Sunday, June 21, 2015

June 20, 2015 "All That's Beautiful"

Waking from sleep, I remember that something bad has happened, something that can't be undone.
I hit the trail in the wetlands with my dog.

The sun still shines. The birds still sing.  The dark leaves of summer are still on the trees.

Soon, the funerals will begin.

A child-man with the bowl haircut of a toddler, has taken down the devout, who were praying in the Mother Church in the Holy City.  It was not a toy gun, it was a birthday present.

There has been a heat wave. The water in the wetlands is low, full of minnows, the sky full of  birds.

The fluffy white cottonwood seeds are falling on the shards of river birch bark on the floor of the trail.  They drift floating down the creek into the dark wood.

"I heard the old old men say:
All that's beautiful drifts away
Like the waters."

W.B. Yeats

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 14, 2015 Atlanta's Fourth Ward Park

Built in 2011, the park joins the extended trail of the Atlanta Beltway and on Father's Day, next Sunday, June 21, there will be a Family Walk through this park and further on.  This scorching hot evening, after an outdoor supper nearby in the              Grill, I walk with Eleanor, Ryan and Mathew  around the lake and gardens salvaged from a trash strewn landscape of storm water runoff and flooding.  It serves now as a retention basin.  This urban greenscape of blooming grasses and plants is a haven for ducks, geese and human beings in the middle of the city.

Across the way, looms the seven story Ponce City Market (previously the Sears Building), now restored with shops, apartments and restaurants.

We walk around the lake to the tune of bullfrogs croaking and up around the playground where an extended family is grilling and celebrating a luau.  All the young girls are dressed in swim suits with grass shirts and leis of flowers around their necks, flowers in their hair.

We pass a drunk sprawled out on a bench, mumbling obscenities to his own demons, his bicycle parked beside him.  When we return and pass by again, he is passed out and silent.

Monday, June 8, 2015

June 7, 2015 In the Wetlands, the Luna Moth

It is the magic hour.  Early mist drifts up from the Lawson's Ford Creek.  A man is photographing a luna moth. He has found it lying on the bridge over the creek.  In death, it is perfect, a pale luminous green, white body with intact antennae, and on its wings painted eyes to  freighten predators.  It lives in the night world of scents of flowers and grasses, the blossoms of trees, hickory, sweet gum and birch.

On the boardwalk over the wetlands, another photographer is carrying his camera approaching me. He tells me that he has just seen a doe with two fauns, no more than a day or two old.

A large dead tree has fallen across the boardwalk. I brush against blackberries, now pink and red and soon to be black and ripe.  May has been the time for strawberries, soon to be over. Before they are gone, make shortcake.

This is how my mother made strawberry shortcake:


Slice one quart of strawberries and cover with one cup sugar. Let sit.

Make dough.
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup milk
light cream or whipped cream

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Grease cookie sheet
Combine flour, sugar, baking power and salt in bowl.
Cut in shortening.
Stir in milk.
Pat dough into a large rectangle one a a half inch thick on cookie sheet.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes.
Split cake while warm.
Spread with butter.
Fill with berries.

Serve warm with cream.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

May, 30, 2015 Hobcaw Barony: The Lost World

Colleen and I drove down yesterday from Columbia, 378 to Sumter,  521 to catch 17 in Georgetown, over the great Wacamaw River Bridge.  The weather is fine. The sky is blue with huge cumulous clouds above us. Queen Ann's lace, Philadelphia day lilies, prickly pear with yellow blossoms, a  strange spindly tree with bright red flowers, daisies along the way.  Hobcaw is just over the bridge on the right where Colleen is to teach a photography class on Saturday and I am going to explore the marshes, creeks and maritime forests of long leaf, lobloly pine and oak. There are 90 miles of dirt roads here, a part of which was the original Kings Highway down the coast.

Belle Baruch,  six foot two world traveler, pilot and lover of the land, daughter of Bernard Baruch, Camden native, wall street banker and financial advisor to U.S. presidents and world leaders (who he invited to Hobcaw), bequeathed this land to the State of South Carolina in 1969 (after her death in 1964) with special conditions that it be preserved in its wild state and studied. USC has a Marine Sciences Lab here and Clemson has a center for forestry study.

At 6:30 a.m., I am on a bird walk with 6 others and guide and oceanographer, Dennis A.  We visited the feeding site for endangered painted buntings and watched them flying to the feeder and perching in trees. We saw indigo buntings, blue birds, red winged black birds, mocking birds, Carolina wrens, little green herons, little blue herons, white egrets and cardinals. We heard the voice of the mud hen who hides in the tall grasses.

After breakfast, we go out to the ancient shell midden and launch into the creeks and inlets. Bernard Baruch once said that the sky was black with the hundreds of ducks flushed out of the spartina grasses.  No more.

We net a bucket of fish and shrimp (there are at least 185 fish species here), name them and throw them back.  On the sand bar, there is a huge living horse welk.  At a station called Oyster Landing of Crab Haul Creek,  there is a webcam on a pier observing the marshes and the sky.  Jay P., a marine biologist, tells me that you can go to Baruch.SC.Edu and through the webcam, watch the inlet, marsh and creek, the storms that come up over the horizon, the spartina grasses waving in the breezes and turning green to gold.

