Savannah knows something. This is the feeling I carried home with me after my first trip to Georgia's famed historic city. It's hard to explain it's richness, you have to walk it's streets to know, and I hope you can someday. This place is steeped in history and mystery - and I'm happy to share a little of it here.
We started out in the incredibly beautiful and incredibly green Forsyth Park. This place envelopes you in huge Live Oak trees and a sense that generations past are still present. I could spend all day here. A book, a bench, and that fountain! But for the sake of seeing as much as we could, I gathered leaves for souvenirs and moved on. We made our way down Bull Street, past an amazing antique shop toward Monterey Square - one of Savannah's many shady plazas. Not realizing where we were on the map, I was pleasantly surprised when we came upon the Mercer Williams House. With all the fame surrounding this great estate from Midnight In The Garden of Good & Evil, I was expecting to see crowds or bustling activity nearby, but no, except for the historic marker in the yard, it stood respectfully unassuming in a quiet little corner of the neighborhood. Gosh was it pretty though, and yes... it had a presence. For those of you who may not know the story, it chronicles the mysterious events surrounding a Christmas party in this house, and it's resident, antiques dealer Jim Williams. The book, a mostly true account by John Berendt, is one of the longest running titles on the New York Times Bestseller List, and has brought curious people to the area for a couple of decades. Hmmm, it's no wonder I found myself here. I read the book and first saw the movie years ago, but just before our trip I watched the movie again. Great for stepping into the story.
And so was our trolley tour... The driver shared lots of stories, some funny, some sad, and some serious. We also had visitors. Like ghosts of Christmas Past, we were graced by characters at various stops throughout the city. These actors stepped on board in full costume and were highly entertaining. We met a Cotton Factor, Jim Williams, Forrest Gump (some of the movie was filmed here), and a beautiful Southern belle. What a fun way to learn some history.
Of course the architecture in this place is stunning. I can't help but admire not only the designs, but also the work of the mason and the hands that cut each brick. Our trolley driver pointed out a place on the side of a building where you can see the fingerprints of one of these hands. A poignant reminder that slavery once existed and sadly played a part in the creation of much of this city. When we enjoy the town's beauty and history today, we must also learn it's lessons and remember to respect all souls who forged it. This includes the distant past and recent. Apparently much of the restoration we see today has been done in the last 50 years. This is mostly due to the Historic Savannah Foundation and students of SCAD, but also individuals with a passion for history such as the fore-mentioned Jim Williams. Dark-side aside, he's still respected greatly for these accomplishments.
And speaking of accomplishments, you may wonder, did I draw anything during this wonderful trip? Nope, not a single sketch. In my stunned state, all I could do was take it in with my eyes, but I'm definitely drawing new inspiration from the exquisite ironwork - lacy cast iron balconies, stately wrought iron fences, post-war and antebellum (I learned a new word). And Oh, the bricks! I've always loved bricks. For some torturous reason feel compelled to paint them. I'm currently working on a painting of a row house inspired by a visit to Georgetown Virginia earlier this year, but now Savannah is bringing some new scenes to mind. The red is so gorgeous, as is the famous Savannah Grey, and these bricks aren't just gracing the streets, they're also unashamedly exposed in many interiors. I noticed this especially in the restaurants and in our hotel lobby which was once a cotton warehouse back in the day. Thankfully we can see all of this now because General Sherman didn't destroy a single building here during the Civil War. In fact, he loved this city so much that he gave it to President Lincoln as a Christmas gift. You can read the actual letter here.
So, what does Savannah know? I think I've finally figured it out...
She knows that she's lucky - as is anyone who's history is not lost. Spared at a time when other cities fell, her stories didn't burn. She also knows these stories are eternal, and like the circles of wreaths on her doors, they're continuing. Happy times, dark times, they all get the red bow at the end of the year, because this is her secret... Let past hurts go, but acknowledge the lesson. Repair spirits and stairways, and then celebrate the season - this glorious season that redeems, gives, and cherishes all love found. Savannah knows Christmas.