pass on the way to the lake. The fluffy white balls cling to dry brown casings from which they’ve burst in snowy splendor. Low to the ground, planted in straight narrow rows, I can only imagine how back-breaking and hand-scarring the work of harvest was – back in the bad old days when it was done by slaves or sharecroppers.
I didn’t bring my bike, but discover that Janet has a nice sturdy Trek that fits me fine, provided I lower the seat a few inches. Some air in the tires, and I take off, following the country roads with barely a car on them. There’s a mighty hill up from the lake. I can’t quite make it, having to hop off and walk up the last bit of it. Maybe my muscles were too relaxed – having had the treat of a much-needed two-hour massage this morning. Or maybe I’m just not challenging myself to climb enough hills at home. Either way, I continue on my solo ride – the crisp autumn air and bright sunlight making perfect riding weather.
Past the cotton fields I discover tobacco growing, small wooden structures dotting the landscape that I guess may be drying sheds. My spirits sink as I round a corner to spy a Romney sign out by the road. Janet told me that, in 2008, some precincts in North Carolina went for Obama by a margin of just five votes. It turns out the margin wasn't quite that tiny, but pretty darn close (see link). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election_in_North_Carolina,_2008 A cluster of trailers – not fancy ones – park on the field across the way and I wonder if their residents will vote and, if so, for whom.
But the day is too lovely to waste in pointless fretting. I set up my laptop facing the lake, watching the ripples of water in constant gentle movement, sun touching the leaves across the lake – green and gold, with an occasional flame of red.