Discover the World of Keowee Valley

Katherine Scott Crawford is an award-winning writer, newspaper and magazine columnist, and college English teacher. She’s the author of Keowee Valley, an historical adventure set in the Revolutionary-era Carolinas and in the Cherokee country. Her parenting/outdoor life columns have appeared in newspapers across the United States and abroad, including U.S.A. Today, The Greenville News (S.C.), the Asheville Citizen-Times (N.C.), The Detroit Free PressThe Herald (Scotland), and many more.

“A glorious debut from a gifted author.”
-Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of Big Stone Gap and The Shoemaker’s Wife

Keowee Valley is a terrific first novel by Katherine Scott Crawford–a name that should be remembered.”
-Pat Conroy, bestselling author of The Prince of Tides and South of Broad

“Katherine Scott Crawford is a fresh and valuable new voice in Southern Literature.” -Ron Rash, bestselling author of Serena and Saints at the River

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Enjoy the Keowee Valley Trailer

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Weekly Lines: “Cars and curricles”

Hi! It’s been a while, folks. Writing in the summertime when your kids are at home is a bit like running the gauntlet. (Yes, gauntlets have been around since people were basic brutes and rarely end well for the runner. No, I’m not exaggerating.) That being said, here’s a scene from the *first* draft of my historical novel-in-progress. For more scenes, and a brief overview of the story, go to my Work-in-Progress page.

www.pinterest.com

www.pinterest.com

* Cars and Curricles”

Daniel stared at Gamble across the enclosed carriage. Beside him, Honor did the same. It was rude, he knew, but he just couldn’t help himself and, perhaps, neither could Honor. Gamble was most assuredly not of this time. At the Drayton’s ball, she was sure to attract notice first for being new, then for being beautiful, and last for being odd. When Ben helped her into the carriage moments before, she’d taken his gloved hand, stopped on the hitching step [check], and then bounced up and down on the balls of her feet—on purpose—as if it was a joggling board, and she a child. [check]

“The past is a kick,” she’d declared, on a loud and joy-filled laugh.

Truly, the woman was a grenadier. Who knew what bomb she would throw next, and into a crowd?

Her appearance was an illusion, for she was the picture of innocence, with her wild yellow hair (which she refused to let Honor or Effie curl into anything a la mode) her flushed pink cheeks and giant blue eyes. From the appearance of her gown when she and Honor had met him at the carriage, she must have at least allowed for stays. But she knew more about the world, their world, than they did of hers—certainly knew what would happen, years in the future. If it had been left up to Daniel, he’d have kept them all at home for the evening and plied Gamble with food, drink, and questions.

“You look wonderful in Mother’s gown,” Honor said. “Doesn’t she, Daniel?”

At first, Daniel wasn’t sure he could answer. When Honor and Gamble had exited the house, Effie trailing behind with their cloaks, he had been caught off his guard. The dress Gamble wore was his mother’s to be sure, which meant that it was at least a decade old and certainly out of current mode. But that did not matter, for it was stunning on her.

He remembered his mother in it, or at least could remember her coming down the stair in it. More, Daniel remembered his father’s reaction. His mother had been petite, as was Gamble, with hair not as wild as the woman’s from the future, but a similar kinship blonde. Because the dress was a bright teal, bordered with decorative gold-stitched accents on the sleeves, high waist, and hem—the rich color one unique to ladies’ ball gowns as he knew them—it brought out the flush in his mother’s cheeks, the gilt in her hair. He could tell, even before his father told her she was beautiful, his mother had felt it for herself.

When Gamble emerged from the house, framed by the painted black door and the tawny color of the stucco behind—a scene almost Italian in its sumptuousness and hue—Daniel knew, suddenly, what it meant to have his heart skip a beat.

Gamble wore a velvet Spencer jacket of deep blue, one loaned from Honor. It was new, the loan of it evidence of Honor’s swift and growing affection for the woman. A woman who had only been with them one day. A woman who was certain to leave them, should she have the chance to return to her own time.

Daniel met Gamble’s eyes. “Yes, she does,” he said.

Ben called out a greeting to a passing curricle and that driver called back. Gamble leaned forward, pushing back the curtain at the window, letting the cold in. She poked her head outside. The lamps were already lit all the way down Tradd Street. When the carriage turned south [check] onto Broad she clung to the door during the turn to steady herself.

“Whatever is she doing?” Honor whispered to Daniel, louder than he would have liked.

