It was mid-August, 1990. I had just returned from a trip to Egypt and still had Saharan sands in the treads of my shoes.

The first thing I noticed was the air. It was so heavy it seemed wrong not to give it a name of it’s own. Humidity so high that if it were in a film, it would not only get a credit, but a stunt double.

People say, “It’s not the heat. It’s the humidity.” Having encountered North Carolina heat in August for the very first time only days after being in the African desert, I can tell you that there is a lot of wisdom in that saying.

“Welcome to the South” it said. “I will not go unnoticed!” Air is so thick that it blurs the crisp outlines around objects. Even the simplest sights become layered in mist that just hangs in place. The addition of a breeze would make it lose its power.

That is the hazy, lazy look of the South for many months of the year. And despite the haze, it is visually saturated with pigments, like vivid watercolor paints.

There is also the smell. At its best, it is a sultry blend of jasmine, magnolia, and nicotiana blossoms. The famous chef, Mario Batali, says that the best fruit for gelati is the fruit that is right on the edge of turning rotten. That is the way the South smells at it’s best. The maximum saturation of heady scent right before it passes the point of Heavenly to just rotten.

The South can be loud even in the quiet of nature. Mockingbirds sing an endless repertoire of captivating songs. I have heard cicadas singing at dusk, so loudly that they drowned out the actors during an outdoor performance of the strangest play I ever saw.

Last Saturday, John and I visited our 28th state together, Louisiana to hear our daughter sing in New Orleans. We’ve long wanted to visit this city for it’s history, music, food, and culture. As I walked around the city for the first time, I was struck by how familiar it was to me, a native north westerner.

I lived in the South for seven years at a very important time in my life. I have a number of dear friends in the South, some of them as close as family.

It was lovely to to visit my home away from home after all of these years.DSC00432 DSC00387 DSC00388 DSC00390