Who are you? I know you are a beautiful city by the sea. I love the cobblestone streets that are like a time machine. They take me back to a different time. The steeples watch me as I walk your gracious streets. I feel a connection to my Southern past, a past of beautiful old plantations and vintage buildings whose craftsmanship depicts the work of awe inspiring artists. The many hands that, brick by brick, created this jewel by the sea, were men and women who were not free, and yet slavery could never steal their genius of spirit. It is a haunting that lingers in my mind as I meander through a city that is so entrenched in the past, but is also creating a modern canvas for creative newcomers as well as historians who are forced into the future, while keeping a hand in yesterday.
My heart has always been pulled by your allure. But who are you? You are like a mysterious and beautiful woman that is hard to understand. Do I only see your beauty without really knowing your soul? When nine African-Americans were gunned down at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by a twenty-one year old white supremacist, you seemed heartbroken. The Ravenel Bridge was covered in folks from Charleston feeling the sorrow that was not only for nine innocent souls murdered by hate, but also for the realization that hate was simmering in our country. Nine, ten, twelve, twenty or more gunshots shook us to the core. But the country watched a beautiful city in heartbreak, a testament that one bad guy did not, could not represent this old city. The Market…where slaves were once sold remains a centerpiece, a heartbeat that is a reminder for what was…or for what is.
I lived on a beautiful barrier island that sits slightly south of Broad for two years. I would make the drive on roads where magnificent live oaks draped the highways like a tunnel. I crossed bridges where the views made me almost stop to catch my breath. And then, there they were… the steeples of the Holy City…I was entering the mystery of my favorite city. Every visit, I would discover a secret, a special place…something beautiful for the very first time. My two years there were the happiest of my life. Every day was a miracle. The sunsets, the wildlife, the sea, the sand…the city. I returned to North Carolina the July after the election of our forty-fifth president. My eyes have been opened wide since that day…November 5, 2016. My heart wants to return to this place I love. My head holds me back.
So, would you still gather on the bridge? Do you feel the same unity? Is Charleston really gracious to everyone, or is that “fake news”? I wonder if this old hippie child would be welcome in Charleston, South Carolina? In a state that apparently supports a platform that I could never support…where does the Holy City stand? Are you the hip place entrenched in very old things that I feel so connected to, or did dark memories of a time gone by start creeping back into the spirit of this city? Does Charleston feel the same?
In a country divided that is pedaling backwards, history will remember the cities that continued to march forward. The communities that kept the sun in their faces and the shadows at their backs. Communities that are able to look at their pasts in creating their futures. Cities where a steeple is a beacon for hope, and wrought iron gates are meant to be opened for hearts begging to enter. Charleston has always been a jewel to me; not a diamond like NYC with its glass towers overlooking the insane busyness to nowhere, but a pearl by the sea, rubbed and worn by nature, made perfect by its imperfections, languorously collecting memories while sketching slowly and deliberately its canvas of time and wisdom.
So Charleston, tell me who you are…your true colors? Have I been fooled by your beauty, or do I know your soul? Tell me, Charleston…are you my home, or just a nostalgic whimsy?
A Secret Admirer