It’s a rare Labor Day in the South when temperatures dip to less than roasting with that slight hint of fall in the air that drives you to throw open all the windows. Several things are certain once you do this — the incessant and steady squeaky hum of cicadas, the near and far train whistles and as daylight falls, barn owls calling out to their nighttime friends. When I was younger, I relished my nighttime drives as I escaped the radiant heat of the DC blacktop to head further South to the part-time comforts of Richmond. Sunroof open, ponytail, tank-top, a trunk full of laundry and a bottle of gin. I’d arrive at my sanctuary — my bff’s house — who has a way of making any house feel like a home; a skill I’ve yet to achieve. But that was all years ago now; now that I’ve lived here full-time, I’ve learned a few things that I only glimpsed the surface of during those languid drives and weekends. The South is all about perspective — it’s just as much beauty as ugly, or just as much ugly as beauty — and what either beauty or ugly belies, regardless of perspective — is pain. And it is applied equally to both human inhabitants and nature in this environment. Growing up in the West, we learn many words to describe both the gradations of rain and the many shades of grey during our nine-month slumber, or respite from the sun. Here, the rain falls as if God has emptied a fleet of frigate-sized buckets at once — it pounds the red clay soil to smithereens because it simply cannot absorb the force — quickly morphing into flooded streets and swollen rivers. There is no youth-restoring mist; scarred soil, symbolic of tortured souls — this punishing climate seeps into the ages, pores, roots and hearts leaving in its wake broken life.