Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 24, 2015 Holly and Laurel Where There Was Murder and Mayhem

I have walked today along the aged stone parapet of the first South Carolina Prison, built in 1866.  It was demolished several years ago and what remains is a tall wall of great rustic granite blocks rising above the Columbia Canal and the Congaree River.  There is a grassy open field lined with benches high over the waters and on the other side more granite blocks lining the walk.  In the middle of the grassy field is a series of five fountains built into a stone basin, gurgling up into the Spring air.

It is a short stroll from here to the Vista, a repurposed old down town neighborhood of art galleries, antique stores, restaurants and businesses.

Or you can go down a series of steps beside the old brick facade of the prison (someone has written in paint:
"Trust No Hoes") to the Canal Riverfront Park.  Here there are Hollies and Laurel and  many crape myrtles planted in memory of loved ones.  Jasmine, the State flower,  and azaleas are blooming.

There is something about the huge granite slabs that held the prisoners in, that is redolent of the dark deeds that brought men here and of the dark deeds housed within.

March 21, 2015 Tadpoles in the Wetlands

Yes, Spring came yesterday at 6:00 pm.

The birds are calling:

"zuccinni, , zucinni, zucinni"

"speak to her, speak to her, speak to her"

Yoshina cherry trees are in full bloom, little purple violets burst from the grass.

There are hundreds of tadpoles in the wetlands. They have three pairs of gills, no eyelids, a long body and tail with dorsal fin.

They are telling us about metamorphosis, the power of change and coming of age.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March 17, 2015 Columbia Canal, the Grave of the Leetmen

Below the path by the canal lie the bones of the indentured Irishmen who built this canal in 1820.  They lie in the earth without a stone, without a name. They came from a cold country and many perished from the heat or died of disease endemic to this region.  Those who died were buried in this very bank where runners and walkers, strollers with babies and bike riders exercise in the warm breath of early Spring.  Those who survived established a village called "Little Dublin" near where the Campus of the University of South Carolina exists today and from which many of their descendants have graduated.

Today their monument is draped with a green wreath.  "Ar Dheis  Go Raibh Anamach Na Marbh", May They Rest on the Right Hand of God.

The white clouds of Bradford Pear trees billow gently. The arms of purple Red Buds reach out from the woods.  From a distance there is a pale green and pink glow from the forests.

The full tilt boogie band of Spring is tuning up.

Monday, March 16, 2015

March 15, 2015 Bloodroot at Pearson's Falls

The tiny white flower of the bloodroot is blooming along the stone stepped path up the mountain by Colt Creek to Pearson's Falls.  Colt Creek falls in three steep tiers and flows down down down to the Pacolet. The air is filled with the cool clean breath of water. There is a woman photographing the leaves of the yet to bloom Oconee Bell springing up from a crag in the rocks.  This silver shine clear day of 76 degrees has blossomed out of the cold and muck of winter.  I talk with a family of Romanian immigrants sitting on a bench near the highest viewing place just over the Ethel James Chase stone bridge built by her sons and grandson.  A young couple is lying side by side on a smooth rock.  It is a short walk of only a quarter mile up. There are restrooms and picnic tables.  There is a $5.00 entrance fee for adults used to keep up the 268 acre sanctuary by the Tryon Garden Club.

In the parking lot are cars from Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Florida, North and South Carolina.  A woman in a car with Connecticut plates stops by me and tells me "I just had to get out of the snow.  I booked a room in Saluda and drove down for a week." She tells me that the New Haven St. Pat's Parade is postponed due to the flooding produced by melting snow in the streets.

The Palmetto Trail Head is nearby.

I came up by taking Hwy 108 West from Columbus, NC , turning onto Harmon Field Road where I see a horse event going on and where a Barbeque Festival is held each Spring.  From here Hwy 176 leads to a left for Pearson's Falls Road.

Leaving the park, I continue 3 miles up the winding hwy 176 into the small town of Saluda, NC.  The cozy main street is lined with antique stores and restaurants where there is often live music.  Honking Tonkers Gallery featuring bakery and chocolates, Thompson Grocery, the Purple Onion, the Saluda Grade Cafe.
I come out of the "Somewhere in Time" store of Pace General Store with a yellow and violet frayed quilt, so soft and comforting.

