Here the land is flat and sandy. The trees are as ancient as the earth they grew out of, and each one is covered in long strands of drab grey Spanish moss. Pine trees grow tall and straight, arranged in austere rows that stretch out of sight into vague veils of mist.
The businesses in these small towns have been here forever. They may get one patron a day, but somehow each battered, run-down storefront is still open for business, even if it’s only Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Or just Mondays. And everything closes at nine, from the restaurants to the drug stores.
There is one Starbucks, and it’s a ten-by-five foot stand at a Kroger.
If you take a walk in the woods…and you should take a walk in the woods…you will know the meaning of loneliness. The road noise is muffled, and all you can hear is the pines whispering to each other, and you can be certain that whatever it is that you’re doing, they do not approve.
Here everyone knows everyone. Everyone is connected to everyone else. There’s no such thing as a stranger. If there is, it’s probably you. You’ll know it by how people watch your car as it drives by with its out-of-state license plate.
Here there is elbow room. Here you can breathe clean air, though every breath brings a whiff of pine straw and earth and possibly nicotine. Here you can see the stars when you look up to scout the heavens, provided the fog hasn’t rolled in. You can see the stars, the same stars that have illumined this little town for thousands and thousands of years, far before there was even a town or an Indian campground, far before the ghosts of the former citizens thought to take up residence in the tall pines, peering from the lonely forests to supervise the living, making sure we keep everything the way they left it.