Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Museum of the Confederacy

April 16, 2016

Thursday, March 31

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Across the street from our campground was the Museum of the Confederacy. It was a much better and more informative museum than we’d expected. The ‘Southern delicacy’ of euphemism was less in evidence here, but I still felt the weight of manifest karma: such ruin and loss had accrued from fighting to preserve an economic system that emancipation would have inevitably doomed anyway.

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Of course, it was as easy for Northerners to condemn Southern slavery then as it is today for all of us, when we buy products of distant, international sources made in conditions of near slavery. Historical perspective. Remember my reference to the slaves’ suffering and submission in the rice plantations of Brookgreen? I found the wording on this particular flag of the first seven Confederate states to be offensively ironic.

 

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Appomattox

April 16, 2016

Wednesday, March 30

We stopped at a campground in Appomattox, VA, yes, that Appomattox. We learned a lot about the surrender of Lee’s Army to Grant from a visit to the Appomattox Courthouse National Park.

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Graham, a volunteer interpreter (retired from Arizona) mapped out the whole drama, made it come alive, and helped us empathize with all the parties involved. We could imagine the first awful sight of the Union Cavalry, emerging through the cut in the wooded hill above Appomattox Courthouse, Lee’s shock and disappointment when the promised rail car full of provisions for his starving troops turned out to be full of harnesses.

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We learned of the dignity, honor, and respect all parties involved exhibited to their brother officers at the surrender, despite their division.

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We learned of the intelligent sensitivity of terms, that could have gone far to help heal the national wounds, had not Booth shot Lincoln, five days later.

Raleigh, NC

April 13, 2016

Saturday, March 29

We stopped at a campground near Raleigh, NC for a couple of days to explore. Not much there, but a nearby town was the birthplace of Ava Gardner. We also discovered that the North Carolina Museum of Art was in Raleigh where we stopped on our way out of town.

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This stop, meant to be an hour’s respite from the road, deserved at least a full day, and when the gardens are in full glory, more than that. Both an indoor guard, and an outdoor landscaper were so friendly and knowledgeable that it hurt to say we had to move on. Maybe we’ll come this way again.

The Neighborhood Changes

April 12, 2016

Friday, March 25 continued…

As more of the regular RVers had their giant rigs towed in, first for weekends, then for longer stays, we found ourselves boxed in by vast, white or bronze behemoths decorated with flourishes of brown or black vinyl that were supposed to suggest speed or something. Units called ‘Montana’ , ‘Cougar’, ‘Bounder,’ or the ‘Velocity’, (subtitled ‘Raptor’, we renamed it the Velociraptor) hulked around us, with up to 5 slide-outs further crowding their sites. Gone were the open spaces around us where we’d counted up to 40 Canada geese foraging in the grass beneath the live oaks in late afternoon. This made our departure easier, but we still left Myrtle Beach on Friday March 25th under protest. The park was full for Easter weekend and our site was spoken for. It was also time to begin wandering home.

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But, before we left, we did revisit Brookgreen Gardens twice more for, of all things, Lego sculptures and a boat ride!

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Along the pathway through the zoo area we’d toured previously, large Lego sculptures of various animals and insects had been installed: each requiring 20,000+ Lego bricks to build. Pretty impressive work!

 

The following day we took a guided boat ride through the wetlands and Wacasaw river tributaries that had enabled Brookgreen Plantation to grow rice, with slave labor.

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The combination of the boat ride and an audio walking path, narrated in song and stories, of the slave quarters and community, gave us some idea of the incredible effort and suffering required to create the original rice fields from wild cypress swamps, using only picks and shovels, with the added hazards of alligators, venomous snakes, and disease-carrying mosquitoes.

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Yes, these people had been experts in rice cultivation in Africa, making them prized workers, and yes, many had been sold into slavery by other African tribes, but their treasure: of life, of expertise, and of family, was callously stolen, for generations, by owners who grew very rich on their suffering and submission.

 

Growing rice was a complex and relentless routine of controlling tidal waters (fresh, not brackish) for each stage of the rice planting, development, and harvest.

