Gawga on mah mind: it's personal

  The spreading oaks, the moss that lazes from their branches. An iconic image of Slo-vannah, as my hostess Jane says this beautiful city is sometimes called. The first day, yes, I can see why. The humidity penetrates even my lightest clothes. I walk at half my normal pace and sit to rest in Franklin Square. My feel for the city grows just as slowly. First outer Abercorn -  box store Savannah - then downtown,  the squares and the neighbourhoods clustered around them. The graceful houses and tours to learn about their architecture and the history of the most popular, such as the Mercer House where so many movies have been filmed. As Walker Percy wrote, movie connections lend a heightened reality to a situation. When a character lights a cigarette for William Holden in The Moviegoer, "... he has won title to his own existence, as plenary an existence now as Holden's..." Then the river and its long, too commercial for my taste, river walk. 

But Jane agrees to attend the service at the First African Baptist Church with me on Sunday morning, and that is when the Savannah theme begins to sound its sweet note, sweeter even than Jane's partner Carmela's  "y'all's", the gin-tility of the voices that first spoke in this region, and not another, the midwest, for example, or the north. It's personal. When Preacher Little speaks to his congregation, he speaks to individuals, he implores them to literally stand up for someone who needs help. He asks people to affirm the words he speaks: "Someone shout out, I'm covered!" And more than one person replies, "I'm covered!" When members of the congregation, including us, look at one another, they really look, they try to see; when we hold hands, it is a firm hand hold. The hugs not breezy air hugs, but actual embraces. Powerful. Jane and I, in our sort-of Sunday best, leave the church with wet eyes, both heavier and lighter than when we walked in.  In my case, I have lost some assumptions and gained some understanding, another theme on this trip.

Personal, too, my talk with a young man at a bus stop, the Savannah cop who called me a cab, and Shep, who had just come from his Thanksgiving dinner at the Old Savannah City Mission and offered to wait with me at the Savannah  Market for the cab to arrive.

Thanks to columnist Jane, I meet sculptors and soul food cooks, yoga instructors, health food store and wine shop proprietors, and Toby, who arrived in Savannah in 2005, having lost his Mississippi home to Katrina, saw a for rent sign on the Flannery O'Connor childhood home, moved into the top floor apartment had has stayed to become the guide and administrator of the shrine to this Southern author. Still soggy from the rain dripping off the banana tree leaves in her folk garden, Jane and I spend an easy hour or so chatting with Toby about Savannah and literature and recalling favourite O'Connor stories.

From what was her parent's bedroom, Flannery could see the cathedral spire that dominates that section of Savannah. When I stop into the church the next day, a children's choir is practicing Christmas carols. Perfect. "Sing in exaltation!"

In the haunting Bonaventure Cemetery, the description "Loyal" is etched into the marble wreathe above the tomb of a Confederate officer's wife. Not just a wife, but a LOYAL wife. That seems personal too.