"I’m up and gone to Carolina in my mind"
I habitually get the song’s name wrong. I’m often tempted to call it “Carolina on My Mind.” But Carolina isn’t just on Taylor’s mind, it’s in it. And that small word — in — changes things. Because for those of us lucky enough to claim this humid pie slice of a state as our own, North Carolina isn’t just experienced by our senses — it actually becomes our senses. Conditioned by longleaf pines, pulled pork, Cheerwine, basketball, and hurricanes, our brains become so imbued by home that once we cross state lines, the rest of the world appears to us filtered through some unshakable and smoky North Carolina lens. Other places may appear beautiful, for sure, but it’s impossible for a North Carolinian to not, at some point, long for life to come back into focus through our permanent native spyglass. I guess this is how homesickness works for anyone from anywhere, but that’s only a guess. I can only vouch for North Carolina. So is it presumptive of me to say this is what a 19-year-old North Carolina songwriter was getting at when he found himself in England, missing his father, his dog Hercules, and his pumpkin collection back in Chapel Hill? Heck no. It didn’t matter that James Taylor was hanging out with The Beatles. The bigger issue was that he wasn’t in North Carolina.