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One enslaved ‘trunk man’ was in charge of gates (originally a cypress trunk) that blocked or released water, and he was also the only slave given a gun, to shoot the bobolinks, or ‘rice birds’ that could otherwise voraciously strip the harvest. Small birds, they still provided food for the poorly-fed enslaved families.

 

We saw no bobolinks, but did see Bruce’s ubiquitous turkey vultures (his totem animal in our travels) and a couple basking alligators. We drifted past a long log, crowded with yellow-bellied slider turtles.

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Our interpreter said a group of them is called a ‘bale’. Sun highlighted their smooth, rounded shells, against a background of mud embankment and saw grasses.

It’s Been A while.

April 11, 2016

Friday, March 25

It’s been quite a while since we checked in. We’re sorry to leave our readers hanging. We had survived a string of misfortunes: mechanical, medical and meteorological, which didn’t exactly stop us, but the combination wore us out to the point where we just needed some non-blog time to relax, spend some time on the beach, do some photography and writing and just BE. Oh yeah, we also had to nurse a sick Sprocket with three trips to the vet. Finally got the right diagnosis and medications that fixed him up. He’s a new dog, just like changing the batteries!

We had sucked the marrow from the cultural bones of Myrtle Beach, and then, what remained, was the eternal seashore: sometimes very cold and windswept, often quite abandoned (lovely).

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It was different every day, with occasional middens of shells in which promising bits of coral could hide, or lone, wet treasures at water’s edge (the waves’ bait, to entice and splash us, unaware).

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Foraging on the sand, or above us flew gulls, terns, cowbirds, pigeons, jackdaws, cormorants, and rare, silent flights of five or so brown pelicans, their outspread wingtips almost touching the waves, the leader correcting altitude and two seconds later, the next, and then the next, and then the next. ‘AH!’ We’d say in wonder and gratitude. ‘AH!’

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We exchanged ‘hellos’ with the many days’ passing of regular dog-walkers, shell-stoopers, or cell-phoning strollers. To spare my pockets, I made a collecting bag from a small mesh laundry bag, the front opening jutting out, to catch any wet, sandy treasure I’d toss in. By end of the walk, most sand and wet would be gone. I snapped a pair of bamboo glove-liners and some curl-around ear-muffs to its strap. These often made the difference between a leisurely walk in 14 mph winds and a hasty retreat back to the confines of the ePod.

After museum-hopping in DC, savoring old favorite ‘modern’ or recent contemporary art, our esthetics were prepared for the glorious subtleties of sea-shattered, polished shell fragments. We recognized the minute Arps, the Moores, the Giacomettis, stretched out upon the Dali-esque perspective of the Grand Strand, punctuated by moody searching figures, just like us, in a half-mile perspective, beneath a Magritte sky.

Soon, a sort of collector’s taxonomy of shapes developed: the pierced ‘faces’ in the russet shells, some cheerful, some sinister, like jack-o-lanterns, the smooth amber ‘tiles’ of worn shells, the musical clink of unbroken black scallops. Some shells had holes and lines cut on their surfaces like Runic codes, while occasional clams bore rows of linear ‘text’, with a band of ornate wiggly ‘script’ above it, like small Rosetta stones.

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We found clam fragments as thick and useless as broken crockery, or others, completely riddled with ‘wormholes’ like obsessively carved jade. I’m told minute mollusks attach themselves and gently rock their way into the shells for shelter and mineral nutrients, leaving wonderful worm-like tunnels. The surface can easily be confused with coral; in fact, corals often used them for a good starter surface. Tiny mollusks tunneled larger, black rocks as well, which simply beg to be the centerpiece of a miniature Zen garden, surrounded by white circles and waves of sand.

The Cormorant

We also had an injured bird experience when we walked the beach just before supper one night. All human/dog footprints had been obliterated by stormy winds and tide, and just two wide sand-vehicle tracks stretched down the blank beach. A curious-looking brown object stood in one of the tracks. First, when a feather lifted in the wind I thought it might be an owl. I slowly approached, signaling Bruce to take Sprocket farther down the beach from me.

