Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp

Sunrise over the Okefenokee

Notes From My Trip to Georgia

Welcome blog readers, to another of my travel blogs.  I rarely write blogs while I’m at home in Reno.  Day to day home life is much more routine and predictable than the spontaneous experiences that arise when traveling.  If I try to look back into the past and recall events from specific years, the memories that stand out are those based on whatever happened that was out of the ordinary, which usually originated in my travels.

Another Okefenokee Dawn

I have a stack of unread magazines and books next to the bed, which I try to read prior to sleeping.  The stack continues to grow.  One big source of reading entertainment is the Sunday New York Times newspaper.  The NYT offers a richly diverse and in-depth review of current events.   However, I often don’t get around to reading the Sunday NYT magazine section.  So I save these magazines to read on long plane flights and while sitting in airport waiting areas.  Reading the NYT magazines while in transit to a distant destination puts me in a more global frame of mind, ready to see the sights with (hopefully) a more open perspective.

Going “home” again in my case means visiting Columbus, Georgia.  I’m lucky that I’m able to revisit scenes from my youth that are mostly intact.  By contrast, when Susan visits Detroit, whole neighborhoods from her youth have been razed and rebuilt, such that the settings from her youth are often unrecognizable.

Report from Tibet

Since I’m an “only child” with no siblings, my closest brother-of-choice is my buddy Bill, whom I’ve known since infancy, because our fathers were best friends.  Because of Bill’s wife’s work in facilitating educational exchange programs between China and Georgia, Bill has been to China four times in the last couple of years.  On a recent trip, he and his wife visited Tibet.  I’ve never been to China or Tibet, so it was interesting to see those countries through his eyes.

We compared notes on his trip to Tibet with my recent trip to Nepal, which abuts Tibet, separated by the highest Himalayan peaks, including Mt. Everest.  There is a large community of Tibetans in Nepal, as well as in Darjeeling, India, the home of Tibet’s exiled leader, the Dalai Lama.  In a nutshell, China is colonizing Tibet and suppressing its indigenous people just like America did to the native Americans.  China has declared that Tibet is part of China, and thus they have no qualms about suppressing Tibetan religion and culture while exploiting Tibet’s natural resources.  It’s a sad situation for Tibetans.

Bill and Me

The Okefenokee Swamp

My buddy Bill is a Boy Scout leader.  He invited me to join him and a party of eighteen young scouts and adults to travel to the Okefenokee Swamp, a large wilderness area located in Georgia’s southeast corner, which supplies the headwaters of the Suwannee River.  (“Way down upon the Suwannee River…” composed in the 1800’s by Stephen Foster.)  While everyone else slept in small tents in sleeping bags on the ground, Bill set up the “Taj Mahal of tents” for us, complete with cots and air mattresses for our camping comfort.

The Taj Mahal of Tents (prior to the storm)

The Okefenokee swamp is a very primal natural environment.  There are many alligators, which look and actually can be potentially dangerous.  However, it was explained to me that over the last century or more, any alligator that acted aggressively was killed.  And so the survivors of this selective culling are the most reticent and cautious alligators.  Thus humans and alligators coexist peacefully, observing each other from a safe distance.

Interspecies Peaceful Coexistence
Canoeing the Suwannee River (just before the storm)

The weather was great for the first two days.  On the third day, our group embarked on a six hour/seventeen mile canoe trip down the Suwannee river.  During the last hour or so of the journey, it began to rain.  By the time we reached our destination, everyone was soaked.  Returning to our tents, the winds began to increase.  It rained heavily all night long.  About five in the morning, a particularly strong wind uprooted the tent stakes on one side of our Taj Mahal tent, and it collapsed onto my bed.  It was pitch-black and driving rain, so all Bill and I could do was to wait for dawn.  Luckily, the rain stopped by dawn’s first light.  We packed our wet clothes, collapsed our tent, loaded everything into Bill’s truck, and drove back to Columbus one day earlier than planned, just ahead of the next predicted storm.

Making Music in Columbus

I have long-term musical friendships in Columbus.  There are guys that I’ve made music with literally for decades.  When I told them that I was coming to Columbus, because of a cancellation at the local jazz club venue, we were invited to perform.  It was lucky for me that Bill and I returned from the Okefenokee one day early.  I was able to touch my instruments for the first time in a week.  Playing woodwinds (and most musically instruments) is physically demanding.  One can be as mentally prepared as possible, but there is no substitute for the specific physical exertions demanded by different musical instruments, which requires regular hands-on practice.  There was no time for a separate rehearsal with the guys.  We simply reviewed the set list after setting up our instruments on stage at the venue.  Luckily, the guys had previously rehearsed my (somewhat challenging) original compositions.  Our performance was successful and attended by many friends.

Striped Heron at Home in the Okefenokee

Final Thoughts

“Coming home” again has a different feeling since the loss of my parents over a decade ago.  I still have five surviving aunts, all in their late eighties, except for my mother’s older sister who is ninety-one.  It’s a bittersweet experience to visit this older generation and observe the inescapable consequences of the passage of time and the law of gravity.  I’m lucky to have such a close-knit family.  This is perhaps more commonly a Southern phenomenon than in other parts of the country.  Nonetheless, it’s a fact that I/we will experience great loss within the next few years as the last survivors of our parents’ generation pass on.  If you still have your parents, enjoy/honor them.  They’ll be gone all too soon.  Indeed, ever more often we are starting to lose people of our own age and generation.  None of us will live forever.  So the challenge is to live each day/week/month/year to the fullest extent possible.  Cheers!

Cypress Trees, Spanish Moss, & Lilypads
Peaceful Coexistence = Don’t Mess With Me!

Hi, I'm Dallas Smith

My blogs offer the vicarious pleasure for my readers to learn of my travels and musical adventures.

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