“I’m looking at the world,” Gamble said, overhearing and not bothering to hide it. “It’s incredible.” She sat back onto the bench with a broad grin.

“Do you hear it?” She asked them.

Daniel and Honor looked at each other in confusion. “Hear what?” Daniel said.

“The clatter of horses’ hooves on the cobblestones. The hiss of the gas lamps. The rush and crackle of the wind in the palmettos.” Gamble shook her head as if in disbelief, then held out her hands, palms up, like a woman begging for something in response.

“There’s no background noise!” she said, voice rising with excitement. “No noise of the busy world, polluting everything. No music blaring. No cars. I bet tonight, if we were to walk to the harbor, there’d be a million stars in the sky. I bet if we climbed the steeple at St. Michael’s, we’d be able to see for miles. But the quiet, oh—it’s the loveliest thing I’ve never heard in my life.”

“What is a car?” Honor asked, before Daniel could.

 

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Join me at the Midsummer Reading Retreat: June 28-30 at Earthshine Lodge in NC

Looking out from Earthshine Lodge over the Pisgah National Forest in N.C.

Looking out from Earthshine Lodge over the Pisgah National Forest in N.C.

Perhaps you’ve heard of weekend writers’ or artists’ retreats, yoga or meditative retreats, or others? How about a Reading Retreat: an entire weekend devoted to simply reading books, and if you’re in the mood for it, discussing your favorite new books?

And what if this Reading Retreat was to take place at an elevation of 3,000 feet in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, at a rustic-elegant lodge bordering the Pisgah National Forest? What if there were Literary Book Chats, cocktail hours, a fire pit, and there was to be yoga, guided meditation, and hiking? And, oh yeah: time to hang out with me, and talk about books, writing, and whatever else tickles your fancy? What if you could attend by yourself, or bring a friend?

I don’t know about y’all, but it sounds downright lovely. Booky people, after all, are the best people.

Ready to talk books!

Ready to talk books!

Come meet me in the mountains! The Midsummer Reading Retreat will be held June 28-30, 2019 at beautiful Earthshine Lodge in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina. For more information about the retreat, and to register, go to www.earthshinenc.com.

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New article: “Looking Ahead to Summer in Brevard”

Hi, folks. My newest freelance article is up at Fisher Realty (Brevard, NC). Here’s to summertime in the mountains!

To read, click here.

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New lines: “The Cheshire Cat and Alice”

Hi, all! Here’s a quick new excerpt from my historical novel-in-progress. For more information, go to my Work-in-Progress page.

This scene is set in Charleston, South Carolina, 2004. Enjoy!

Charleston street corner

Charleston street corner

* The Cheshire Cat and Alice *

When all else fails, go see your best friend. This is an attitude I’d adopted in graduate school (the third time), when I was finally there for the right reasons, and had also begun to see Harry on a regular social basis.  Whenever I found myself overwhelmed by Harry’s Charleston-ness, and by my anxiety over fitting into his family and by what—if I’m brutally honest—had begun to gnaw at the edges of my intellect: the notion that we weren’t entirely right for each other, I’d pop over to the College of Charleston and bother my best friend, Tolliver Jackson.

Tol was, at the time, a new assistant professor in the College’s Department of African-American Studies. We’d met at a graduate school social my first week in Charleston, at the house of the Graduate Dean and Provost—a lovely ranch with a wide yard, in an up and coming neighborhood in West Ashley. There had been a game of beer pong in the carport (what can we say? We were grad students) and I’d been running the table all night. What my fellow grad students didn’t know was that, not unlike Dr. Johnny Fever from the 1980s TV show WKRP in Cincinnati, the more inebriated I get, the more coordinated I become.

You remember the episode, don’t you? Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap are involved in some midnight, on-air contest involving shots and hitting a buzzer to answer trivia questions. Johnny Fever, a laconic leftover from the ’60s, gets quicker and more accurate the more drinks he consumes. Venus Flytrap, on the other hand, gets tanked.

Anyway, it’s classic 1980s television. Worth wasting an hour on.

But back to Tolliver and me, and how we met. Tol challenged my beer pong supremacy with a bet that he could land the ping pong ball in a full Solo cup of beer perched on my head. A la William Penn and the apple.

I took the bet and Tol hit the shot, and half an hour later we were swinging in the Dean’s Pawley’s Island hammock in the backyard, barefoot and counting stars through the breaks in the canopy of waxy crepe myrtle and oak overhead. Tol was a startling six-foot-five inches tall, five years older than me, and had been born and raised on a Georgia sea island. His skin was such a deep mahogany, all that showed when he smiled in the dark while we were swinging was his wide, white, perfect smile.