There is an easier way to leave here for home. I go back East on 176 and turn left onto Ozone Road and shortly reach I-26 and the sharp incline down the Saluda Grade where it is possible to see for miles across the flat plain laid out in front of you.  WNCW public radio from Isothermal Community College is wafting the mountain music of fiddles and banjos across the airwaves, the wild old mountain songs of love and murder.
My heart is pounding with the beat as I pass by Lake Bowen whose furled waters are bright and glimmering in the late afternoon light, then home again where the first Japanese Magnolias are opening their pink and mauve blossoms.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March 1, 2015 Leaving Siberia for Hunting Island State Park

Friday night I dreamed of riding my bike to Hunting Island and then I awakened on Saturday morning to birds singing outside my bedroom window and all of the snow and ice melted and gone.

February has been full of the most snow and ice in my entire memory.  The sun has seldom visited. Boston and New York are getting hit for the 6th time with several feet of snow.

Now it is 9:00 am and 30 degrees with rain as I start out.  In Union, it is 31', The shoulders of the road are wet, red and muddy Whitmire 32', Pomaria 33', then 34'. Columbia is 35'  As the temperature creeps up, so does the price of gas.

A huge mobile home passes me from  Illinois: MY IKON RV says its plate, then comes Quebec, Ontario, Arizona, Minnesota, Massachusetts, fleeing south out of the blizzards.

Down 21 South, a bridge is out and I detour.  I pass the Dukes Harley Funeral Home and then in Orangburg in the Burger King, there is a fly.  Could this be the first sign of Spring.  I look for jasmine hanging from trees, red buds with pink flowers leaning over the road but there are none.  There are daffodils and jonquils blooming and the trees are beginning to unfurl tiny red beginnings of leaves.  The ditches are filled with black water.

The rain is pouring in Beaufort and it is 41 degrees.

By some miracle as I enter Hunting Island, the rain ceases.  I walk down the beach around the drowned trees to the camp ground and then round back on the Magnolia Forest Trail. Along the way I  pass great trees, their arms stretched upward, draped in voluminous dead vines, looking like monsters in a children's book.  There has been so much rain, that great pools cover the trail here and there so that I tramp through the woods.  My feet are soaked.

At night from the Lighthouse Keeper's cabin, we can see the light of the Lighthouse, replaced since last year.
I sleep the sleep of the innocent and in the morning walk the beach, gathering sand dollars under a gray sky. breathing the salt air and the fetid, rich scent of pluff mud, the stuff life comes from.
By noon, the sun can be seen again.  The sky is blue with striated white clouds.

Spring is going to come soon, I hope.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

February 14, 2015 Saqsakaew, the Great Blue Heron

Some Native American Tribes have heron clans, the Great Blue Heron of the Menominee is called Saqsakaew.  The heron is believed to embody patience and wisdom.

It is a cool, clear day in the wetlands.  From the boardwalk, I stop and turn to the right. Out of the corner of my eye, I have perceived a movement or a branch that is not a branch.  Great Blue is standing on a log in the water.  He doesn't mind if I am there.  I stand silently watching.  Suddenly he dives into the water and comes up with a 6 inch long fish in his beak, which he swallows whole. For a while he returns to the log but then wades off into the water again, this time plunging for another small fish.  Certain in his stillness and swift in his dive, his aim is on target and he swallows his fish.

The Iroquois believe that Great Blue is a sign of luck.  A sighting of the heron foretells a bountiful fishing journey.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

February 10, 2015 Sesquicentennial State Park: The Winter Blues

Sesquicentennial was built 150 years after the founding of the city of Columbia.  The terrain of this northern part of the city is sand hills.  There is even a new mall over this way called Sand Hills Mall.  The ground is white and black sand like the bottom of the sea where the sea used to be.  Pines are predominant.  The park has a lake owned by a big flock of Canadian Geese.  They also overnight on a little island in the center. They are so tame, they will jump up on your picnic table while you are eating.

I take the trail around the lake.  The temperature is 49 degrees but it feels much colder as the wind is pushing wet waves across the water surface relentlessly.

My grandparents had a farm in the sand hills north of here. We would go down home, down country or to Mama and Pappa's most Sunday afternoons.  My cousins and brother and sister and I would drive the old pickup down logging trails through a forest just like this one.  The little ones were in the bed in the back.  The adults would be in the house in this kind of weather, gathering around the dining table eating little biscuits with cured ham (some call it Virginia ham) and sometimes old fashioned banana pudding with meringue on top.

They raised pigs and we would go out to the smokehouse and see the salted hams hanging curing in the dark.
Now and then the pigs would get out of their pen and chase us.  We ran in terror. They seemed to us as children to be huge thousand pounders.  Inside the warm house, the adults would laugh and say, "Oh, they won't hurt  you" and turn back to their conversations.