Today marks the 14th day I have been in Jackson, MS, and already, at 8:00 AM, the day is filled with promise. It was in the low 70’s with low humidity as I went on my walk this morning, and despite my deliberately unplanned route, I did not need the GPS to get me home at the end.
It is easy to romanticize a new place, especially a place as storied as the Deep South, and so I will try to not do that, but there are many things about being here we have already fallen in love with, and most of them are part of the reason we moved here in the first place.
Life is slower here. When you ask Google to navigate you someplace, she replies with the time to get you there, and then often says, “Traffic is light, as usual”. It has become a running gag with Renee and me, but it’s true – traffic is seldom a problem here.
But it isn’t just slower in that sense. There is just a slower pace. Monday morning I turned on the local NPR affiliate while driving to my office, and the local show was interviewing a woman about her garden. During prime radio time, in the Capitol city, on the NPR affiliate. I loved that, actually.
The other day I went to open the new business account at the bank, and I was in the woman’s office for an hour and a half. The actual work of opening the account took perhaps 20 minutes, but there were long discussions about who has the good soul food, the revitalization of downtown, east coast vs gulf coast, and which coffee shops were bougie and which ones were for normal people like us. It was unhurried, filled with laughter and joy, and frankly, the best banking experience I have ever had.
Despite my knowing by sight less than 20 people in the whole city, everybody waves. The man who may or may not be experiencing homelessness holding the sign by the roadside, the blue-haired lady with the big purse walking downtown, the urban teenagers when we get lost in the rougher side of town, the person who passes me in their car in the parking lot. If you make eye contact here, you wave.
People here like to talk on the phone, and while they will use text, will more likely than not call you back when you send them a text message. I have spoken more on the phone here in two weeks than I did in six months in Raleigh.
Part of this is coming to work with a church, so you sort of inherit a community, but long slow dinners with lots of people at the table have been a thing here, as has random invites to things. It has really made us aware of how isolated we were feeling in Raleigh the last few years, a combination of lots of our friends moving away and my depression.
Our apartment is unpacked and we are just living now, trying to establish routines. We often go in the evenings to look at houses we found online, and discovering new restaurants is a joy for us.
The city has its issues. The southern half of town is devoid of large retail stores, and we drive a good 10 minutes to get to a grocery store. The infrastructure is struggling, with unexpected potholes you can lose your car in, and not all the traffic lights work. The humidity is more oppressive than the heat, but the air conditioning works and is everywhere you go. You learn to adapt to the rhythms of the day – exploring outdoors happens in the mornings and after supper, while indoor work hasppens in the middle of the day.
In short, we are doing well here, and are happy we made the move.