I have traveled to Jackson, MS a dozen or more times over the past few years for work, but this was my favorite visit so far. When I traveled on business, I was lucky to work with a great group of people and developed friendships with several of them. When I was invited to stay with Judy and her family, I jumped at the chance. Judy (and everyone in her family) is smart, opinionated, warm, and funny; they welcomed me in and made me a part of their tribe.
Judy planned a day in Jackson to show me some things I'd seen before and others I'd never had time for. We started at the "new" Beaux-Arts style State Capitol building, which is hands down one of my favorite places. Since it was close to the buildings in which I'd always attended meetings, I had been in several times, but this time we took a tour, which I highly recommend. The old Capitol building is now a museum, which is still on my list of places to visit. The current Capitol is difficult to describe. If there is a place to add a carved flower, a light bulb, a bit of stained glass, some intricate molding, marble, or gold leaf, it has been added. The whole space was designed to feel very light, and it does, which perfectly balances the sometimes heavy, beautiful decoration.
After a delicious lunch of spicy shrimp and grits at The Manship with friends, we headed to Eudora Welty's home for a tour. We were primarily interested in seeing the photos Welty took during her time as a Junior Publicity Agent for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), but also in seeing the house in which she grew up and lived out her life. We started with a very well done documentary of her life and then moved to a guided tour of the house, which was perhaps a bit too long, but balanced by our guide's enthusiasm for her topic. In the end, I realized that although I may have read one or two of Welty's books, I really wanted to dig in now that I had seen the desk where she worked and heard stories about the down to earth, funny person she was. With another stop to make before dinner we never did see the photographs, but I hope to have an opportunity to see them at some point in the future.
Our last stop for the day was the Gothic Revival Chapel of the Cross in Madison. The Chapel was constructed primarily by slaves from two local plantations beginning in the late 1840s; plasterers and brick masons from around the state also added their expertise. We were lucky to be able to peek inside the chapel for a couple of minutes just before it was closed for a wedding the following day. It reminded me of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit outside Atlanta with its clean, simple lines, generous light, and a feeling of peace.
The cemetery just behind the church holds the graves of the Johnstone family, which owned the land and oversaw construction of the Chapel. Several other family plots stretch out toward the fields on the property, many surrounded by simple fences.
On Saturday we ventured to Pickenpaugh Pottery and the Mississippi Crafts Center, both of which featured some beautiful pieces. Good thing I'm traveling by car; I managed to escape with just a bracelet and two small cups. I had a ridiculously long nap followed by yet another delicious meal provided by my gracious hosts, and then spent some time getting ready to head to Progress, MS, where I was scheduled to work in a plant nursery for several days.