Friday, May 1, 2015

LOVE OF PLACE

Today is the last day of my sojourn at Beaufort where I've been working on a World War II era novel. I’m already sad about leaving. The first thing I see when I awake in the morning are oak trees in the sunshine with Spanish moss swiping the breezes. It looks as if the roots of the oaks have sucked up sand and dirt and turned them into stringy clouds that cling to the limbs. I don’t even have to move from my bed. The oaks are right outside a wide window.

When I go to the kitchen, I pass my desk and throw open the curtains that screen a three-wide window. Outside beyond the deck is the marsh. This morning the tide is in and there’s something of a lake out there with marsh grass growing in thick islands about the water. By noon it will be all marsh grass with a muddy trail snaking through the roots.
This is my window view at flood tide.
PLACE vs PEOPLE
Love of place is a counterpart to love of people, the inorganic counterpart, if you will. Obviously my attachment to this place has little to do with people, though I enjoy interaction with strangers. There are perhaps two local residents who would recognize me if I stopped them on a Beaufort street.

I have the same “love” for Brussels, Belgium where I lived for four years. The old quarter, or Grand Place, is ancient with cobble streets, stone alleys, open-air restaurants displaying fishes from the North Sea, and a square of castle-like guild houses. It’s physical beauty is entwined with my memories of being there. But to visit is sweet sorrow. Brussels for all its beauty, is filled with strangers and thoughts of days gone by.

Many writers are inspired by their love of place. For example, Aida Rogers has published a collection of “love letters” to South Carolina by local writers titled State of the Heart.*  

THE WORD LOVE
I wonder why there’s not a word other than love to describe attachment to a place (maybe there is and I don’t know it…). Love suggests to me emotion with reciprocity, one that is only genuine if it is mutual. You may argue that you love somebody who doesn’t love you, but that’s belittling to oneself, if not self-destructive. Not my idea of love.

Tomorrow night I’ll be back in Columbia where the scenery is rather boring. There’s no window by my bed. My desk overlooks the driveway. And the wind rarely blows. At least that’s my impression but I look outside so seldom that may be a misconception. But I’ll be with my friends again. There’s Ginny and Carole and Miriam and Laura and many more people of fond acquaintance I look forward to seeing. I’m confident when I say I love them. But do I love this apartment at Shell Point?

*http://www.sc.edu/uscpress/books/2013/7251.html

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