It seems quite contradictory to write a piece on why people should stay in Jackson on the eve of our move to Nashville. After eight years of choosing to stay, the decision to leave didn’t come easily, and I certainly put up a fight. However, I had to come to terms with the fact that sometimes a dream is for a season, and it’s okay for dreams to develop towards other places. You don’t have to abandon a sense of “place” once you move. That “place” is wherever you plant your feet, wherever you plant a garden, wherever you make a home.
The home we have made in midtown Jackson will forever be imprinted in my heart as the most peaceful and fulfilling time of our twenty-something years on earth. The way the sun hits the hill on Westwood creates a glow that warms your soul and somehow reminds you that everything is going to be okay. Jackson has little pockets of wonder around every corner if you’re willing to look for them. The still forest of Cypress Grove provides a refuge for me away from the bustle of human responsibility in the city. Cotton and soybean fields lining the outskirts of Jackson have pulled me away from time to time to remind me to be still and quiet and appreciative. There’s even a tiny country market out on the edge of town that invigorated my sense of adventure and has some great Oreo ice cream pops.
Jackson has a gravitational pull like nowhere else I’ve ever lived, and I’ve lived in many states. We all know that people don’t stay because of the variety of exotic restaurants, lively nightlife, or riveting mountainscapes. It’s because those who are in Jackson, for one reason or another, have chosen to stay. They believe in a community that is nestled between two thriving big cities but sometimes feels ten years behind the times. They’ve invested in small businesses, started incredible creative centers, pastored hurting communities, and raised families the best way they can. The spirit of determination I see in Jackson residents is empowering and has changed the way I see the world.
One of my favorite seasons in Jackson was working for ComeUnity Café. In the very beginning, every day was filled with new promises and answers to prayer. Being able to turn an empty, pea gravel-filled lot into a thriving urban garden was one of the more rewarding tasks of my life. The people I met there, including those I got to work with, made me a better person. It wasn’t without trials, tears, and a few wars with garden pests, but it was abundantly rich in grace. When you are able to make a meal with someone who hasn’t had one in a while, it not only nourishes them; it changes you. You get to become part of something bigger—something bigger than yourself. It becomes not what you can do for someone, but what you can do together.
Amy Crenshaw and the guys at ComeUnity have persevered through all of the roadblocks that make starting new things in Jackson difficult. They saw a purpose and a promise and didn’t give up until it happened. And ComeUnity’s story isn’t the only one! Look at Tulum, theCO, Rose Creek and Marmilu Farms, Made On Acorn Hill, and even the Farmers' Market as a whole, and see the abundant goodness that is inherent in each of those organizations. It should make you really proud to be a Jacksonian.
I chose to stay in Jackson while sharing meals with my best friends in our dinner co-op. I chose to stay every Sunday when I gathered with my brothers and sisters at City Fellowship Baptist Church. I chose to stay every time I had a conversation with a stranger or a traveler. I chose to stay when I met my husband Rob and got married here, making a home together on Lambuth. And even now as we prepare to leave, I’m cementing a part of this city in my heart and hope to encourage those who stay to press on and keep creating. It’s a more beautiful place now than it was eight years ago, and that will only continue to grow.
Cari Griffith is a photojournalist turned urban gardener who bounced around the South for most of her life and settled in Jackson for the last eight years. She loves cooking, sharing meals with others, house plants, and 90's sci-fi movies. She has lived in a sweet tiny house in midtown with her husband Rob for the last year but will soon depart to Nashville to teach photography to high schoolers while Rob pursues his dreams of playing music with his brothers.
tags Jackson TN, Tennessee, Cari Griffith, Stay731, #stay731, moving, home, Nashville TN, place, community, Midtown Jackson, Westwood Avenue, beauty, Cypress Grove, local, local business, family, church, ComeUnity Café, downtown Jackson, gardening, homeless, food, Amy Crenshaw, Tulum Fresh Mexican Grill, theCO, Rose Creek Farms, Marmilu Farms, Made On Acorn Hill, Farmers' Market, West Tennessee Farmers' Market, friends, Food For All, City Fellowship Baptist Church, Rob Griffith, Lambuth Boulevard, LANA, Lambuth Area Neighborhood Association