I’m writing this from Washington, North Carolina. I left Fredericksburg before 8 am yesterday morning after two days of gallivanting around the town with my buddy Kevin Grigsby trying hot wings from Cowboy Jacks, banana ice cream from Wally’s, pizza from Bennys, and beer from Spencer Devon Brewery, and a few Irish pubs.
I need to head home to Georgia soon but in the absence of any clear ethereal, divine promptings, I felt a strong hankering to head for the east coast, the Atlantic. So Big Red and I barreled down another familiar highway of my youth- Highway 17. Familiar only in that the same highway passes through my hometown of Savannah, Georgia before disappearing in the miasmatic environs of Florida.
On the way to “little” Washington we passed the Great Dismal Swamp. Seriously, what a name for a swamp?! From what I’ve read, over the years some people have found it to be a paradise, others a foreboding place and still others, runaway slaves, found it to be a refuge. Apparently, a 20 year old poet named Robert Frost decided to end it all by hiking deep into the park and dying. He was poor, unemployed, unpublished, recently kicked out of college and had just been dumped, he thought, by his sweetheart. Kind of a reverse of the anthem of the beer commercials: “it doesn’t get any better than this.”
Though not being able to tick all of the boxes Frost did that year, I certainly have spent my own periods wandering in the ‘great dismal’. Haven’t all of us been there at some point? Physically or emotionally lost in some unexpected swamp? When you survive the ‘great dismal’ (and you will survive it if you get support and just keep going) you’ll come out a wiser, stronger and more empathetic, person, at least that’s what I’m hoping for. And sometimes bravely wading through that brackish water is the only way you can go if you want to keep growing.
In Frost’s case, rescue came to him in the form of duck hunters heading to Elizabeth city and Nag’s Head. They were traversing the swamp, hunting and drinking; two of the eternal, recurring pastimes of men everywhere. Frost left the Great Dismal swamp with them, went on to marry his sweetheart and became a great poet. He wrote about his sojourn in the swamp:
"Getting too befriended, As so often, ended Any melancholy Gotterdammerung That I might have sung. I fell in among Some kind of committee From Elizabeth City, Each and every one Loaded with a gun Or a demijohn. (Need a body ask If it was a flask ?) Out to kill a duck Or perhaps a swan Over Currituck."
Big Red and I decided not to take any chances this time. We agreed we’d just skirt around the edge of the swamp and just keep going. There will be more dismal swamps ahead soon enough.