Monticello, GA

A Visit to Monticello, Georgia

Crystal Jackson

Beauty is everywhere. You just have to be paying attention.
Monticello, GeorgiaPhoto by Crystal Jackson

As a visiting writer to the local high school, I take my extended lunch break to explore the town of Monticello, Georgia. It’s not big. It’s a dot on the map in the middle of Georgia. But I have a traveler’s mind, and I looked at it with interested eyes. I believe that if you don’t see the beauty, you aren’t paying attention.

On my walk from my parking space to the local coffee shop, I passed an art gallery with arguably the world’s cutest dog sitting in the window. A real-life dog-show-looking dog. A happy little face pressed to watch the outside world. I’ll definitely be stopping there. But I kept going onto my coffee destination undeterred by happy puppy faces.

I crossed streets, my eyes passing over a convenience store that held little interest for me. I want local. I want different. Bright tables outside coffee and sandwich shops caught my eye and drew me in. This. This is what I was looking for.

I’m all about the details. Industrial lighting. Exposed brick. Gleaming hardwood floors. Coffee made strong. A sweet scent in the air. A hidden backroom meant for cozying up to read or meeting with friends. Succulents on tables and vines in the windows. A smile on the face behind the counter. A grimace on a woman entering the shop already complaining about the time, the difficulty finding the shop, the lateness of her companion’s arrival. I see it all with interest.

Am I a writer because I like to watch people or do I like to watch people because I’m a writer? Both, maybe.

The woman who serves my food at the sandwich shop has on a dress as unusual as it is fantastic. Multi-colored, sparkly, and are those goldfish in the pattern? Maybe she’s magic. Maybe she’s brightening a gray day in the only way that she can. I don’t really care because it doesn’t matter. The dress is hers. The story is mine.

The sandwich is better than I expected, and I chase it with homemade lemonade. No powdered mix here. I bite into crisp sliced apples, and I watch. The woman eating alone with the most gorgeous sunglasses on. She doesn’t remove them, and I wonder. The friends sharing a meal, laughter punctuating their conversation so much so that what they’re saying doesn’t even matter. The couple who enters — the man holding the door, his hand on the woman’s back as she walks in.

There’s beauty everywhere.

A license plate with a word I don’t understand. It has meaning, undisclosed to me. There’s a story there, but my gaze moves on. It catches on a spire in the square and statues of soldiers memorializing lives lost in some war. I want to say the Civil War, but I haven’t yet looked to see.

I see a wall in the distance, painted like a storefront but without a door. Surely, it requires a door. The lack of a door catches my eye for longer than the doors that open and close, admitting and releasing customers.

On another side of the same building, the exposed brick seems to crumble away in ruin and a metal door long-rusted seems to go nowhere. Maybe it belongs in the other place and found itself here instead. Abandoned, neglected, inviting magic to anyone who will open it. I imagine that I could enter worlds from here.

There are stories everywhere. Beauty, too. I never stop looking for it.

The day is gray, and someone somewhere is probably hurting their way through it. I’ve had those days. But there was beauty in them even if my eyes were too swollen from tears to see it. I take comfort in the fact that it’s everywhere.

I’m not going to be the lady shuffling in complaining about the weather, the location, the inconvenience of having to meet for lunch. I’m going to be the lady visiting the same coffee shop a million times and marveling each time at its beauty. How they serve my favorite coffee without me having to ask, even though this server is new and I don’t yet know a name to put with the face. How the light hits the room, even when I have to get up and move so that I can continue to write. The ever-changing playlist, the view.

I hope I never stop seeing the beauty that is everywhere, even if the only thing I can add to it is my interest, my smile, and my presence. The door opens, and another story walks in. Maybe I’ll talk to them and discover it. Maybe I’ll write the story myself.

The woman at the corner table puts down her book and bites into her sandwich. The woman with the sunglasses never takes them off and leaves. The car pulls out with the tag I still can’t decipher. The laughter continues between friends.

I look at my sandwich and stop trying to tell their stories. I join the scene instead.

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails:

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