“You look like the Cheshire Cat,” I’d told him.

He’d given the ground a push with his long-boned foot, which was hanging from our hammock, and up we swung, the ropes creaking from the effort.

“Then that makes you Alice,” he’d said.

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Because of 80,000 words: A new novel excerpt

Today I hit 80,000 words on the first draft of my novel manuscript. 

This is a big deal, y’all. My kids are 9 and 6. The last time I hit 80,000 words on a novel manuscript was over a decade ago. I am pretty darned psyched.

To celebrate, here’s another excerpt from the first draft of my historical novel-in-progress. It’s a time-jump, parallel-time novel, and so this is told from the 2004 pages (the others are set in 1804), and it’s from my “modern” protagonist, Gamble’s, point of view. She’s an art historian and art restoration expert at the Gibbes Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, and she’s working on unraveling a ghost story: on finding out more about a girl she’s seen in an alley–a girl who may not be of this world.

You should know: Gamble is divorced, and she has a black Lab named Kipling. Fun fact: the scene below, when her gentleman neighbor asks after the dog, is straight out of my life.

I hope y’all enjoy it! For more information, see my Work-in-Progress page.

Street scene, Charleston, South Carolina

Street scene, Charleston, South Carolina

* Archives and Liars *

I wanted nothing more than to dive into the girl’s life. By this, I mean into her history: to find out who she really was, and perhaps to discover why she was talking to me. I’d have to do it with subtlety. Because what reputable historian walks up to any sort of archivist and says, “Hi, I’ve come to research this ghost/time traveler/crazy person who’s been talking to me from the past”?

On second thought, I don’t know. Archivists are mysterious creatures. Maybe one would believe me.

Still, witch hunts may have shifted a bit from the 1600s—no more burnings at the stake, deaths by pressing, drowning or hanging—but they still exist. In the art world, they hang your credibility. Ghost you from the best jobs and fellowships. This is what could happen to me should I reveal I was funneling my considerable clout and museum resources toward the unraveling of a ghost story.

I’d have to be more than subtle, I thought, my pace slowing and mind beginning to settle and stop rocking, like a canoe making an eddy after exiting a white-foamed rapid. I tucked my hands into the pockets of my suit jacket (there’s a chance I’d been gesticulating wildly to myself as I thought-walked, one of my best and most off-putting habits), and waited for the car backing out of the nearest driveway to pull into the street. The window rolled down and a white-haired gentleman appraised me with a raised eyebrow.

“It’s dark, Ms. Vance,” he said.

I nodded. It was. “Hi, Mr. Smythe. Yes, well, I’m almost home.”

“How’s Kipling?” He asked, face wrinkling as he smiled. You had to smile when you thought about Kipling; anyone who knows her does. “You sure she doesn’t need a date with my Rolly?”

I grinned. “Sorry, sir. She’s fixed.”

“Damn shame,” he said, shaking his head. He said this every time. “A damn shame. Alright, then, you be careful walking home.”

“I will. Goodnight.”

He raised a hand, waited for me to skirt the back of his car and be on my way, and pulled out onto the dark street.

I was pondering on my research plan—just how I’d get it all done—as I took a left into the driveway of 353 Church. I tight-rope-walked one of the long concrete pavers down the drive like a kid, because it’s fun and because being silly sometimes calms my brain. I wondered, would it be possible to enlist help? Research of this strange magnitude always went well with help.

“Gamble.”

Harry. He sat at the top of my stoop, Kipling at his side with her front paws draped over the wooden edge. He was scratching her ears and she was loving it, the traitor.

“Hey, Harry.” I stopped in front of them, crossing my arms. A defense move, to be sure. I waited.

Heyward Hunt Sims was a catch, according to all reliable Charleston sources, past and present. I should know better than most: I’d caught him. We were together—dating and married—a total of four years, eleven months and seventeen days. Then I’d let him go. It had been like releasing an Alaskan salmon to the wild during the salmon run. I knew he’d get scooped up by a brown bear pretty quick.

He waited for me to speak, loving on Kipling like it was nothing, like it came so easy to him. It was. And it did. I should know: I’d had those hands on me before. They were wonderful liars, just like Harry.

 

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News for writers: Upcoming writer’s retreats at gorgeous Earthshine Lodge in WNC

IMG_4024Exciting news for my fellow writers in need of RETREAT!

