Spring has sprung

 
Azaleas in McClellanville

Azaleas in McClellanville

 

Admittedly, spring has never been my favorite season.  I've always preferred the warmth of summer, the colors of autumn, and the coziness of winter.  A lot of that has to with the springs I experienced while growing up in Illinois.   They consisted of a mix of chilly temperatures, sleet-filled skies, and soggy sidewalks.  Just as I would feel a glimmer of hope, seeing grass blades poking through the snow, a fresh blanket would come hurling from the sky like a cruel joke.  Spring (as we think of it with blooming trees, green grass, and mild temperatures) didn't arrive until late May.  And when it did it lasted but a fleeting moment.

In the past few years I've learned a simple rule: if you want to experience autumn at its finest, head to New England in October; if you want to witness the definition of spring, visit the South in April.  Mind you, spring in the Lowcountry is not without its own set of challenges.  We have an enormous amount of tree pollen.  Everything (and I mean everything) is coated with layer of chartreuse dust.  Also, warmer weather means the awakening of many unwelcome creatures, namely alligators and snakes.  However, the beauty of blossoming azaleas, fragrant jasmine and wisteria, and bright green bursts of leaves push these minor inconveniences by the wayside.

This year in particular, I have been greeted each day by colorful surprises dotting our rustic roads:   

 
Johns Island, SC

Johns Island, SC

 
Azalea, Hampton Plantation

Azalea, Hampton Plantation

Wisteria, Johns Island

Wisteria, Johns Island

 
 
Spring has a beauty of its own which we would not exchange for that of summer.
— Henry David Thoreau, March 23, 1859, in his journal
 
 

Around this time of year, everything in the late afternoon takes on a hazy, golden glow.  The light filters through newly formed leaves turning rustic farms into charming retreats.  Weeks ago, what was just a haunted barn standing in a bleak, grey landscape now becomes an enchanting playground....the red wood siding contrasting beautifully with its surroundings.  Dirt lanes, peaceful creeks, and moss-covered fences highlight the joys of simple, country living. 

 
 

Soon, our mild temperatures will give way to thick, humid afternoons.  Strolls through azalea-lined lanes will be replaced by long walks on the beach.  And cool, quiet nights, will yield to steamy evenings filled with the melodious conversations of crickets and frogs.  Until then, with a new-found appreciation for spring, I will enjoy the abundant, colorful April days that I am lucky to experience in the Lowcountry.

3x5 Challenge

Within the art community, the latest craze on Facebook is the 3x5 Challenge.  After being nominated, an artist shares three photographs/works of art for five days.  Last week, my friend, Kamran, named me in the challenge.  (Check out his art!  He's amazing!)

Here are the 15 images I shared over the week:

DAY ONE:

Read about the ice storm and see more photos here.

DAY TWO:

L to R: Seabrook, SC / Bohicket Marina, Johns Island, SC / Looking at Johns Island from Wadmalaw Island, SC

DAY THREE:

Angel Oak, Johns Island, SC / Ice House, Botany Bay, Edisto Island, SC / Charlestowne Landing, Charleston, SC

DAY FOUR:

Johns Island, SC / Hampton Plantation, McClellanville, SC / Bulow Landing, Ravenel, SC

DAY FIVE:

Live Oak with infrared filter, Charlestowne Landing, SC / Dixie Plantation, Hollywood, SC / Pisgah Forest, Brevard, NC

I loved this challenge!  It forced me to share a lot of personal images in a short amount of time.  Thankfully, they were met with a warm reception and positive feedback.  I am grateful to all of the supportive people in my life.  Mahalo nui loa. :)

Hampton Plantation

Whether you have traveled to Charleston or have an interest in early United States history, it is likely that you have heard of the Horrys, Pinckneys, and Rutledges.  The latter names appear on such documents as the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  They also interrelate at Hampton Plantation.  Now a state historic site, Hampton passed through the Horry-Pinckney-Rutledge line from the 1700s until the 1970s, when it was sold to SC.  The plantation house, a Georgian mansion, was carefully restored prior to the sale.  Visitors can tour the home and walk the vast acreage of the property.   

Below are images of the house and grounds including a small family cemetery.

 
 

While steeped in Colonial and Antebellum history, the chapter of Hampton's story that interested me greatly was its last.  The final resident of the estate was Archibald Rutledge (1883-1973), first poet laureate of South Carolina.  I discovered his writing shortly after moving to the Lowcountry and was instantly impressed with his lyrical recollections and observances.  Rutledge spent his boyhood at Hampton, however, many of his adult years were passed while studying and teaching in the north.  Upon his retirement, he returned to his homestead.  With the help of his beloved African American comrades, Rutledge restored Hampton Plantation to its former glory.  He detailed the process in his book, Home on the River.

 

George Washington was a visitor to the plantation during his presidency.  It is rumored that the homeowners were concerned that the oak tree in front of the mansion was blocking the newly constructed portico.  During his stay, the lady of the house asked the President for his opinion on the matter.  He urged her to leave the tree where it stood.  Since then, it has affectionately been called the George Washington Oak.
(Image captured with an infrared filter.  Click on photo to view larger)

 

My favorite of Archibald Rutledge's works (though I confess I've only read a handful) is Life's Extras.  It is a book of thoughts and meditations that establishes a deep connection between nature and spirituality.  It describes some things, like shelter and water, to be necessities; while others, such as sunsets, stars, and colors, to be life's extras.  I can relate to this philosophy as I view the world through a similar lens.

I find that physical and mental activities are necessities for any living creature.  For me, the best place to exercise the mind and the body is in the forest.  Walks in the woods help me clear my head, reconnect with nature, and find inner balance.  To feel spiritually revived, I am reliant upon life's extras, for those are the elements that impart the most profound effects.  Sunshine filtering through tree branches...a back-lit leaf illuminated in a soft halo... a babbling stream flowing over roots and rocks...the swooping shadows of an overhead bird cast upon the forest's floor.  Though simply natural occurrences, to me these are sensory poems which invigorate the soul.  

Luckily, at Hampton, there are plenty of paths that wind through the forest and along the Santee River.  On my last visit, I took one such stroll through the wooded sanctuary.  The following are photographs from the day:

A cypress root in swampy water.  It reminds me of floating on my back in a refreshing pool on a summer's day.

A cypress root in swampy water.  It reminds me of floating on my back in a refreshing pool on a summer's day.

Cypress swamp.

Cypress swamp.

 
 
A babbling brook.

A babbling brook.

An illuminated sapling.

An illuminated sapling.

Recommendations:

  • If you're in the Charleston area, drive out to Hampton Plantation.  The grounds are free!
  • Take the home tour.  I have not yet had the opportunity to experience it as it was not offered on the days I visited.  Check the SC State Park website for times.
  • Stand under the vast canopy of the George Washington Oak
  • Take a stroll to the cemetery to pay your respects to Archibald Rutledge
  • Lose yourself on an enchanting walk through the woods
  • For an extra special experience, read Life's Extras and/or Home by the River by Archibald Rutledge prior to your visit