Graces of Winter

The midlands and upcountry were blasted with an early bout of winter weather on Saturday morning.  Record snow fell as far south as Columbia, coating trees in a thick, white blanket.  Growing up near Chicago, I was never a stranger to unpleasant meteorological systems.  Whether one contained damaging hail, violent winds, or a debilitating amount of snow, it was an expected consequence of Midwest living.  In fact, one of my reasons for migrating south was to enjoy a more temperate climate.  However, Saturday's unusual weather phenomenon reminded me of one I experienced last winter right here in the Lowcountry.  

At the end of January, the state was hit with a dangerous ice storm.  Inland, massive, ice-coated tree branches fell, compromising roads and downing power lines.  Thankfully, along the coast, we suffered only minor damage, most of which was evident once the spring arrived and the plants failed to resuscitate.   The lack of incidence was also attributed to excellent storm preparation.  Charleston and the surrounding areas, in effect, completely shut down.  Businesses, government agencies, schools, and essential bridges and roadways were closed.  People relinquished control to Mother Nature, allowing her to decide when normal life would resume.

The first coating of ice on my palm tree. (Taken late at night with a flash.)

The first coating of ice on my palm tree. (Taken late at night with a flash.)

The storm came in the inky darkness.  All through the night I heard the pinging tones of ice drops pattering upon the roof above me, as if it was made of tin.  When I woke the next morning, I was greeted by the peaceful silence that often accompanies a fresh snowfall.  I looked out my window and was amazed to find fine white sparkles dusting the surface of the earth.  Everything above ground was paralyzed in an icy glaze.

Breathing in the crisp air, I walked outside among the trees surrounding my house.  Camera in tow, I was thrilled to capture the effects of this unique experience.  It looked as if nature was putting on a lovely ballet that was halted mid-performance.  Leaves were elegantly arranged in a motionless arctic dance.  Sheath-covered pine needles formed graceful arches and curves.  Suspended water droplets clung to vines creating a crystallized corps.  

 
 
 
 

The following day, the curtain was drawn on my ballet as the Lowcountry began to thaw.  Fleeting as it was, I will not soon forget that enchanting spectacle.  Reflecting on the storm, I am reminded of a quote from Emerson's Nature:

 
 
 
 

There is excitement to be found wherever you go

I recently received a fortune that read, "There is excitement to be found wherever you go."  That prediction could not have been truer of my visit to Maine and Massachusetts.

As I traveled the coast, I couldn't help but find similarities between Maine and the Lowcountry.  Both are bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, are fringed with tidal marshes, offer signature shellfish dishes, and have loads of charm.  Our first stop was York where we visited Stonewall Kitchen (home to many delicious treats) and the Cape Neddick (Nubble) Lighthouse.  The lighthouse stood on an island surrounded by the ocean.  In contrast to our greyish-hued waters in SC, the Atlantic in Maine was the bluest ocean I had ever set my eyes on.  It was not an aqua nor a navy, but rather a true blue with a hint of cerulean.   

Continuing up the seaboard, we stopped at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.  It had an easy trail that wound through the woods, with overlooks that allowed visitors to study the salt marshes.  It was there that I drew many parallels to our landscape in the Lowcountry and felt quite at home.  After our walk, we went a bit further north toward Portland.  With daylight dwindling and traffic building, we only made it to Biddeford before we decided to head back down the coast to our stop for the night, Lowell, Massachusetts.

Leaves changing in Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge.  Wells, ME

Leaves changing in Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge.  Wells, ME

Pumpkins on display at Stonewall Kitchen.  York, ME

Pumpkins on display at Stonewall Kitchen.  York, ME

 
When in Maine, eat lobster...in my case, lobster tacos at Stonewall Kitchen.  York, ME

When in Maine, eat lobster...in my case, lobster tacos at Stonewall Kitchen.  York, ME

 
 
Nubble Lighthouse.  This image doesn't do that water justice.

Nubble Lighthouse.  This image doesn't do that water justice.

Salt marsh at RCNWR.

Salt marsh at RCNWR.

En route to MA, we revisited the Nubble Lighthouse to see its beam guiding the evening's ships.  It just so happened to be around moon rise when we reached the park.  I set up my tripod and took a long exposure of the rising orange moon, revolving red beacon, and starry sky.

 
The moon rising behind the Nubble Lighthouse.  York, ME

The moon rising behind the Nubble Lighthouse.  York, ME

 

The next two days were blissfully spent exploring the bastion of transcendentalism, Concord, MA.  My parents raised my brothers and me with many of the movement's principles in mind.  They emphasized the importance of social justice, education, peace, and equality; an appreciation for nature; and the necessity of developing a strong moral compass.  As an adult, I've admired the works of transcendentalist philosophers, especially those of Henry David Thoreau.  So, for me, as you can imagine, it was a rather spiritual experience to walk through the woods around Walden Pond, creak up the stairs of Ralph Waldo Emerson's home, and stand before Louisa's desk in Orchard House.  

I love nature partly because she is not man, but a retreat from him. None of his institutions control or pervade her. There a different kind of right prevails. In her midst I can be glad with an entire gladness.
— Henry David Thoreau, Nov. 3, 1853, his Journal
 
Reflections in Walden Pond.

Reflections in Walden Pond.

 
Orchard House where Louisa May Alcott wrote and set  Little Women.   In between the two upper-right windows, Bronson Alcott built a desk for Louisa.  It was here that she penned her famous novel.

Orchard House where Louisa May Alcott wrote and set Little Women.  In between the two upper-right windows, Bronson Alcott built a desk for Louisa.  It was here that she penned her famous novel.

A mock-up of Ralph Waldo Emerson's study.  Concord Museum.

A mock-up of Ralph Waldo Emerson's study.  Concord Museum.

Another topic I'm continually impassioned by is American History.  We met up with my dad, who was working in Boston, to visit the Concord Museum, and by his suggestion, the visitor's center at Minute Man Park.  If you're ever in the area, I urge you to stop by both.  There is a terrific audio visual exhibit at the MMP visitor's center called The Road to Revolution.

In our final days, we went to Providence, RI (for dinner), Salem (too crowded), Rockport (nice views), and Harvard University.  My dad has been a fan of Car Talk on NPR for as long as I can remember.  With the advent of XM radio, my mom and I have joined the bandwagon.  It was thrilling to see the Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe office in the heart of Harvard Square!

Below is a video of footage gathered throughout our trip.  It was edited using a Super 8 app.  As such, the quality is best when the film is played at its original size (or smaller).  Enjoy!

 
 

NY, VT, ME, MA, CT 
Song: Colours by Donovan
Edited with 8mm Vintage Camera app for iPad

Recommendations:

  • Driving up the coast of Maine and stopping at lighthouses 
  • Eating lobstah!
  • The Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge is an easy, lovely walk through the woods with water views.
  • Concord, MA including:
    • Concord Museum where you'll see Paul Revere's lantern, a mock-up of Emerson's study and Thoreau's cabin possessions.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson's house tour
    • Orchard House tour & gift shop (especially if you're like me and love Little Women)
    • A walk around Walden Pond
    • Experience The Road to Revolution, a terrific film/exhibit explaining the battle of Lexington and Concord at Minute Man National Historic Park.
    • A cozy lunch at the Liberty in the Colonial Inn
  • Find a bar in Harvard Square and have a seasonal Sam Adams
  • The Grange in Providence, RI (Even if you're not a vegetarian, which I'm not, this place is awesome!)