Thursday, June 24, 2010

I miss the South

Lately, I've been missing the South. Like never before since I moved to the city, I miss it. It's a movie playing in my head, pausing more than it moves forward, a series of images of things I equate with the South. One moment, I see my foot on the dash, wind blowing through my hair, music cranked up, watching a lightening storm as the sun goes down in the distance. A little later, I see blackness as I wake up in the middle of the night to a loud crack of thunder. God, I miss thunder and lightening and storms more than anything. It doesn't storm up here. It rains for short amounts of time, and even then it sounds so different because it's pitter-pattering on my AC in the window, not on my roof. And thunder in the distance just doesn't exist in New York. I crave that.

Then it's something vague, like a grassy hill. Or those hills in Mississippi, on the drive from Birmingham to Oxford, that rise and fall against the blunt flatness of the Delta to the south. I remember driving that route on the prettiest days the universe ever threw together, and thinking, even then - when I absolutely took it for granted - how the sky seemed to stretch on forever and the clouds were the happy residents of that infinity. The grass stalks on the sides of the highway were tall, and depending on the time of year, they were green or yellow or brown, sometimes all three. But they were always there, and they seemed to constantly sway in the wind, all the blades moving together in one swooping motion, as if they were waving at me along my journey.

It's odd, because I'm not sad in New York. Maybe I just haven't gotten to that point yet, but I oddly feel sort of comforted by my ardent longing for the South. Maybe because it comes from somewhere outside of myself - or at least that's my inclination, since I'm certainly not forcing myself to feel this way - I think each missin' pang brings me closer to where I need to be and what I need to do. As if the script to that movie in my head isn't completed, but is actively being written. The plot is revealed to me in flashes, and the ending doesn't even exist yet.

Remember when I told y'all I'm reading North Toward Home by Willie Morris? Well the same day I started reading it, I noticed a note on the last page, written by one of the previous owners. When I tried to read it, I couldn't decipher the handwriting, which might be referred to as "chicken scratch," and looks like it could have been written by my mom or her mama or her momma before. Then I sort of forgot about it. Yesterday, I looked at it again and it was perfectly clear to me.

I finished!
Great day in the morning
I finished
betw Boca & Atlanta
You come back now you hear!

My birthday is 1/21/86. I was two years and two days old when this person finished the book and felt compelled to make a note of it. Also, no one above the Mason-Dixon line says "great day in the morning." Ever. AND, don't people normally say "y'all come back now ya hear"? This person, for some reason, replaced the "y'all" with "you." And 22 years later, I read it at a particularly vulnerable time, when I miss the South and home with every part of myself. Art - and therefore life - is a complete mindfuck sometimes.

When I read it on the train yesterday, I started laugh-crying. I'm sure I looked insane. But it's just like, OK, universe - after the message this book already gave me when I was sitting in the window of the salon in Chelsea, I can't ignore it.

I'm coming home. I don't know when. I don't even know where or why or how, but I just feel the truth of that statement, without even understanding it.


  1. It's funny but the summer makes me miss the South most of all. It's the best season there. Everything's so lush and alive. Hot, sticky, sexy, alive. S and I got all excited about a thunderstorm the other night. But it was just as you described. No big lightning. No driving rain. We had anticipated sitting on the porch. Alas ...

    I read North Toward Home the summer I was in Charleston. I have a POV picture where all you see is the cover of the book and my legs tanning, the ocean spread out before us. I should read it again. I didn't appreciate certain parts of it that summer. A summer away but still in the South is not long enough for longing.

    I'm so glad I had time last summer to be jobless and suck in all the South at its best. Water my garden, get sunburnt, swim, sail, cook, listen to the rain, go to a ridiculous July 4 party on a farm with daisies and chickens and Lazy Magnolia in mason jars.

    I haven't been home since Christmas when the South was all ugly and dried up and not itself. I'm coming home in July and going to Oxford in August. It will be glorious and hot and disgusting. I must get all the sno-balls and barbecue nachos I can handle.

    Sorry if this is long. Sorry if I sorta blogged on your blog. You inspired me a little and made me nostalgic. Deal. ;)

  2. This is really beautifully written. I wish you'd write an essay or a short story or something... the imagery in the beginning is particularly moving.

  3. This really made me smile. Having been a Yankee my whole life and now living in Texas, I have to say, I'm so inspired by the personality of Southerners. I love it! I know Texas and the South are different, but they have their similarities. Truthfully, since I was about 14, I've always wanted to take a drive through the deep South. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia. I guess I gotta stop dreaming about it and just do it.
    Funny you should say that about storms though. When I moved to Los Angeles, where it NEVER storms, I would always say to my Mom, I miss the storms of NY. I guess it storms more in Upstate NY than the City.

  4. @willow: Ugh, stop it. Thinking about cooking out and drinking out of mason jars and seeing lightning bugs is too much. I miss it so much it literally hurts.

    @Irina: Thank you. That's so sweet. I wrote an essay in yesterday's post.

    @Hipstercrite: You should do it! Let's do it together. A road trip through the deep South would be/is amazing.

  5. What a beautiful post! I've experienced similar sentiments lately about my home being a Midwesterner living in NYC. Good luck on your journey towards the final scene.

  6. What a sincere post... Its good to have those memories..Those memories make u who u are!.

  7. @Amy: Thank you so much! Good to know I'm not the only New Yorker experiencing this.

    @Chrissy: I sometimes wonder if I focus too much on the memories.

  8. I lived a while in Ocean Springs MS... and I know the longing you speak of... I live in maine, grew up here, transplanted myself to Ocean Springs, and ended up having to move back to maine... thing is- I left my heart and soul in the south... and Im not the same anymore...

  9. @Nakia Yeah, the South can do that to people. :)

  10. I read this in the middle of a rather large storm, and the idea of a place without real thunder really struck me. I had no idea that was possible. It just seems wrong. I really enjoyed the post, sometimes it's easy to forget why i love it so much down here.

    While i'm commenting, I just read (and listened to) your post on the gulf, and i thought it was perfect. I just got back from Gulf Shores, and it just felt different. It took a while for your voice to sound familiar, but i guess six years (!) is a long time.

    Also, surprise? I'm reading your blog?

  11. @Joey: You're right. It does seem wrong. Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing in a place with very few to no thunderstorms.

  12. Nothing happens by chance. Sometimes God answers our prayers even before we speak them. Best of luck in all of your decisions. Your posts are beautiful to read.
    Southern Girl

  13. THANK YOU. I actually googled "I miss the south" and found you. I'll reread this often when I miss it too much!
    I have a theory about what I call "The thunderstorm phenomenon" (people from the south missing the thunderstorms). I think the electricity in the air during a thunderstorm actually does something to our brains and we miss it once we don't have it anymore - like a drug! Thank you for writing this and hopefully I'll get back there one day!