I left Augusta a few days ago after getting some fun reconnect time with Sean and Jenn as well as a great shoot for The Diverse Sex-Positive Bodies Stock Photography Project. By the time I left, I had a travel plan for the next few weeks. I’d stop in Alabama for a night on my way to Hot Springs, Arkansas, since I’d never so much as been though Arkansas before. I’d stay a few nights there, then head down to the Rose Marie in Louisiana, and then on to Big Bend.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and this one certainly did.

By the time I got to Bankhead National Forest in Alabama, I was in a ton of pain; so much so that I was using my cane in public, something I’m loathe to do. After getting the tent set up, I decided I’d stay an extra night and try to recuperate. I still wasn’t feeling up to driving much the following day, so I elected to stay a third night before moving on to Arkansas. Meanwhile, I did hobble around a little bit and took a few photos.

Bankhead Campsite

Just before getting to the campground where I was going to stay, I passed by this old-looking church along the side of the road, and after getting set up, I went back to have a look. I’m not religious, but I’m often fascinated by old and/or pretty churches.

This old one-room church, The Corinth Baptist Church, was built in 1884. I found it pretty in a quaint sort of way.

Corinth Baptist Church, 1884

I took a peek through the lead glass windows, and loved how the sunlight illuminated this chair near the corner.

Chair through the Church Window

Besides not having electric, around the back of the church is a testament to the fact that it also has no plumbing.

Ladies Out Back
Ladies Rest Room

Like many old churches, this one had a graveyard beside it. This little angel caught my eye. (I’m a Whovian, angel statues *always* catch my eye….)

Angel

Nearby the angel was this rather tall headstone, decorated with flowers in a way that seemed to say it was loved in a way most of the others weren’t. It was as I was taking this shot that I noticed two smaller stones similarly adorned nearby. And then the story became a little clearer.

Rhoda

Twins Ora and Otis, children of Rhoda. Ora lived nine days, and Otis only six. The stones took me by surprise, and moved me to tears for people I’d never met, and to whom I had exactly zero connection.

Ora
Otis

One of the things I noted about my campsite as I set up (I’d chosen it sight unseen on the recommendation of the camp host) was this lovely species, surrounding my entire campsite.

Virginia Creeper

When I was young, my father would take us to visit one of his family members, I forget which, whose house was covered in ivy. I always thought the ivy there, nearly covering and concealing the stone house, was incredibly pretty.

As I got older and learned the hard way to identify poison ivy in particular, I still had a great affinity for ivy in general. Eventually, a handful of years ago, I rented a house with ivy everywhere. With a biology background now, I could see there were three species all over our yard. One, of course, was poison ivy, another species covered large swaths of under-tree ground as well as a few trees themselves, and here and there, disguising itself as the dreaded itchy poison ivy, was this species. Note that its leaves come in fives, not threes

This particular ivy is called Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), and is found throughout the eastern half of North America. While it doesn’t cause the itching of poison ivy, the berries are toxic to humans, and can kill a full-grown adult.

And unlike other ivies, this one doesn’t slink its roots into its host like a parasite, so much as use little tiny pads to stick tenaciously to the skin of whatever it’s growing on.

The Latin binomial is pretty straightforward. The “Partheno” part refers to virginity, similar to parthenogenesis. Named for the colony of Virginia where it was first found by the collectors working for Linnaeus, which in turn had been named for Elizabeth I of England, “The Virgin Queen”. The “-cissus” part refers to ivy (although it’s not closely related to ‘true ivies’). “Quin” means five, and “folia” means leaves. So it’s “The Five-leaved Virgin Ivy”, I suppose. I find that kind of cute and a little bit funny, for reasons I can’t even begin to explain.

In any event, whenever I see Virginia Creeper around, it reminds of that place I still think of as home. It was sweet, perhaps a little bittersweet, to be surrounded entirely by ivy.

On the third evening in Alabama, my dear friend Undescriptionated had a crisis arise and extend through the night, and we texted on and off all night. I asked if she needed me, she accepted my offer, and at first light, instead of heading west for Arkansas as planned, I turned Gypsy north for Indiana, from where I write this post. I’m not sure how long I’ll be here, but probably until Friday when we might be sure the situation is sorted.

Then maybe I’ll get on to Arkansas, but until then I’ll be enjoying the hospitality of my old Hoosier friend.