I just spent the morning at 3,000 feet, on a cool, misty mountaintop alight in spring green, brainstorming with Ali Lien, the co-founder and co-owner of Earthshine Lodge in Lake Toxaway, N.C. I’m crazy excited–literally, kid-on-Christmas-morning excited–to announce that I’ll be directing a series of writer’s retreats there, hopefully beginning in Fall 2019.

We’re still in the planning stages, but our hope is to provide a series of long-weekend retreats tailored to different types of writers in different stages of their careers, who may have different creative needs. Retreats will be crafted to appeal to established writers simply in need of peace and quiet and time to write, to beginning writers eager for workshop time and manuscript evaluations, to any writer in between. We’re also planning on a retreat specifically geared to writers who are also parents: this, my friends, will include childcare.

There will be roaring fires in stone fireplaces, campfires and star-gazing IMG_4037outside, hiking on the established trail system, and potentially even yoga! There will be gorgeous views of the Pisgah National Forest and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. And there will be coffee. Lots of coffee.

Trust me, y’all. This place is magic. I can’t wait to show it to you.

Be on the lookout for more information and news in the coming weeks.

IMG_4075 IMG_4070 IMG_4069 IMG_4067 IMG_4066 IMG_4061 IMG_4058 IMG_4056 IMG_4043 IMG_4030

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In praise of teachers, who are the candle lighters

With my mom, my first teacher--and a public school educator for 30+ years.

With my mom, my first teacher–and a public school educator for 30+ years.

Well, I had this teacher who ________.

This is the start of an answer I’ve given hundreds of times at book clubs or venues where I’ve been a featured author or speaker. Because someone always asks, “What inspired you to write?” Or, “How did you know you were a writer?”

Good heaven, if I tried to fill in that blank with the countless teachers who have challenged, taught, encouraged, frustrated, believed in, and loved on me during my lifetime, the sentence would never end.

I attended proper school for 21 years. That’s more than the average bear. It’s K-12, college, and graduate school (twice). It doesn’t include preschool, Sunday school, or classes in art, piano, voice, and more. It’s leaving out church camp, sports camp, theatre, sports in general, youth fellowship, and after school activities guided by teachers, like student government, high school theatre, choir.

It doesn’t count the mentors I’ve had over the years in the form of my own parents and relatives, family friends, writer friends, speakers and workshop leaders at writer’s conferences and retreats, the dads involved in our 1980s YMCA group of “Indian Princesses” (Good Lord, the ’80s), the random physical therapist, my master gardener neighbors and relatives, the guy in Lowes who taught me how to rewire a Depression-era lamp, the older counselors at the summer camp where I worked for years, and, most recently, a nice young man named Jerry on YouTube, who taught me how to make a Captain Marvel star for my 6 year-old’s birthday party.

Teachers are everywhere. Teachers are everything.

But this week, we celebrate the school teachers. The ones who worked and studied their tails off, many for multiple years and with multiple student loans, in order to best do these jobs. The teachers in the classrooms and on the playgrounds of this country. The people who have given a major portion of their lives to a cause—and yes, I mean that exactly as I type it: a CAUSE—bigger than themselves, and certainly bigger than their meager paychecks.

A week ago teachers in N.C. marched on Raleigh, as they did in many other states. They did it for a myriad of reasons, but to demand appropriate compensation for the vital, challenging, people-building work they do. Literally, they are shaping tiny citizens—our country’s future, perhaps even humanity’s future.

No, I’m not exaggerating. Not for a second. But really, if you question why teachers march, or why we take the time to celebrate the work they do, you’re not paying attention.

For the love of Pete, I am utterly DONE with incurious, un-attention-paying people. DONE, I say. But that’s for another post.

This one’s about teachers. Mine, in particular. And about how thankful I am for their work on my behalf. For their patience. Their humor. Their ability to see something in me I might not have seen myself, and to nurture that something for those 21 years of schooling. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am, and who I am, without my teachers.

I tried to thank several of my teachers (notice I did not type “former”: a teacher is never “former” because their influence is unending—a voice you hear, a moment in time remembered always, in the oddest of moments) in the acknowledgements section of my first novel. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see another one published, and so I went big, and in doing so inadvertently left some of my teachers out because there are so gosh darned many of them!

For years, my public school teachers created community in our classrooms—thoughtful spaces where I felt smart, and challenged, and part of something. I felt this particularly in many of my high school classes. Now, as an adult, I value community on the cellular level—it is vital to me and the people I love in ways I never imagined. Teachers started that.

