Thursday, January 7, 2010

paved paradise


Welcome to South Carolina, home of eight months of northbound Interstate closure. This has been the source of much angst, as you can imagine. On our way home from seeing Baby B. Sunday, we made our last trip via I-385 northbound, which is now closed until construction is completed in August. (That’s the current timetable.)

It’s a catch-22, of course – living here in this beautiful place. My husband grew up here. I am the swamp queen from east, where we have things like Spanish moss, chiggers and black, stagnant bogs. (I say that lovingly.) Here, despite the glaring absence of Spanish moss, the economy has fared well compared to the rest of the state/country. We have a thriving arts community, a gloriously diverse international presence buoyed by industry and a downtown that is the envy of cities across the nation.

It’s good here and people come. As a result, we have a vibrant city, good jobs, boundless opportunity, disappearing farms, bottlenecked highways, overcrowded schools and a building boom that continues to provide vast economic development with each disappearing tree. I am grateful for the relative economic stability here, the diversity that means my children grow up with a love for all people and the ability to reach three grocery stores in under five minutes.


I’ve stewed about this more lately because my favorite nearby view is gone. Between our home and well, a lot of stuff including our church, is a beautiful, narrow road that cuts a path through a tangle of tulip poplars. Each fall, the leaves turn in one collective breath, like God reached down and gold-leafed the forest overnight. The road opens up past a small pond that is (was) home to lots of deer – we have seen as many as eight at once. It provides a home for ducks, a family of Canada geese that decided to stay permanently, and a great blue heron that once flew so close he made me gasp. There’s an albino hawk that perches nearby, too.

Now, when I round the curve, I see a house under construction. It is so close to the pond, the homeowners will be able to skip stones from their front door. I haven’t seen the deer in weeks and the geese have moved elsewhere. The view up the smooth green hill is completely obscured.

I understand the schizophrenia of my distress. I moved here. I drive a car on the roads that are being widened. I shop. I wasn’t here first and I didn’t come in the booming wave of the last decade. I don’t use fewer resources just because I came somewhere in the middle, when cow pastures dotted every corner and “going into town” was still a relevant phrase.

I don’t know where the balance lies but I do know we haven’t found it yet. I tell my husband I can live anywhere as I long as UPS delivers and I can get Internet access. I am a spoiled consumer and I need to go where I can still see the geese. I am sure the geese hope I will just stay home.

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