The skies are big here, and if that sounds redundant or cliche, you are right. But you are also wrong. Because “big” is the best way to describe them — no need for gaudy language like “vast” “endless” “immense” — these are Georgian, straightforward, you’re-in-the-south, big skies. It’s something I had stopped thinking about, the sky, something that had been pushed to the periphery of my thoughts. But when it’s big, and cloudy, and changing colors and textures in front of you, you start to notice.
“When you said ‘Georgia,’ I wasn’t sure you meant the state. For all I knew it was the country,” he says and laughs. It’s true. I’ve been bouncing between states and countries since college — and before college — and Georgia the country was equally likely, if not more likely than Georgia the state.
“What brought you here,” I am asked, quite frequently. That or, “Where’s your accent from?” I think of my accent as a sort of pan-American affair with a dash of California and Connecticut. Newcastory. The occasional British lilt or expressions have mostly disappeared, though I did disturb my sister-in-law with my pronunciation of “basil” (“a” as in cat) this summer, and I can’t quite bring myself to say “foy-er.”
It’s a little strange though, planting myself in the South after a year in New England, a year in Korea, and a couple years in Europe. I wanted warm weather, friendly faces, hearty food, and, yes, big skies. I got all of these, along with some minor culture shock: different grocery stores, different values, lots of college football talk, greeting cards that unironically praise George Bush. Nothing too unexpected (I’m a little Texan), but I didn’t realize that people actually carry guns on them. There’s a weird comfort in knowing that I can have Chick-fil-a any time I want — it’s like a blanket wrapped around my shoulders when I didn’t know I was cold.
During a couple of my preteen years, we spent our summer in North Carolina, hiking up mountains and surveying the broccoli trees that covered the hilly surfaces. It was warm, but we still had a jacuzzi, which was, and is, the height of human brilliance. (A huge bathtub with bubbles that you can share with friends? Yes, please.) We would drive into Georgia for the cheaper gas. That was my only interaction with the state until this year. That and becoming a secondhand Braves fan through my little brother, Lord knows how he found them — the Braves seem to have that effect on people.
There are Southern phrases that I can’t say in my accent. They just don’t sound right. Are you from not-a-southern-American-state? Say “Bless your heart.” See? “Heart” has to be soft and drawn out, not the “ar” in a pirate “argh.” Same goes with the name “Peyton.” I can’t say it. For some reason I manage “y’all” just fine, probably because I believe very strongly in the need for second person plurals.
I’m just enough out of Atlanta (40 minutes) to where the accents have a decent oomph to them. One lady with a drawl said that she had traveled to a vacation spot in Maine, and a local had been so excited about her accent that he took her by the hand and walked her around, having her speak to people.
All of that to say — I’ve moved to Georgia. I’m working as an itinerant teacher of the deaf which is crazy awesome and intense.