Friday, August 14, 2009

Missing My City

The very worst thing for a Charleston ex-pat to do when she is terribly homesick is read a Pat Conroy novel. But that is what I just did. I just finished South of Broad, the latest work of one of the greatest fans of Charleston, besides myself, to ever live.

It was, as expected, fabulous. If you liked Beach Music you will love this book. Conroy has a gift for getting Charleston and Charlestonians right. I should really just give up on trying to explain why and how I love the city so much that it drove me to leave and is now slowly, torturously pulling me home. I should just direct people to theior local libraries or bookstore and tell them to go check out Conroy.

I wish everyone could understand the great love affair that is living in Charleston. How it can scar and heal you, lift you up and shatter you with its great and terrible beauty. Conroy just gets it. He gets the people and he get the town. He understands the beauty and grotesquirie that make it home. In his novels Charleston is so detailed that you could use them as tour guides of the city. I could smell it, I could taste it. I knew the people (he used some real names - so some of them I actually DO know, Hi Mayor Riley!). If you can't come and see The Holy City, at the very least you should read some Conroy. And no, the movies don't count.

I miss home. I long for home, it is a physical pain sometimes. For a few hours yesterday and today I got to go home.

Thank you, Pat.

I carry the delicate porcelain beauty of Charleston like the hinged shell of some soft-tissued mollusk. My soul is peninsula shaped and sun-hardened and river-swollen. The high tides of the city flood my consciousness each day, subject to the whims and harmonies of full moons rising out of the Atlantic. I grow calm when I see the ranks of palmetto trees pulling guard duty on the banks of Colonial Lake or hear the bells of St. Michael's calling cadence in the cicada filled trees along Meeting Street. Deep in my bones, I knew early that I was one of those incorrigible creatures know as Charlestonians. It comes to me as a surprising form of knowledge that my time in the city is more vocation than gift; it is my destiny, not my choice.

Pat Conroy, South of Broad


Susan said...

I don't miss my old home town at all. Oh wait, I still work here.

G said...

Come to Charleston, Susan. Let us convert you. Actually - even if you moved there today your great-great grandchildren would be the fiorst generation who could call themselves Charlestonians. We're bitchy like that :-)