Thursday, December 31, 2015

Land

We are in South Carolina. Our hosts call the 73 degree weather muggy, but I couldn't have wished for anything better. We left 0-16 degree weather, dry snow, bitter cold. The kind of weather that when I look out the window, I shiver and decide I don't need to go to the store, or anywhere for that matter.

So, I am thankful to be here, if only for a few days. I find the south almost mythical--rich with history and visuals created from my associations with "Gone With the Wind," from once teaching Killer Angels, and all those year of Civil War studies.

As we drive along the 77, we pass a cemetery I imagine is full of Civil War soldiers' graves; there is a Sumter sign, and a military base named Ft. Jackson and the home we visit, was once on the land of a former plantation. A real plantation. But former plantations are everywhere. In fact our hosts great, great grandfather used to own a plantation.

I hesitate to ask, "Was he a slave holder?"

"Yes, but he taught his slaves how to read, and when the war ended, they all stayed with him, he treated them so well. Southerners hated him for it, and Northerners hated him because he had slaves."

I also learn the land that was once theirs, deeded from the king of England, was taken by the Northerners after the war. When the taken land is mentioned, the room riles up a bit. Land, I understand, is a sacred possession.

My father's family came on the train out west, so when I hear of ancestors who came on the Mayflower, I find myself in awe. Each history is as important as the other, but this American history is a bit richer, and there has been more time for tragedy. We have never had our land taken. Land that was paid for and worked for. We've never had such misfortune by the change of political tides.

Our other host's family history is as varied and rich as it is different. She left Cuba as a seven year old. Her educated and blessed parents saw the destruction and change brought by Castro and chose to leave. I hear references of the beach front house they left in Cuba-half hearted banter about returning and reclaiming it now that the wall around Cuba is open.

I think of our own homestead back in the 16 degree winter we were so happy to leave--happy to leave in part, because when we return, the house will be ours. The house we diligently made sacrifices to purchase; the house we have spent hundreds of hours fixing up, remodeling, cleaning, and making it just right. If we were to fall prey to war, to mishap, to the designs of evil men, how deep, how many generations would remember and resent?

History has answered that question too. Ask the Palestinians, the Jews, the Armenians, the Tibetans, the Southerners, the victims of eminent domain, how they feel about losing their land. Thousands of years or a hundred years of resentment--- prove that land is sacred.

So happy to leave the cold; so happy I will return to my warm home, on the land I own, in a place I love.

I take it for granted, but history tells me I shouldn't.