It's summer, and when it's summer my thoughts most often turn south. I live in the southeastern United States and spend a goodly amount of time in the Appalachian mountains, and when everything turns green I fall in love and start reading books with titles like Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lovers Guide to the South and All That is Native and Fine: The Politics of Culture in an American Region.
In general, I am a sucker for local cultures, regional foods, and old ways. When I practice my fiddle playing, it gives me a thrill to learn a song that people have been playing for hundreds of years. When I knit, I happily ponder the fact that folks have been knitting down through the ages.
I'm trying to work on a theory why this stuff intrigues me. Why do I enjoy being connected to the past? Why do I get excited when I read an article in the paper about a family-run barbecue joint in South Carolina? Why does the idea of a quilting bee or a knitting circle just tickle me pink?
I don't think it's nostalgia or being homesick for the home I never had (as Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum put it). I'm too old and cynical for nostalgia. The closest I've been able to get any sort of answer goes back to another question I've raised before in this blog (and of course has been raised since the beginning of time): What are people for? There is something about idiosyncratic self-expression--whether in the music we make, the food we serve, the socks we knit--that seems at the heart of it to me. Which means that mass produced culture is somehow antithetical to what we're supposed to be about.
These is the stuff I'm going to think about this summer while I'm knitting and fiddling and eating barbecue. If you have any insights, let me know.
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