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It was a cormorant, with its head tucked under its wing, swaying on its webbed toes when the wind gusted.

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I bent low to send it hovering Reiki, and it didn’t stir. The feathers on its exposed neck were like the dense fur of a beaver, and the rest of its feathers were beaded with salt spray, laced with sticky sand. I gently palmed its back and still, it didn’t stir. I could feel the Reiki energy flow, though. I palmed its throat and breast with the other hand and it pulled its head out to look at me with a beautiful, pale blue eye.

It unfolded its wings in that characteristic way they have for drying, after their wings have become saturated from diving. The feathers were so matted in that fierce, wet, salty wind, that I knew its attempt was hopeless. The wind merely caught them like sails and knocked the poor bird over! It righted itself and I soothed it with Reiki sounds and touch. Its tail feathers relaxed and I carefully put one hand beneath its belly and one hand on its back and lifted it to the dune’s crest where tall grasses could soften the harsh winds.

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I rejoined Bruce and Sprocket and walked a while, wondering what to do. It was well after 5:30, so any agency that could help would be closed. On our way back, I saw that it had moved down the dune’s slope a bit, when a gust of wind rolled it and it crumpled, beak into sand, then righted itself. So sad. Another cormorant flew high above us, the two not noticing each other. I headed back to the truck, bereft.

In the rig, much later that night, I remembered that I could have towel-wrapped a bottle full of hot water in a carton, and perhaps carried the bird in, to warm it. That’s the first, basic bird rescue thing and I’d forgotten. But then, I released this belated thought and slept.

The memory of that soft body stayed with my hands and I held them in that position much of the night on a surrogate buck-wheat bolster as I’d been taught for Reiki sending. I could feel the pulse and unity of healing, and couldn’t remove my hands. Then I included Sprocket in the proxy, for he’d been ailing and shaking periodically the last couple days (then he’d be fine and energetic, wanting long walks)

Bruce took him out early the next morning and said the cormorant wasn’t there. I’ll never know, but will hope. What an intimate privilege it had been, to hold such a beautiful creature of air and water, with no creation of fear! I hope the Reiki made some difference in the quantum entanglement of life.

Strangely beautiful Atalaya.

February 9, 2016

Monday, January 11

After a few days of laundry, rain, and Bruce fighting a cold, we got a call from the Mac guy–it’s done! After pick-up it was a nice sunny day so we stopped by the Myrtle Beach State Park and down the road a bit, the Huntington Beach State Park site of Atalaya, (translation: The WatchTower), the winter home of Anna and Archer Huntington.

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When the Huntingtons purchased the three rice plantations between the Waccasaw River and the Atlantic, a defunct hunting club sat on the best vantage point with panoramic views of the sea. Now, oaks, pines, and palmettos block those views, although from the 40ft openwork watchtower (housing a water tower within), the view must still be spectacular.

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Archer, remembering his favorite Moorish architecture from his scholarly pursuits in Spain, began to build their winter home there, somewhat organically, using the openwork brick motif and exposed mortar blobbing out between bricks on the solid walls. He had an expert local mason, who, I presume, doggedly followed his wealthy patron’s whims as faithfully as he could, with no clear blueprints or guidelines. It had simply grown, room by room, until Archer decided there were enough.

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This eccentric, one-storey structure was actually built around the hunting club, which was afterwards torn down.

As we approached the main building, it appeared large but unprepossessing, with rough graying masonry walls, and rows of high windows covered by wrought iron grates painted blue-green, perhaps to suggest the verdigris of bronze.

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From the website photos, I’d thought it was the zoo Archer had provided for Anna’s living sculpture subjects, but it was their actual home, divided into two main courts by a Moorish-arched walkway, where the right turn led to their private quarters, dining room, study, sunroom, library, bedrooms, studio, etc and the left turn led to servants’ quarters, kitchen, pantries, laundry, and utility rooms.

