The Charleston Wind
Her purpose is to break you. Her purpose is to mend you. In September her goal is quite obvious. She blatantly uses her minions, like Hugo, David, and Floyd, to push aside everything in her path. But in April, she is subtle and unpredictable. One day she shares soft breezes that lightly brush your cheek; the next day she is demanding that you find your sweater.
The Southern Sampler Artists Colony is no match for this dominatrix known as the Charleston Wind. Her sweet April pheromones perfume the air, and the Colony is held hostage with urges to experience Rhett Butler, Gullah folklore, salt marshes, Southern cooking, and Lowcountry melodies. Sometimes she snaps her whip with flashes and crashes of lightening and thunder—like the night of the greenhouse dinner at Chef David Vagasky’s home—leaving the Colony breathless and tingly. Other times she gently coaxes the Colony along the salt marsh spartina, all calm and silky.
The Charleston Wind has mostly been kind to the Colony. She has not used her April breeze to force conversations about the South’s original sin. But if the Colony inhales deeply enough, scents of past sins will begin to emerge. Someday her forces will push the Colony to ponder the destruction of the Civil War and to wonder about its reconstruction.
I know this because she pushed me hard in the wee hours of an April 2011 morning. She commanded me to the battery to attend the opening ceremonies of the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War. At 4:30 a.m., on April 12, coinciding with the exact moment of the first shot fired in the Lowcountry, a beam of light emanating from Fort Sumter was split into two beams, signifying the division of the nation. At 6:45 a.m., while the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Brass Ensemble played “Jesus Wept”, a star shell was fired over the harbor and the lights went out.
Here in this place that I love, not four miles from my childhood home, one hundred and fifty years ago, the subtle April wind helped deliver the first shot of the Civil War. From just off the banks of James Island, the South started a war to ensure that the enslavement of men, women, and children for economic purposes would continue. Just like Hurricane Hugo, the cruel practice of slavery left a path of destruction. But unlike Hurricane Hugo, which seemed to beg forgiveness for its outburst the very next day, the Civil War wind has been unapologetically saluted throughout the centuries. Only recently has Charleston garnered the courage to openly discuss the true reason for the Civil War—slavery. Now a mending wind has started to clear the air across the Lowcountry, sweeping away rationalizations like states’ rights and Northern aggression.
The Colony will return in April. The Charleston Wind has not demanded of them a conversation about this destruction and rebirth … yet.
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CAROLYN BISHOP-McLEOD, born in Charleston, South Carolina, developed her appreciation for diversity and adventure growing up in New Jersey, Idaho, and Hawaii. A social worker for over thirty years, she was an advocate for victims of oppression, racism, domestic violence and child sexual abuse. Now she nurtures her feline “children.” Always grateful for her deep southern roots, she cheers for the Clemson Tigers and feels at home in the Lowcountry.