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.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September 14, 2014 Oconee Station Falls , Fellow Travelers in the Rain

It is raining cats and dogs as I drive down 85 towards Decatur. I take Exit 1 to the right just before the SC/GA border and drive North past Hartwell State Park on Highway 11 (The Cherokee Foothills Highway) towards Oconee Station. Every few miles along the 25 mile trip are signs pointing the way to waterfalls:  Lake Keowee waterfalls, Chatooga waterfalls.  The side roads along the way are Blackjack, Falcon's Lair, and Earth Berm.  I pass the No Sweat Auction, Jehovah's Witness and Seventh Day Adventist churches.
Just after the imposing Spring Heights Baptist church is an apple orchard and a field of orange pumpkins.

Soon there is a left turn onto Oconee Station Rd which takes me two miles down to the entrance on the right.

A green truck pulls into the parking lot in front of me.  There is no one else here, not even a ranger in the tiny ranger cabin.  The couple from the green truck and I read the notes posted outside the cabin, join forces and find our way up the hill to the two stone buildings which were at times, the Indian Trading Post, the outpost to ward off battles with the Indians, a trading post again, a private home and then a vacation home.  From there we find a trail though the hardwood forest which is a kind of orange rivulet from the iron soaked water coursing down the mountain.

Will and Karen are kayakers who have come up from Florence to kayak at Devil's Fork. Their pontoon tour to view waterfalls has been cancelled due to the driving rain and they have left their tent to find their own waterfall.  We find we are kindred spirits, who love the state parks, the woods, the water, the wildlife.

The beautiful trail winds around the mountain where mist is rising from streams below.  After a while we come to the very road we came in on and cross it to continue the trail.  There is a trail that goes off to the right that you can take to Oconee State Park through the woods in 2 and a half miles.

Further on, we hear the high screech of birds which turns out to be children playing at the foot of the  falls. The sight before us is astounding.  We cross the stream over smooth stones, crawl across rocks and breathe in the negative ions of the misty air.  A family is here with two small boys of about 3 and 4 cavorting in the water, skipping across the rocks, their clothes totally soaked.  One boy laughing, gives me a big acorn he has found.  We take photos of ourselves standing on the rocks in the water with the falls behind us.

We are in awe.  We are soaked.  My pants are covered in red mud where I slipped on the trail.

I drive down to Decatur singing along with the radio.


Monday, September 8, 2014

September 7, 2014 Long Shoals Park on the Eastatoee Creek, The Drednautus and the Pit Bell Asteroid

It is still morning when I leave Devil's Fork without walking the Bear Cove Trail feeling sadness and regret.
Driving back on Hwy 11, Rodney Crause and Emie Lou Harris are singing a haunting song saying "I'll always rove your way again...til I can gain control again.."  I cross back over the deep green Keowee River and on the right is a sign for the Long Shoals Park.  I pull over and find a young family getting out of their van, an older woman helping her wheelchair bound husband back into their truck, all hauling picnic coolers.  There is an enticing path inviting me down the sharp incline through the forest. I follow the family and suddenly we come upon the glorious and fantastic sight of the creek rushing across smooth rocks, surrounded by bounders the size of Drednautus, the dinosaur unearthed in Argentina four days ago, as long as a basketball court, two stories tall and as big as 6 elephants. There is a small beach with a few families, children splashing in the cool water. Boofa and I meet a man with a dog on a leash and a fat black and tan puppy named "Flash".  The man tells me he found 8 puppies under a burned out house, gave the rest away and kept Flash.  There is a trail going down by the creek. Muscadines are on the ground.  The magic feeling that a key has unlocked the other world of the woods, the water, the cloud filled sky above is suddenly with me again.

The wayside park is part of the SC Department of Forestry and managed and maintained by the Andrew Pickens Chapter of the Cherokee Foothillls Byway Association.  The managers are Dennis Chastain and Dr. George Smith.

The magic has infused my heart again.  I feel a part of the universe, the universe where the Drednautus skeleton bones were found, the universe where the Pit Bull asteroid is flying by only 25,000 miles away from earth today.  The place where we live.