Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October 21, 2014 Love Locks at Dreher Shoals Dam

Exit I-26 just above Columbia onto Lake Murray Blvd (exit 1) West. Drive just a few miles into Lexington County.  Dreher Shoals Dam holds back Lake Murray from drowning the City of Columbia.. Only in the past decade, the Army Corps of Engineers found the old dam to be so faulty that if there had been an earthquake or a severe hurricane, it could have burst and flooded Columbia, so it has been rebuilt and with the rebuilding came a 1.5 mile walk, named after Johnny W. Jeffcoat, along the dark deep waters of Lake Murray.  South Carolina Electricity and Gas asks for a fee from April 1 to September 30, but now it is free to park, or even to bring your boat to launch. (After the dam on the right is also Lexington County Public Park).

In the distance there are islands (one is named Lunch Island) where in World War II pilots learned to bomb and drop incendiary devices.  Five B25's went into the deep. Four were later brought up and salvaged, leaving one rare B25C left to find and restore in 2005.  Now that war is long off.  The remaining soldiers and pilots are growing very old.

From the top of the dam on this cool early morning, I see the blue silhouette of downtown Columbia. Across the road, the concrete bunker of the dam rises with two dozen vultures resting on its parapet.  Others circle in the morning haze.

Approaching the far side of the walkway, there is a 15 foot chain link fence with countless tiny glittering sparklers covering it.  They look like the tiny schools of silver fish flashing up from creeks.  When I arrive at the fence, I see that the silver sparklers are locks and chains. The locks  have the names of people on them, sometimes even a photograph, a date.  The occasional chains are attached in the shape of hearts.

At the end of the walk is another parking area where I meet a woman in an SUV who tells me about the locks.

They are called Love Locks and no one actually knows how the tradition began.  They are sometimes memorials to a deceased loved one or friend but more often they commemorate the love between two people, family members, a marriage.  The lock is attached and the key is thrown into the deep waters, signifying undying love, perhaps even eternity.

October 19, 2014 Great Blue, My Altar

Each morning I have gone down to the dock on the marsh at sunrise and he is there. First, he is perched far out over the creek at the end of a long palm tree leaning over against the yellow and orange sun coming up, then on the left bank already fishing and then on the bridge to the dock itself.  He is there, completely visible to me, gray and blue, haunting in his faithfulness on nearly every hike.  Sometimes I hear his wings and sometimes I know he is there and but I do not see him. I see him in my mind's eye.

On this last day, I walk the Spanish Mount Trail with Michael and his family.  The children are transformed here as are we all.  They tell us that they are no longer speaking human.  They have found a secret place down a hidden path onto a dried pluff mud shore along the marsh.  Now they scamper down the trail, wearing their coon skin caps, dragging palm fronds behind them and chortling in secret wild tongues.

We have all heard the wild language of the birds, the animals, the marsh and the sea.  One day, we too, may learn to speak it.

We are restored.

Monday, October 20, 2014

October 17, 2014 Edisto Island, Oyster Shell Kaddish

I am walking down the beach intending to cross Jeremy Creek at low tide where the big shells are, when my cell phone rings.
My dear old friend is dead.  Her death has lasted for three years, first the brain and then the body.  And now she is at peace.

Oddly, it is just here at the campground behind the big dunes where she used to come, driving down in her Mustang convertible with her son, Willie, for camping under the stars with the sound of ocean waves and the scent of the sea air.

I turn back and gather a bag full of oyster shells, the old kind battered by the tides, that have holes in them.  I buy a spool of crab trap cord at the gas station.  And then I find a gnarled spindly piece of drift wood and tie the shells to it into a makeshift wind chime.

I hung the chime on the edge of the marsh so that at night I could hear the clacking, clinking sounds of a kind of prayer for the dead, wafting across the water.

Peace.  Amen.

October 16, 2014 Charles Towne Landing, Aboriginal Eyes

On the way to Edisto, down I-26, I visit Charles Towne Landing in Charleston.  (Take exit 216 A onto Hwy 7 which is Sam Rittenburg Blvd, then left onto Hwy 171, which is Olde Towne Road (go past Charlestowne Drive) then take the next left at the stop light into Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site.

The first European settlement here was in 1671.

The Visitor's Center is flanked by gardens of sweet Grass, now blooming with cloudlike fronds of dusky pink blossoms.

In the Center, there is much to learn of Colonial history.  There are tours and demonstrations. In the park, there are replicas of a ship, the building of another ship like the rib cage of a huge whale.  There are cottages to visit, a history trail, an animal forest, a Native American exhibit, archaeological sites.  There are many paved walks.

I elect to wander around all of these things until I find the dirt trails bordering the marsh.  I find an entrance near the beautiful restored home of Ferdinanda Waring's grandparents who once owned this land. Today, there are marriages held here.

In 1941 Ferdinanda planted an avenue of oaks as an incredible approach to the house. Ferdinanda had a flower business and an egg business, around the same time mid century that my Grandmother, Katherine Quigley, had an egg business out in Leslie, SC.  She had tried to learn to drive a car in her 60's but proved so maniacal a driver that my father hired a man to drive her into town to sell her eggs.

Ferdinanda sold the property to the State of South Carolina in 1981.

I take the dirt path to the marsh and am engulfed by the intense sweetness of the Elaegnus (Elaegnus pungens, also known as Silver Thorn) which is everywhere.  Later the ranger tells me it is an invasive species.  I say let it invade for its scent alone.

I enter a side path to a "Scenic Point" where there is a bench on a sandy spit of land.  With my hiking stick, I write "Hallelujah" in the sand.

