Monday, February 02, 2009

Music Monday/Lyric Lundi

Many of us who are Southern and have chosen to live elsewhere, if fed truth serum, would probably admit that on some levels we ran away from home. The South is a beautiful, bitter, heartbreaking, emotional place, and for those of us with fragile hearts and righteous indignity (especially twenty-something righteous indignity), it’s a difficult place to stay. Oh, who am I kidding? A better way of putting that is that I was a coward. I just never really fit in down there. Instead of staying and becoming involved in trying to make systemic changes, I focused on getting far away and leaving that hard work up to others (okay, in fairness, I also wanted to go somewhere that had a little more snow than North Carolina).

No place is perfect, though (although Maine comes pretty close). I learned that quickly enough, and I sometimes regret that I’ve always been so hard on North Carolina. I’ve learned secrets during the 20+ years since I left the South. For instance, no, the 21st-century South isn’t any more racist than many other places in this country (as a matter of fact, my hometown is probably less so than where I am currently living), and I now know that running away from a past for which I wasn’t responsible isn’t always the wisest move. I’ve also learned that there is much about the South that I miss.

The first year I was living in Connecticut, a friend of mine introduced me to the Indigo Girls. One song of theirs in particular made me homesick in a way I hadn’t been since moving. It’s true: the South may not offer up very good winters, but its springtime is spectacular. I listened to the song many, many times and was brought back to those wonderful afternoons in our old farmhouse with open windows bringing in a warm breeze that mixed the smell of freshly-mown grass with the metallic smell of rusty old screens, the mud puddles from spring rains that my brother and I played in for hours, the apple blossoms and dogwoods that turned our yard pure white. The horrible, oppressive heat and humidity of the summer was on its way, but somehow, it seemed like it was such a long way off, sitting on the front porch, watching the robins hopping around near the front walk. As I listened and reminisced, I realized with each tug of a heartstring, how complicated my relationship to my region of birth is.

It’s still complicated. It’s like a family member. I will complain about it all the time to others, but if anyone dares to say anything negative about it in my presence, I will snap to its defense, wondering “How could you say that?” But I am oh-so-proud of my home states of North Carolina and Virginia since November 4th. Look how far we’ve come in my lifetime. It looks like the South is continuing to move forward, that we’re staring at a magnificent new springtime “where the waters flow with confidence and reason,” so, this week's pick from among my favorite songs seems evermore appropriate.

Southland in the Springtime

Indigo Girls

Maybe we'll make Texas by the morning
Light the bayou with our tail lights in the night
800 miles to el paso from the state line
And we never have the money for the flight
I'm in the back seat sleepy from the travel
Played our hearts out all night long in New Orleans
I'm dirty from the diesel fumes, drinking coffee black
When the first breath of Texas comes in clean

And there's something 'bout the Southland in the springtime
Where the waters flow with confidence and reason
Though I miss her when I'm gone it won't ever be too long
Till I'm home again to spend my favorite season
When God made me born a yankee he was teasin'
There's no place like home and none more pleasin'
Than the Southland in the springtime

In Georgia nights are softer than a whisper
Beneath a quilt somebody's mother made by hand
With the farmland like a tapestry passed down through generations
And the peach trees stitched across the land
There'll be cider up near Helen off the roadside
And boiled peanuts in a bag to warm your fingers
And the smoke from the chimneys meets its maker in the sky
With a song that winter wrote whose melody lingers

And there's something 'bout the Southland in the springtime
Where the waters flow with confidence and reason
Though I miss her when I'm gone it won't ever be too long
Till I'm home again to spend my favorite season
When God made me born a yankee he was teasin'
There's no place like home and none more pleasin'
Than the Southland in the springtime


Charlotte said...

This song makes ME homesick and I'm a different kind of Southerner! I LOVE the Indigo Girls ... reminds me of being in my late teens and a stonking great virulent feminist, but also going to the beach and wearing a bikini and dreaming of boys. Great times.

Watson Woodworth said...

I love me some Indigo Girls.
I've always had problems with The South.
My stepfather was southern (until 1986, when he died) and even as a kid I was more yankee than most Michiganders.
I know I'm unfair to The South almost all of the time and that understanding generally checks the excesses of mouth or keyboard. (I hope)

Anonymous said...

What a great, great post! I love the Indigo Girls and often wonder if I am a displaced Southerner given my penchant for both southern music and southern literature. This post makes me homesick for a home that isn't even mine!

Grad said...

I was born and raised in Chicago and moved to the south (to Georgia) twenty years ago. I believe that qualifies me as a Yankee. Nevertheless, I am surprised when I hear someone make an issue of the fact that a state in the south would vote for a candidate without regard to his or her racial makeup. I have found that not just the south - but the country as a whole - got over the race thing quite some time ago. At least that is what I have found. I guess I'm a little incredulous over the incredulity.

Emily Barton said...

Charlotte, oh yes, weren't those contradictory days of teenage-dom fun? (Because you know, to be forty-something isn't to be the least bit contradictory.)

Nigel, well, I've never noticed your being unfair to the South, so you must be doing a good job.

Court, then you must love that line "When God made me born a Yankee he was teasing."

Grad, you're incredulous because you are living in the New South. I'm not incredulous that anyone in the South would choose not to vote for a candidate based on race, either (I AM incredulous that both my, traditionally very conservative, home states voted for a Democrat).

However, race would have mattered a mere forty years ago, and what I have always found incredulous (since moving to the North in 1987) is that there are so many in the North who still believe the South is what it was forty years ago.

Oh, and unfortunately, there are still communities around this country where it does matter. I happen to be living in a place where many people did not vote for Obama because of his race, but they will only tell you that behind closed doors (luckily, it is a very tiny community, and its vote had no effect).

Grad said...

Well, yes, there are individuals who won't vote for someone for any number of goofy reasons. Georgia is fairly conservative. That is why Obama did not do all that well here (although there were certainly a fairly good number of bumper stickers supporting him). I never heard any racial reasons given, even behind closed doors. There were other, legitimate, reasons why he was not an attractive candidate for many voters. Hopefully, now that an invisible barrier has been broken, people can express their support or non-support of a candidate without fear of being labled as a racist, or a sexist, or a...whatever-ist. Which was my point, actually.