Seeing stars in Deerlick

How a little town in Georgia reminds us of our place in this world

vol. 1 issue 41

Greetings,

Good to be back after being subsumed by migraine and cluster headache attacks. New, quality and effective meds for these have recently come to market, and another in the pipeline, but it takes time to become qualified for them by insurance. After decades of suffering, I am hopeful I will get this resolved.

But that is only to let you know where I have been. I would rather discuss Deerlick.

It’s a little town in east Georgia.

It’s also one of the darkest places left in the United States. This makes it perfect for seeing stars.

That is why a group of amateur astronomers have bought up most of Deerlick and turned it into an astronomer’s paradise. Residents aren’t allowed to build or haul in any structures (think double-wides or RVs) that are more than a storey high. Black out curtains are mandatory.

There are some potential threats to this star gazers’ heaven, including if you ask me, sprawl from people who might not be able to afford living at nearby Ocoee Lake, and for sure, a new chicken feed plant that is expected to bring in as many as 200 jobs. That is not a minor detail in Taliaferro County, which in addition to being purdy durn dark, is also damn poor. Things are likely to stay friendly if the chicken feed people agree to light their 24/7 plant in a way that won’t obscure the stars.

Still, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This story from one of my favorite online journals, The Bitter Southerner, is not focused on potential conflicts in Deerlick, so much as it is on just describing how a move out to the middle of bumbersnap nowheresburg by some star-obsessed folks sits with the handful of locals who grew up there like weeds in the cracked granite, weeds that never seeded and blew far from home.

Spoiler: at least how this gal narrator tells it, things are good. Just ask the diners at Mama Chuchas.

Aside from the delightfully evocative voice of the author, the other reason I wanted to share this story with you is because the windy, country lane narrative leads us somewhere true.

That truth lies in the story’s irony. Deerlick might be the darkest place east of the Mississippi, and certainly in Georgia, but it used to be the brightest. There are so-called “shock rocks” in that area, granite rocks that apparently conduct healing electric currents capable of healing ills like rheumatic arthritis, and other systemic sicknesses. Or so they say. But the Electric Mound Hotel built there in the late 1800s catered to that kind of thing until it burned down and was never rebuilt.

Some residents of Deerlick and nearby Crawfordville do describe some interesting phenomena on account of the rocks, including spinning compass needles.

That funky bit of Georgian earth geology got me thinking: It’s by keeping the stars in our sites that we stay grounded. That’s the irony. In the cities and suburbs where we no longer can see the night as it truly is, we take for granted that we shine brightest in the universe, when that’s just not so.

When you read about the people who came to this little place so they could sit in their backyard and see the stars, you will also read about how that helped forge bonds in the county. Not everyone in town cares about seeing stars, but they all get the benefit of the community that comes with the peace of such a place lit from the inside by folks who came to hang up their black-out curtains after giving up big careers, big cities, and other big stuff so they could sit and be very small in the face of the Big Dark Sky.

If you enjoy this story, you might also enjoy this docu-mental entry about valuing silence.

Coming soon, a podcast with the biographer of actor, and my uncle, the late Harry Dean Stanton.

Thanks for reading.

Whitney

(Photo: courtesy of the Georgia Online Almanac)