The Best Kept Secret on the U.S. Gulf Coast

mississippi gulf coast map large

Most have heard of New Orleans or the sugar sand and emerald waters of the Alabama and Florida panhandle beaches, but I’m willing to bet you are not aware of the natural beauty, diverse ecosystems, and the serene atmosphere of the best kept secret on the U.S. Gulf Coast – Mississippi.  Yes, Mississippi!  You may have actually heard of our mini-Vegas called Biloxi or the monster hurricanes to have walked or stormed across our land in your lifetime – or perhaps not.  We are so much more.  Let me paint you a word picture in four parts.

(1)  Pascagoula:  https://www.cityofpascagoula.com/            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascagoula,_Mississippi

I have not spent much time in Pascagoula (the name means, “Bread eater”).  It is located on one of the best hunting/fishing locations in our nation, with thousands of unspoiled acres. 

(2)  Traveling west on U.S. Highway 90, the next important stop is the quaint, walking town of Ocean Springs.  Home of the Anderson family of artist; Walter I. Anderson and the famous Shearwater Pottery Works.  The Walter Anderson museum is a must see.  The town has unique shops and restaurants galore.  The first weekend of November is the Anderson Art Festival with easily 100,000 visitors annually.

http://www.peterandersonfestival.com/

ocean springs

Continuing on our westward trek, one must cross the Biloxi Bay and enter Casino Row in Biloxi, MS.  The greatest concentration of casinos on the Mississippi with a few dotting towns further west in Gulf Port and Bay St. Louis.

There are a few deep water channels from which ships can enter the coast, the deepest is at the port of Gulf Port.  The coast is sheltered by islands between our coast line and the deep, warm waters of the gulf.  Most of these islands can be seen from the shore.  Mississippi doesn’t have the emerald waters of the deep waters of the Alabama and Florida Panhandle coast because we have the mighty Mississippi River flowing closely into our gulf waters and because our area of the gulf is shallow.

Even without the emerald waters, you won’t find a more beautiful or quiet respite along the U. S. Gulf Coast.  U. S. Highway 90 covers the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Driving west past Gulfport, these is not the traffic or the tourist stops or dozens of traffic lights.  On the left side is sugar white sand beaches dotted with palm trees and sea oats.  On the right are centuries-old Live Oak trees and wonderful historic homes for miles.  You will still find many empty lots and foundation slabs left from hurricane Katrina.

To Be Continued. . .

In Praise of Mississippi Women

I spent a delightful, autumn day at a small-town Ms’sippi vintage art festival.  After being away from my Ms’sippi for over 3 years it was a treat to walk among these delightful women again.

There are two kinds of women in Ms’sippi:  Young and Perfect.  In Ms’sippi one becomes a woman at the delicate age of 21; from there they gradually move to Perfect.  There are no “old” women in Ms’sippi.  These women were out in force this past Saturday; a sight to behold.  I have traveled quite extensively over the past 12 years and I have met many wonderful women, but believe me I can spot an Ms’sippi Woman a mile off.  Let me paint a word picture of these exceptional women.

Even on Saturday, they will have spent a good hour or more getting ready to go out for the day…longer if they are taking the children.  They have their hair pulled up in a casual “up-do”, which took as long to arrange as her Sunday to Friday “Do”.  They have on the most trendy, casual outfits with boots or sandals (depending on the season).  The jewelry is perfectly balanced.  Five or six bracelets on one arm, watch on the other, earrings – but not to gaudy – a substantial ring on each hand (only one per hand) and the perfect fragrance, not to mention makeup that gives the appearance of no makeup.  Her bag is large enough to carry all the essentials her little family could require and she slings it over her shoulder with the greatest of ease; even if she has a baby on the opposite hip.

These women are not purely house-wives, often they work outside the perfectly orchestrated, domestic heaven with a fulltime professional position.  Some are teachers, doctors, nurses, bankers or CEOs.  The last professional position I had was supporting the Perfect Ms’sippi Woman who happened to also be the CEO of a multimillion dollar medical software company; the second largest in the nation.  Yes, in Ms’sippi.

I was once out running errands in my normal Saturday attire (jeans, cotton shirt, sneakers and a ball cap) when I ran into her at a gift ship.  Yep, you guessed it, she was shopping in stilettos and all that goes with it.  Just Perfect.

But I digress.  If the children are along then each of them have on the perfect seasonal smocked outfit and the girls have a matching bow in their properly curled hair.

The walk:  These women glide with just enough sway to make it an effortlessly choreographed pace.   Naturally, the children (magazine flawless) follow suit.

These women are not race specific.  You can find any race in the category of my Ms’sippi Women.  It is not race genetic, it is simply Ms’sippi.  The confidence and beauty that comes from knowing who you are and where you come from.  These women ooze strength, grace and confidence.  Steel Magnolia, move over.

These selfsame women decorate their completely lived in, historically accurate homes for each seasonal event with the ease of a butterfly flitting from rose to rose.  Southern Living has nothing on these women.  They entertain with the same grace and ease.  I stand in awe. 

Naturally, I mostly enjoyed watching them.  The art festival was this past November in the little town of Laurel, Mississippi.  Nothing could be more entertaining or nostalgic than enjoying a Ms’sippi autumn day on a downtown street bench.  This time of year (football season) the weather is crisp, warmed by the sun and cooled by an aromatic Ms’sippi breeze.

The event (festival) was different from your typical Christmas craft fair.  There was the proverbial festival food and music, but the other vendors sold mostly estate sale items and crafts made from vintage items.  It was such a treat watching these women move effortlessly through the booths and crowd collecting just the right items and gifts.  I was so preoccupied, I ended up only purchasing one item.  Naturally, I wasn’t the only one watching.  Many of these vendors were from 12+ hours to up to a two day drive away.  They were awestruck.  The kind of thing that makes your heart smile.

I failed to mention that I spent the day with my daughter (an Alabama women), my daughter-in-love (a Louisiana women) and my dear friend, Brenda (a certified Ms’sippi Perfect Women).  Somehow I missed out on that full Ms’sippi Women DNA.  It may be because my Dad was from Alabama.  But I can surely recognize and appreciate them because I grew up in their shadow.

I double-dog dare you, go to Ole Miss, on a football weekend, stroll through the chandelier bedecked tailgate tents with upholstered easy chairs and catered meals and tell me you cannot pick out a Ms’sippi Woman as described herein. 

There are songs written about “California Girls” and Billy Joel’s, “Uptown Girl,” but that is because they haven’t visited my Ms’sippi and met a real woman.