The drive is a circuitous route. It encompasses metro areas, country roads, farms, fields, and factories. In one day, I see blooming tulips, budding azaleas, plowed fields and green. Lots and lots of green.
During the long, leisurely ride I visit every place that I have ever lived. Despite having visited over 30 countries around the world, I spent most of my life within 35 miles of where I was born. The lone exception is Auburn, where I spent four years during college before returning after retiring three years ago.
It is one of my favorite times of the year to make this trip. Just seeing the green grass in the ditch makes me feel at home. The occasional tractor tills the soil, in an endless cycle that has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.
The hardwoods of my neighborhood are breaking out in various shades of green as Spring finally breaks through. My trip soon has me traveling south through Georgia, leaving the rolling hills as the land becomes flatter. Mighty oaks shine with the various pastel greens of new growth, interspersed with the dark green hues of pine trees. Tree lines are like a masterpiece, dotted with dozens of shades of what has always been my favorite color.
I reach Donalsonville, my home for 47 years between my two stints in Auburn. Green carries a special message here. It has always been an agriculture-based economy so green means money. It is also a still recovering site of some of the worst inland destruction from Hurricane Michael. Green means recovery. Rejuvenation. Revival.
From there, I head to Compass Lake, my destination for the night. I arrive in time for a slow sunset cruise along the lake. Like Donalsonville, Compass Lake bore some of the brunt of Hurricane Michael. The signs of the devastation are less stark every time I visit. A part of my life since I was born, its continuing return to normal is one of my greatest joys.
The seven 15-year-old live oaks I transplanted after the storm have broken out in a healthy coat of green, giving me a great sense of relief. This will be two full years of renewal for these beautiful trees, a critical mark when moving such big oaks to a new location. They will never replace the 100-year-old live oaks lost during the storm, but they are a symbol of our own personal resilience. Like much in life, the lake faced adversity and came back better than ever.
My sojourn takes me through Cottonwood, where I lived the first 17 years of my life. I visit the cemetery, the greening tree line at the family plot’s edge shading the markers. Three generations before me rest in peace here.
Finally, I pass through Dothan, where I attended high school, met my wife, and first learned to play on a bigger stage. This June, Mary Lou and I will join hundreds of our classmates as we celebrate our 50th high school reunion. How did 50 Springs pass so fast?
My Spring tour is not totally by accident. While I love Auburn and thrive in all it has to offer to a retiree, I occasionally enjoy, and maybe even need a trip back to where I came from.
Porter Wagoner first sang the lyrics when I had just finished elementary school. Tom Jones made the song his signature hit a few years later. Kenny Rogers and Elvis Presley put their own twist to the music while I was in college.
While the lyrics might be a bit corny for today’s young music lovers, I cannot help but feel that the words capture my short trip this week. The last line of every verse carries the same message over and over. “It is good to touch the green, green grass of home”.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org