Well, I had this teacher who let me color outside the lines.

Well, I had this teacher who asked me to sing a duet.

Well, I had this teacher who held my essays up as examples.

Well, I had this teacher who gave me a part in a play.

Well, I had this teacher who told me not to let my perpetual tardiness affect my good work in his class.

Well, I had this teacher who insisted I was a writer.

Well, I had this teacher who treated me like a scholar.

Well, I had this teacher who asked me to read, at a county-wide event, the poem I’d written in honor of my grandmother’s death. When I couldn’t get through it (the grief still fresh), she stepped up beside me onstage at the podium, took the poem from me, and with her arm around my shoulders, finished it for me.

Now that I’m a mother with two children in public school, my appreciation for teachers has grown and changed. I’m well aware of the challenges we all face, parents and teachers alike. No one is perfect.

Why is it that “educator” is a position out of which we expect perfection? In every job, every career, mistakes are made. Is it because most teachers are women, and our society expects the same sort of mythical maternal perfection of teachers as we do mothers? Is it because we entrust our beloved children, our most valued gifts, to the care of these educators? Then, for heaven’s sake, we should value what they do just as highly as we expect their job performance.

Margaret Fuller, a 19th century American journalist, women’s rights advocate, editor, book critic, and more, once said, “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” I believe this speaks to the heart of what teachers do. They share knowledge, and in doing so share light.

I like to imagine my teachers standing in a line, in the coming dark. Young and old, male and female, an array of colors, each holding a candle—much like a candlelit church service—and they pass the light from one person to the next, on down the line which never ends. I light my candle from theirs, and so do my children. In this uncertain, confoundable world, I truly believe education, and educators, may be the only things which keep out the dark.

* If you’d like to learn more about why public school teachers marched recently, why they need to be paid what they deserve, and why they’re still teaching, many are talking and writing about it. Ask them.  

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“You can’t put the milk back in the cow, Opie”… and other thoughts on Earth Day

My family, hiking along the Davidson River in The Pisgah National Forest.

My family, hiking along the Davidson River in The Pisgah National Forest.

The following may be my favorite quote in relation to Earth Day:

Aunt Bea: “Opie, you haven’t finished your milk. We can’t put it back in the cow, you know.”

Happy Earth Day, all! To put it simply: I love the Earth, I love a quote quote, and I’ve written a good bit about Earth Day over the years. Here are a few links:

“Sometimes you just gotta hug a tree” (2013)

“Celebrate Earth Day by reaffirming connections to each other” (2015)

“The power of our places” (2017)

I hope you enjoy them. And I hope, wherever you are, you get outside today, and every day.

* If, for some reason, you are having trouble accessing the links to my old The Greenville News columns, try googling my name and the title, and a link should come up. For example: “Katherine Scott Crawford The Greenville News the power of our places.”

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Weekly Lines: “The kitchen house”

New lines from the rough first draft of my historical novel-in-progress, set in parallel time: in both 1804, and 2004. Told from the perspective of my 2004 protagonist, an art historian and restoration expert named Gamble. Enjoy!

IMG_5265* The kitchen house *

The girl, the girl. I have not forgotten the girl, though you’d think I had with the way I tend to run on. It’s just that for my story to make any sort of sense, you must know where I live. I live in the larger of two kitchen houses at 353 A Church Street. My kitchen house is deliciously old, and you can’t take a step without the house creaking, some whispered admittance of its 267-year-old story.

Kitchen houses were the law in Charleston, once upon a time. Because widespread fires had destroyed hundreds of homes on the peninsula, between the years 1740 and 1860 home owners were required to build separate structures, away from the main house, to serve as kitchens. That being the case, many of the oldest surviving homes in Charleston, including Catherine’s, have one or two kitchen houses which have served many roles over time: as servants’ quarters, stables, offices, and more.

But back to 353A Church Street. The ceilings are low, because people tended to be short. It suits me more than fine. Usually, I like a bit of air above my head, with plenty of room for my thoughts to circle and swirl. But since my divorce, I sought comfort and coziness. Often, the house felt like a hug. There’s a huge, working fireplace in the small living room, complete with an original hearth and nooks for bread baking. It appeases my personal need for an historic aesthetic to know a person’s been cooking there since 176_. The eighteenth-century brick in the courtyard between my small house and the other is sloping and lovely, just as Catherine promised. Kipling and I like to sit at the wrought iron table out back, admiring the [?] vines winding their way up the side of our house and watching the chimney sweeps and blue jays do battle above the [?] tiled roof.

