a feminist visits danville, va
photograph by Kyle Koppe
I left the place I called home…
I miss Massachusetts. I miss my family. I miss my dear friends. I even miss the people I didn’t much care for. And why? Because they still hold a place in my memories, and helped me grow to be the resilient, confident, & imaginative person that I am.
My home has been defined by lineage dating back to the Mayflower + the 1840 potato famine in Ireland; & while I roam around in the humid air with sand between my toes, my loved ones still shovel in the winters + appreciate warmer ocean water for one month out of the entire year. A large part of me wants to go back and stay, but I am on a mission to better understand the world, starting with the country I live in.
Now that I’ve eased you in, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Danville, Virginia.
If I thought I experienced culture shock moving to Jacksonville, I had no idea what I’d be in for driving to Georgia, South/North Carolina, into VA.
I grew up in a liberal state, with city friends, in a suburban mindset, with not much to want for. I always dreamt of the rural, of the countryside in England. And when I went there, I felt more at home and at peace with my soul than I ever had in my entire life, with ehe exception of a recurring dream I’ve had since I was five years old.
But in just a couple of days, I’ve witnessed an entirely different pace of life; a simplicity which survives on prayers and blessings. And it isn’t to say that all people here are christian, but the ones that aren’t certainly wouldn’t dare admit it. There are enough signs quoting the bible to remind you where you are, who your company is, and what sort of respect the community demands.
In Boston, you could shout, “THE DEVIL IS MY MAKER,” and some people would laugh, some owed simply stare, and other would join you in the parade. But here, I imagine something much more like shunning would occur. I can’t rightly say.
And even JAX has its moments where I fear my own spirituality would not be accepted. There are men holding signs on the street, offering you heaven if you accept Jesus, and hell if you don’t.
But here, those signs are on front lawns; there are children holding confederate flags before grand southern churches beside their kin, while black men and women stay away on another part of the street. I can’t imagine what they’re thinking; if they’re used to it, or if it just makes them sad. All I could think was, ‘You would never see this back home,’ and that’s when I wondered, do I consider JAX my home? Or was I thinking of Andover + the likeminded people that helped shape me to be an inclusive, open person, who wants to be confided in & experiences of others shared with.
I first found out about Jesus at the lunch table in 4th grade. I had heard his name before, but never had my parents explained much of him to me. I asked my friend about him, and she said, “He’s the son of God, our savior.” I remember nodding and smiling because I found it to be poetic. I went home that day and asked my mom, “Do we believe in Jesus?” And my mother said, “We celebrate Christmas. We are christian.” That was the only explanation I had. I never read the bible. I still prayed every night before bed, but not because I was taught to, but because I still knew of god without being told of God. God just meant something different to me than the other kids at school, and I found that intriguing.
When I was twelve, I wanted to know more about religion. So I researched, I asked around, I was invited to different religious rites of passage, I made friends of different faiths, including atheists and agnostics. I structured the commonalities in my mind, so that I might better understand the root of it all, and what I found was love, fear, existence & the afterlife. I developed a sensitivity and passion; an automatic acceptance of sort, to all people, of all faiths. To all people, of all genders, and all beliefs.
The culture of this town has certainly transported me in time and minutes, but I find it precious and important to be able to understand the psychology of others; to fault others for what they’ve been taught, for what they’ve confided in, and the spaces that have made them feel comfortable creatively, mentally and physically.
It is so hard not to use the word ‘Ignorance.’ Because when one acts with anger to the belief system of others, one becomes ignorant. Speech can be violent, detrimental, hurtful, spiteful, and often breeds discomfort. But a large part of what you believe & defending what you are passionate about, is accepting that others will disagree with you; some might even be afraid of your thoughts for what they challenge, what they question. Do not be complacent or silent, but know when fewer words are better for your own soul, and for the audience who does not listen, but prepares to answer.