Walking back along the marsh where oaks bend gracefully over the water, dripping Spanish Moss, I look out with my "Aboriginal Eyes", something I have done since childhood, imagining I am one of the first people seeing nothing but what they saw, without modern civilization.

Silently a silver plane emerges in the deep blue heavens, seeming to hang there almost motionless. I perceive that it is a god or a demon, a flying canoe drifting the blue waters of the sky.

Back to today's reality, a world where there is the Ebola virus and where there is the plague of Isis, and I am, out of some kind of Cosmic luck, safely buying coon skin caps for Zack, Shane and little Earl who will meet me at Edisto for a moment out of time.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

September 30, 2014 Fourteen Mile Creek Trail, Lexington, SC The Tree of Heaven

From I-26 take Lake Murray Blvd West (Hwy 60) through the town of Irmo. In about 4 miles hwy 60 becomes Hwy 6 (do  not turn rt on Hwy 6, go straight) and the road goes over the magnificent Saluda Dam where couples walk quickly holding hands, young mothers run with their babies in strollers on the edge of the deep blue Lake Murray.

Soon, there is a gas station on the left called Stop and Shop on the corner of Old Cherokee Rd. This is in the town of Lexington.

The trail begins from the parking area of the gas station.  Just before I arrived, a dedication was held for the newly built trail.  Dignitaries dressed in suits and ties, Sunday dresses are walking back from the woods.
The trail is only 3/4 mile ending in a loop in a field.  It follows 14 Mile Creek.  An explosion of fuzzy blue astor type wildflowers lines the wide walkway.  On the far bank, bright red and yellow purse like blossoms
are in full bloom.

A big fat brown rabbit comes so very close, as if it is Durer's watercolor come to life, nibbling among the leaves and grasses, almost tame.  Rabbit, symbol of birth and creativity, totem of the "fear caller", the
message to move through fear.

Here there are the invasive tall plants called "the Tree of Heaven" now hung with large seed pods.  Two mothers with small children are investigating the pods.  I hear a mother tell the children that these are the magic seeds of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

September 30, 2014 Riverbanks Zoo, Over the Bridge and Into the Woodswalk

It is early and the air is filled with the hoots, screeches and hollers of monkeys, apes and birds.  I take the modern concrete and steel bridge over the Saluda River where there are five foot tall pots overflowing with flowers and weeping willows, yellow Adirondack chairs and bright blue benches, where you can sit and watch the zip glyders flying across the waters.

There was a covered bridge here built in 1819, but it was destroyed by the Confederate Army in 1865 in an effort to prevent General William Tecomseh Sherman from entering the city of Columbia.  Sherman had a floating bridge made from the lumber at the Saluda Mill just a hundred yards up river and Columbia was burned.

The Woodland Trail leaves the path to the right at the far side of the bridge, following the river to a building housing a textile museum.  The trail is short and steep from there among mountain like boulders.  The reward at the top is the stone entrance to the Botanical Garden.  Entering is the intoxicating scent of hundreds of roses. There are spider lilies blooming.  There are fountains. There is an Art Garden with a sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington of Jaguars on a Tree Stump.

Over the entrance to the Garden House is the inscription:

Care for the Earth As If it Were Our Garden.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

September 20, 2014The Carl Sandburg House to Big Glassy Mountain

It is the last day of summer and this blue day out of time is like a lingering kiss goodbye. Up I-26 West toward Flat Rock the ancient Blue Ridge sits majestic under a low layer of fluffy white clouds.  Coming closer blue melts into the still lush green of summer with only a tinge of yellow or brown.  Trees are laden and dripping with nuts and seed pods.  Black Eyed Susans bloom ferociously on the sides of the road.  Here there is a field of dark pink Cosmos and there a roadside planted with orange Zinias.

But the song birds have abandoned their nests, the Monarchs have passed through landing briefly in the Butterfly Bush at my back porch.  I learn in my emails from Fran at Harbor Island, that the last babies from the last Sea Turtle nest have crawled into the ocean.  The snow cone stand has closed:  "Nancy  Has Gone Fishing" on the sign.  I have bought the last real tomatoes from 90 year old Vernon Griffin out in the country. The children have gone back to school on the yellow buses.  And I have gone out in the early dawn and picked the second crop of figs for preserves.

The parking for the Sandburg Home is filled up and I park along a yellow curb.  A thin man dressed for the office tells me there is parking at Flat Rock Landing and then you can follow the brick wall to the park.
At the pond a sign cautions about Banded Water Snakes.  I see none today but once in the past, I looked down on the rocks below and saw countless snakes like live spaghetti, an unsettling sight.

Boofa and I take the Glassy Mountain trail across from the goat barn.  There are more caution signs for snakes, ticks, poison ivy and Black Bears.  But the trail is wide enough for a vehicle and goes straight up one and a half miles to a smooth rock outlook.  There is a team of cross country runners from Hillcrest Middle School in Greenville jogging up, then back down, then timing themselves.  At the outlook, we meet one of the trainers with a dog named Freckles much like Boofa, but he is actually a Cockapoo, white with roan spots like Boofa.  The view here takes in a panorama of green then blue and fading mountain ridges under the clear warm blue sky.  I look for petroglyphs on the rock face, but find none.  I know that they must have been here, however, the ancient ones.  It is a timeless spiritual place.

Going back down I pass the thin man in office dress climbing up.  There is a roped off path which is a short cut made by hikers going to the outlook.  Because it was not traditionally used by the Sandburgs, it is now closed.  Another offshoot of the trail goes to Little Glassy Mountain.

Driving down the Saluda Grade past the town of Tryon, I am listening to country music on 92.5 fm and appropriately, the  love songs are all about loss, betrayal and regret, just like the end of summer.

The summer that I have loved so passionately is boarding a train for South America.