In the wake of more shootings, nose-diving educational standards and other bad news scrolling across our feeds, I recently admonished a dear friend for being too cheerful.
It was more of an accusation, really.
“How can you be so gaddamn optimistic when the world is clearly unraveling?” I muttered into my bourbon.
“Stop smiling. It’s...pathological.”
“Are you calling me a pathological optimist?” He clapped his hands. “I love it!”
A few days later, this same person merrily pointed out to the doomy-gloomy fearmongers on Facebook that there has been no better time to be a human being than right now. While we’re conditioned to dismiss such positivity as charmingly insane, his arguments were sound, citing history’s evidence of evolutionary progress and “our unlimited capacity to create and innovate” our way to solutions.
The more I considered this, the more I realized he’s right. Nothing’s ever gotten solved by handwringing and wallowing. And the bourbon isn’t really helping either.
So here are five reasons why there is no better place to be than Savannah this week—if you can’t beat the pathological optimists, join ‘em, right?
THE CAMELLIAS ARE BLOOMING! From sunny corals to sexy scarlets to spellbinding pinks, the colorful flowers are currently festooning trees and shrubs all over town. Some are the size of teacups, others the size of dinner plates, all are evidence that our city’s beauty has deep roots. Where else in December do the trees decorate themselves?
If you want to immerse deeply in camellia glory, check out the Judge Arthur Solomon Camellia Trail at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens (yesh, I still call it the Bamboo Farm, too.)
The three-acre path hosts more than a thousand species and hybrids, including C. Sansaqua, C. Japonica and Camellia sinensis. The latter’s little white poms are grown commercially around the world for tea, and we can expect our own local brew to come soon from CGBG.
“The trail is just beautiful right now—all the color and variety is amazing,” says outreach coordinator Liz Lubrani, who encourages everyone who comes for the camellias to stay after sunset for December Nights and Holiday Lights, a sparkly wheelchair- and stroller-accessible walking tour every night through Christmas Eve. (6-9pm, $8/$5 kids.)
Some of our camellias will push out pretty blooms all the way through January. But there’s no reason to shed a tear when the last one drops its last waxy petal: It just means that azalea season is right around the corner.
FREE BOOKS FOR ALL! There are now eight—count ‘em—EIGHT more Little Free Libraries around town, thanks to the generosity of Roots Up Gallery owners and all-around wonderful people Francis Allen and Leslie Lovell. Some may recall that in lieu of gifts for their 2014 wedding, the newlyweds established The Flannery O’Connor Book Trail as a way to spread their passion for literacy and art.
The trail’s final hand-painted box o’ books was dedicated last Sunday in Thunderbolt in front of the magical Diamond Oaks Treehouse created by poet/professor Chad Faries. (If you have guests coming to town, this fairy-lit, moss-draped wonderland boasts a solid five stars on Airbnb. Yes, Chad has legit bed-and-breakfast status.)
Among those on hand to sanctify the “take one, leave one” repository were its artist Jose Ray, ecclesiastical ace Michael Chaney, and 10 year-old Sage Batchelor, who was the first to grace the wooden shelves with a copy of Peter Pan.
“It really has been a labor of love,” said the book trail’s creative director, Coco Papy. “The community has built this project, and it’s so exciting to see it finished.”
Dang y’all, if all this positive collaboration keeps up, I might have to trade out my copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook.
THE BIRDS ARE BACK! It’s been almost a year since a pair of great horned owls settled atop the loblolly pine on Skidaway Island and raised a family as the world watched, thanks to the live feed at LandingsBirdCam.com.
We compulsively refreshed our screens as mama brooded on her eggs and her baby daddy brought her delicious dead things to eat; we cheered as those two precious owlets emerged from their shells and learned to fly.
Now there’s reason to believe that The Real House Raptors of Savannah might have a second season: A screenshot of a great horned owl pecking around in the dead of night appeared on the LandingsBirdCam Facebook page a few weeks ago.
But any decent sequel needs some interspecies drama: A bald eagle has also been eyeing the aerie, and over the weekend an osprey checked in, inspecting the stability with its feathered claws.
Nobirdy has laid claim to the stick-woven nest yet, but once again, we are delightfully obsessed.
CITIZENS ARE UNITING! The residents of Savannah Gardens have not let the recent gun violence in their neighborhood drag them down the rabbit hole of negativity.
At a recent community safety meeting held in one of the complex’s beautifully decorated gathering spaces, more than 50 people offered real solutions to keep the recently renovated, five-unit apartment complex on Pennsylvania Avenue from developing a reputation for tolerating bad behavior.
They demanded a stronger police presence, and in turn promised to share tips about criminal activity and encourage others to do the same. Suggested proactive measures included more security cameras, better lighting and the establishment of a league of building captains to keep property managers informed of “unauthorized guests” who bring guns, drugs and trouble to this multi-generational community.
Owned and operated by the Denver, CO-based non-profit Mercy Housing, Savannah Gardens provides affordable housing to almost 500 local families, seniors and those with special needs, and any judgment about that ought to be squashed. According to Mercy staff, the majority of residents work or are in school during the day, and the nights are usually quiet. They take great pride in their homes and are working to make sure the negative actions of a few will not outshine the positivity of the many.
“I think there are more good people than bad people moving to this area, and they’re all interested in keeping this a beautiful place to live,” said senior property manager Curtis Lowe.
YOU ARE GENEROUS, BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE! Everywhere I go, I see Toys for Tots bins literally overflowing with stuffed bears, Lego kits and Tonka trucks—the U.S. Marines have quite a mission this year as they distribute this bounty to needy families this Christmas season.
Santa was also in full effect last Saturday, handing out gifts to over 300 families for the 34th annual Miracle on May Street at the West Broad YMCA. Bikes, books, scooters, toys, arts supplies, a few pairs of new Nike kicks all donated by you found their way through Kids Helping Kids, Hands On Savannah and Savannah Lives Matter.
If you’ve still got more left to give, Loop It Up Savannah is still seeking gifts for teens this week. Want a little cheer with your donation? Blessings in a Bookbag continues its good works with the presentation of “Ain’t No Santa Claus” this Sunday, Dec. 21 ($10 in advance, $12 at the door; go to BiB’s FB page for info.)
Folks, as bad as it seems at the moment, there is proof in history that Savannah can survive rough times and long shadows. We can curse the darkness or light a few candles—the choice is ours.
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"And you deserve better."
Thanks, Jim, for my new campaign slogan.