That night, Tim M., Ph.D, tells us that at Chernobyl and Fukushima, the barn swallows have white spots now. Some have tumors.  The African Mask beetles have distorted markings.  Where they once had  the markings that looked like two dark eyes, painted features of nose and mouth, they may have one eye, a nose that wrapped around their head, mouth spots fading into a chin.

John and James meet us the next day and we spend the day on the beach, making a sand castle, celebrating James' 6th birthday and picnicing.

Driving home, through curtains of great black and white clouds of sun and rain, I spot a rainbow, resplendent over the changing world.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May 22, 2015 Myrtle Beach State Park "They Paved Paradise..."

I arrived at Myrtle Beach State Park on Highway 17 (it is known as Kings Highway) from the South, having gone through Georgetown and Pawley's Island.  It is 3 miles south of Myrtle Beach where 400,000 vacationers are visiting this weekend. It is Biker Week as well as Memorial Day Weekend.

Have I lost my mind?  I have been invited to join a friend at one of the South Carolina at the Riviera style resorts that have grown up like fire ant hills along this once beautiful and pristine coast.

Myrtle Beach State Park has attempted to capture and preserve something of the maritime forest that once flourished here.  The park is 326 acres, has a fishing pier, camping and even some cabins, a Nature Center and Activity Center.

There are but two short trails: Sculptured Oak and Yaupon.  For me, the map that I get from the Park Office is confusing, so I take the entrance to Yaupon which leads into the forest from behind Shelter B-6 which is the last picnic shelter on the road next to the pier and the ocean.  Go to the pier and turn right to find it.  The trail is a tiny refuge from the insanity of Myrtle Beach.  Underfoot is packed white sand and pine needles, good to walk on. Little sapsucker woodpeckers live here in the winter. They leave accurately straight lines of holes in the trees.  There are Yaupon Holley trees in this forest. Native Americans made a kind of tea from the little oval leaves which contain caffeine. I took just a few to make my own tea at home.

The forest is filled with the intoxicating fragrance of magnolia.  Yaupon connects with Sculptured Oak and passes a pond before it comes out again near the Park Office.

I have had the trail all to myself, a short , peaceful walk before what is to come:  the 400,000 people, the bikers zooming in and out on the highway, the endless outlets and souvenir stores, the buffets with snow crab legs, sea food, fried chicken and chocolate fountains.

Soon, I am in traffic jams and become enthralled with the bikers, especially the women with their own bikes, their long red hair flowing behind them in the wind, their 5 inch heels.

I am going to a resort in the North 80's, so I take a look down North 77th street where my father once bought a small one story house with two bedrooms, large living room and kitchen-dining area.  It had a
carport in the back with a one room bedroom attached.  It was on the last street where there were houses or other development back then.  Where there are now high rises, we roamed the sandy open space where we named our places "wood fort, thorn valley and thorn hill".  In my mind's eye, I can see it all, my mother, my father, my sister and brother, my cousins, "Nellie", my dog.

How it all has changed.

Big Yellow Taxi

They paved paradise
and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot.

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Til it's gone.

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot......

Joni Mitchel

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May 16, 2015 Death at Crowder Mountain

On the news, I have heard that a woman came with her family and climbed to the rock face of Crowder's Mountain. Taking pictures near the edge, she fell 100 feet to her death.

This is where Michael and Earl would sit on the rock not so far from the edge and scare me to death.
It is where Hanah and John came with Camp Cherokee to rapel down the cliff.

May 19, 2015 Lynches Woods: The Tatooed Man

In the parking lot behind the Newberry Sheriff's Department, I meet a tall silver haired man with backpack leaving the entrance to the woods.  He tells me that the gravel road through the park was built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps and that his father, in fact, helped build it.  He tells me to take the gravel road and not the woodland trails "until I get to know it".

I thank him and walk down the hill until I find a confusion of one way road signs and "do not enter" signs.
A hiker emerges to the left, leaving the woods in the opposite direction from the one way sign.  He is a man with salt and pepper curly hair wearing an old faded T shirt cut off at the arms to reveal a glorious tangle of tatoos.  He tells me that the gravel road is five miles, that there is a rise he calls, "mother mountain" and if I want to spare my body pain, I will take the opposite direction of the one way signs. "I have done it twice today", he says.

I try to do as he says, but find myself on a short loop past a big picnic shelter with eight to ten tables and back to where I started. I take the direction of the one way signs.

On the trail there are low stone arches marking streams flowing below.  These arches attest to the age of the road. And here and there are the new bridges recently constructed.  Soon I hear a heavy splash nearby and a rumpled man appears coming towards me.  I grab my phone and pick up a big stick. He does not speak English. I think he has slept in the woods. He travels on.

On my left is a cow pasture and on the faraway hill, a farmhouse and large gray barn with dull red roof. The stoic black cows are huddled together at the nearby fence.

The trail begins to ascend and I find that all along the way, I am on an upward walk through the lovely green wood with flashes of sunlight and plateaus.  It is really not strenuous. Here and there horse trails wind off into the forest. These trails do not look well traveled, but once I catch the telltale scent of horse.

As the sun rises at noon high in the sky, I leave my club (the one I was going to knock out the rumpled man with) at the first bridge for the next hiker.