The mail carrier, whose name is Joe, brings my mail all the way to the back, which makes me feel like a real local. In the warm months—of which there are plenty—Joe wears the white shorts and matching sun helmet of the United States Postal Service. He’s tall and stork-like, so he straddles the green Bermuda grass growing between the parallel brick pavers that follow the line of the drive. I admire his knees, most because I’m short. I think Joe’s knees reach about the same height as my hips.

I have loved my life at 353A Church Street, despite the dissolution of my marriage being my reason for moving there. I have loved it in spite of the sleepless nights, the agony of wondering what I could’ve done different, the worry of time wasted, the smudging of ghosts along the stairwell. I have adored, more than I ever imagined I could, the emptiness of my queen-sized bed. I no longer stay on “my side,” as I did when Harry and I were married, but at first opportunity made of myself a snow angel in the middle. I sleep in the bed spread wide, my limbs stretched and pointed as long as they can get. When we first moved in, I suctioned myself to that bed like a starfish, unwilling to move until Kipling put her paws up on the foot of the bed and insisted I take her outside.

More than anything else, 353A Church became my refuge, my rehabilitation station, when I needed it most. It never bothered the kitchen house that I was a non-native divorcee, childless and hoodwinked. That I was a low-born mountain girl in the land of palmetto trees, unwrinkled linen suits and monogrammed seersucker.

I always felt, not only did the kitchen house not care about these things, it held me closer because of them.

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Weekly Lines: “A Freeing and a Clutch”

These new lines from the very first, very rough draft of my historical novel-in-progress are told from the point of view of Gamble, my modern protagonist. For more info on what I’m writing, check out my Work in Progress page, and earlier posts.

IMG_6488* A Freeing and a Clutch *

Any time I’d ever driven away from Charleston I felt an odd combination of euphoria and longing, in a place I suppose most would call the gut. It didn’t matter if I was cresting the new, cable-stayed Arthur J. Ravenel Bridge, high over the Cooper River, or waiting on the drawbridge at pretty Wappoo Creek on my way south towards Savannah—or even if I simply took multi-laned, concrete-encased Interstate 26 and headed west: I felt it, each and every time. It was both a freeing and a clutch. It was as if I’d been released into the world, yet at the same time, pulled ever backwards.

Now that I’d been in the past—now that I knew for sure I’d lived at least one lifetime there—the feeling made more sense. History had always seemed to me, as an art historian and general restorer of old stuff, ever present. I never could shake the impression time was always doing its loop-de-loops in the air around us when we walked through the present, like one of those stunt pilots in a Red Baron biplane at a Depression-era air show. I just couldn’t understand why no one else could see the contrails. I felt like a tomboy in dungarees, eyes glued to the sky, while everyone else looked down at their phones.

But there was more to it than that. This was Charleston. And Charleston was complicated. The city was over 300 years-old: it had lived much more than a little. Charleston had seen canoes and U-Boats, hosted princes and pirates, been bloodied and bruised, shamefaced and proud. It told, ever and always, an unflinching American story. No wonder it captivated—no wonder it was so difficult to leave behind.

The city’s history was heavy. You can’t be home to the New World’s largest slave port and think it’s all going to be sunshine and mint juleps, all charm and manners. Every place you set your foot in this city has been touched by human bondage. Black, white and brown, freed and enslaved lives have intertwined here since the beginning. For a visitor, especially, it gives a simple walk through a private, lush, gorgeously-fragrant Charleston courtyard a heaviness they might have otherwise missed, to know the softening bricks you trod were trod not so long ago by people without freedom.

So maybe it’s the past which clings to me as I leave this city, or maybe it’s slavery. Maybe it’s the fact there is ancestral memory in my bones: that my past self remembers my present. Perhaps we all feel like this, leaving a place we love. Letting go is never easy.

None of the above, however, explains why I felt like this each time I left Charleston on a temporary trip. After all, I was always coming back. At least then.

When Tolliver and I drove away from Charleston, this time, we took rural SC Hwy 61 toward Aiken. He drove, and I watched out the window as winter marsh and mudflats turned to sod farms, as young pines broke with yellow pasture. The sky outside was pale and thin, the sun burning through it like light through a shroud.

I felt the freeing, and the clutch. And wondered if it would always be thus.

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