Little did I know that moving to Savannah five years ago would be like Persephone’s descent into the Underworld. It’s a path I believe she chose, rather than being snatched unwilling into that cavernous void. She wanted to learn about herself, and there was only one way to accomplish that task. She had to face her fears and integrate her shadow self in a place that was far from everything and everyone she knew. Although she left Demeter’s side as an innocent girl, she returned as a powerful queen in her own right. I relate to her journey, and I’m beginning to understand why that is so.
Ted Andrews, author of Animal Speak, says that landscapes have their own symbology and that marshlands in particular represent emotional stages of life, decomposition and new growth. Take a look around the Lowcountry, and you will see miles of tidal salt marshes. Almost a third of the Atlantic’s marshes are right here in Georgia’s lower coastal plain.
So there is a lot of breaking down and rebuilding that happens here, both in the environment and in people’s lives. I have spoken with many transplants, and they all confirmed that something about this place filters out whatever isn’t needed, just like a saltwater marsh. The process can be painful, since we humans are masters at resisting change. It’s also illuminating, humbling, and mysterious. Savannah works on you like no place else. I’ve had my deepest heartbreaks here, right along with my most profound breakthroughs and creative inspirations. I don’t know if the swamp is quite through with me yet, but I’ve reached a point where I can appreciate what she teaches.
This is my poetic tribute to a place that has mystified me, changed me, shaped me, and in a strange way…loved me more than any other.
I place my coin firmly in Charon’s icy hand
and pull my cloak about me,
as he ferries me deep into the heart of the Lowcountry.
The sucking black mud on the riverbank threatens to swallow me whole.
An alligator smiles and disappears into coffee-colored water.
Marsh grasses whisper and sigh,
as the boat drifts silently through a cypress maze.
A host of restless spirits wanders about
with their tragic stories and plots left unresolved.
You don’t belong here, child. This is a land of secrets.
Ah, but it’s too late, I tell them. I have eaten the pomegranate seed.
I fall hard and fast for live oaks and Spanish moss,
changing tides and driftwood beaches,
decaying cemeteries and a history steeped in blood.
It is deliciously dark and seductive,
this Scorpionic underworld
that lies so very still beneath the antebellum façade.
When the swamp is through with you, my pretty,
you won’t ever be the same.
I laugh as we glide past the relics of my youth,
faded images of a girl I used to be,
rusting trophies and shredded ribbons.
I don’t want to be the same.
© 2016 Jennifer R. Miller