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Every room had its own fireplace and chimney, and it’s said that Archer seriously miscalculated how much wood the whole building would require for comfort.

The building is now empty of furnishings and the whitewash throughout has long since flaked away, leaving the whole atmosphere somewhat bleak. Two great storms have seriously cracked some of the brick walls and the curving steps up to the roof views are closed to the public and probably all but intrepid caretakers.

For the Huntingtons, the ‘sunroom’ was the only place for visitors, where afternoon tea would be served. There were no guestrooms, no houseguests, and few were invited to dine. There was no ostentation here. Anna had designed some wrought iron chairs and a glass-topped table for the dining room, and when dinner was done, they would pull the chairs out to the sunroom or overlook to catch the sunset.

 

Atalaya was an exclusive retreat: for Archer to write his poetry and scholarly books and for Anna to pursue her sculpture: in a large, sky-lit studio on cold days and an equally large, outdoor court for good-weather days. The stables were adjacent to this space, so her equine models were always at the ready.

From this estate, ran a long, straight road that led to Brookgreen, their garden Paradise. This is now crossed by Route 17, (King’s Highway).

This is a four-lane highway that runs through the chaotic commercial sprawl of Myrtle Beach: giant water parks, big-box stores, fireworks stores, RV dealers and parks, tall, glass-fronted beachwear/surf shops, and dinosaur and pirate-themed miniature golf; until it reaches the preserved Huntington lands.

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We also checked out the Myrtle Beach State park, which had a lovely, dense campground, well-filled with many full-time campers as well as tents (brrrr). The beach and pier, just beyond the well-protected dunes was serene and inviting, and though we didn’t see any horses (the admissions gate had warned us) we saw lots of hoof-prints in the sand. When we inquired about rates at the camp office, the lady said how much she enjoyed the natural contrast to all the crazy sprawl of Myrtle Beach.

 

Pawleys Island II

February 8, 2016

Friday we were back in Pawleys Island for the mundane, a UPS Store to ship some unneeded stuff home, to the sublime, picnic lunch on the beautiful Pawley’s Island beach and grilled flounder at the Fish House.

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In our earlier search down the road in Litchfield, for the Fish House, we’d noticed an intriguing ruin, something like a roofless motel, nearby. A well-maintained wooden fence along its well-mown road frontage, plus a departing grounds-keeper’s truck from a side road added to its mystery. We’d google-mapped it and found a very large mowed property descending to the mud-flat-marshes, a spit of land, and the sea. This was noteworthy, as all lands surrounding it consisted of dense live-oak woods, and typical upscale residential developments.

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We’d returned to photograph it. The late afternoon sunlight slanted golden against the vines and trees in its foreground, creating a very romantic perspective, which was deepened further by broken windows and doors gaping through to reveal distant views of another, larger ruin and shoreline far beyond, down by the water.

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When we finally found the Fish House open, it turned into another interesting experience, by the name of Bob. We were early-birds and briefly had the place to ourselves so we had a chance to ask our server if he knew anything about the ruin down the road or the platt eye. He fetched the owner, Bob Mimms, a genial Southern host who welcomed the chance to tell some good stories.

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When we told him we’d hoped to hear about the platt eye from Lee Brockington, he immediately called her on his cell and left a message. This man has been on the board of a great many local causes, and seems to have a finger on the pulse of all of them. He’s also a sailor, a local archaeology enthusiast, and collector of S.C. history and antiques.

He told us about the ruins: that they’d been a resort for African-Americans in the 30s during segregation, that great musicians like Ray Charles had stayed there, and that the property was presently owned by two black families who don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on its future. The folks who own the front part, once called the Magnolia Motel, want to totally restore it, but from what we could see, it may have deteriorated too far for reasonable hope of that happening. That’s a pity, because its setting is so beautiful and it carries a soulful spirit long-vanished in most places in this area. The larger, roofless building down by the marshes, beyond the motel ruins, was the late-night gathering place where black musicians and their families and friends would enjoy music after their professional gigs.

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