Stranger Things: By way of Savannah

I’ve always been magnetized by the esoteric…the reality that there is so much more to life that what we see with our everyday eyes. Those things that leave you grasping for logical explanation and sometimes gasping for air.

School had started back. The waning days of summer had put me in a state of longing. Not just a gentle sleepy nudge but a magnetic pull that squeezed itself well into my waking hours. I needed to go to Savannah. Why Savannah, I had no clue. Of course my logical side kept asking that same question. Especially since I had never even been to Savannah. On a trip to the bank to take care of some business, I engaged the teller in conversation. It led to mentioning her honeymoon for some reason, and their plan to returne for their anniversary…to Savannah. A week or so later, from under a pile on the floor of my closet I pulled out a blue sweatshirt with the word emblazoned across the front, SAVANNAH. I quieted the rational and gave ear to the supernatural. My decision was made.

It was the beginning October of that year when I drove into Savannah, GA wearing all white. Again, I just moved as I was moved. The city of Forest Gump and Roots filming welcomed us with warmth. I had stopped over in Atlanta and picked up my partner. She was there on business and my sojourn through was a convenient link for the both of us. Massive live oaks with wavy fingers dripping with Spanish moss hovered overhead. People milled about with seemingly no particular place to go. I loved the city with all my senses. We hit the ground running and took photos on the bench where Forest Gump had waxed philosophical. After a few blocks and photos in front of a Masonic building, we decided to do the trolley tour.

About halfway down the trolley car, we found seats facing the sidewalk and out of the sun. The driver began their spill on the mystique and splendor of this magnificent place. After a while I noticed people gathering to one side and taking photos. The driver’s voice didn’t coincide with the attention. I stood up and looked over. There, alongside the trolley care, rode a man on a bike. An elder man, black like me with a rich glow to his skin. He was dressed in all white, pedaling along, paying no attention to his audience. At the moment I raised my camera, he looked up. His eyes connected immediately with me for what seemed like minutes. I wasn’t sure whether I took the photo or not. He turned his attention back to the rode before him and continued his journey. My eyes followed him out of sight. That was interesting.

That evening as we were winding down, I mention that I wanted to stay in the downtown area so I could be near the First African Baptist Church. For reasons beyond which I knew at the time, I felt drawn the church. I had read about its history and the Kongolese Kosmograms impressed into the floor of the basement. How they had served as spiritual connections and practical holes for the enslaved people to breath through. Effortlessly, we found a hotel on the edge of downtown. Once we were situated in the room, I began to search the map for the location of the church in proximity. She had no desire to go out. Just as well for me, because I felt the need to go alone. She finally called downstairs for directions and they informed us that the church was just across the parking lot from us. Wow. I left and sure enough within minutes, found myself walking in front of the First African Baptist Church.

I ran my hands across the red doors framed in white. My mind wandered to its history only to be interrupted by noise from across the street. “Tourists.” I thought to myself. It seemed so irreverent for them to be making so much noise in the presence of this sacred place. To me, the space around it was hallowed ground. I felt a powerful connection in that moment. A short while later I was looking around for a space to write and sketch in my journal. The only place was the park space across the way, in front of the church. The same space inhabited by the noisy disturbers. I walked over and sat on an unoccupied bench. In the next few moments, I realized they were not tourists but a gathering of unhoused men. They cursed and hollered at each other in conversation. One man even came closer to me and relieved himself behind a bench. A passing white guy came over and took a seat. In less than a minute they’d ran him off with their last words being, “God don’t like ugly.” The moment was more intriguing than hilarious. Why hadn’t they run me off? Here I was sitting there dressed in white, scribbling in a gold colored sketch journal on a park bench. One of them asked me for the time. I reached into my pocket to pull out my phone. Another guy yelled out, “Oh we good, bro!” What? Did he thing I was going for a gun. At that moment, I thought to myself, “I need this sacred space right now. I need them to be gone, for just a while so I can focus in this space. After a few minutes, I looked up. All but one of the men, were gone. Every single visible soul had vacated the space. My request had been granted…almost. The last man sat there, staring across the area, a rotunda of cobblestones. He was mumbling something. Finally he threw a cup of ice across the ground and stood up, cursing. His eyes turned in my direction as he continued his tirade. He came toward me, still screaming. My eyes stayed on his. For some reason there was no fear or alarm triggered in me. I just held him calmly with my eyes. A yard or two away he veered around me and disappeared into the night, still ranting. I turned back to my space. the circle fanned out around me. I was alone. There was no one else I could see. To my right stood the Haitian monument. Five warriors poised atop the concrete slab in suspended animation. The space was charged. I could feel it. My skin was practically vibrating. I wrote and drew in a stream of consciousness for a while. When the energy was too high for any more marks on the paper, I stood, walked the circumference of the circle, went to the center, and drew out the Kongolese cosmogram with a small rock. When I was done I surveyed my work then walked to the other aide of the monument. I was mystified at what I saw…


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