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. :)

Low Visibility, Endless Possibility

Foggy days are the ballads of the weather world.  They make me move slower, think deeper, and feel more.  Living among waterways, ponds, and the ocean, these mystical fronts are not out of the ordinary, especially in the colder months.  Last winter, the Lowcountry was graced with a particularly foggy day following an Atlantic storm.  My mom and I decided to walk the beach to see if the rough waters had deposited any oceanic treasures.  (Earlier in the year, the day after a particularly vicious meteorological disturbance, we found an abundance of perfectly intact conch shells littering the sands.)  Unfortunately, the limited debris tossed upon the shore this winter's day was of the man-made variety.  Specifically, a lone piece of multicolored driftwood sat beached upon the sand.  

 
Path to Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, SC

Path to Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, SC

 
Driftwood washed ashore on a foggy morning at Kiawah.

Driftwood washed ashore on a foggy morning at Kiawah.

Driftwood close-up.

Driftwood close-up.

That piece of wood illustrated one of my favorite features of fog: its mysterious nature.  The driftwood lay there silently asking countless unanswered questions.  I wondered where this wood began its oceanic journey?  How did it acquire its layers of aqua, brick red, mossy green, and carnation pink?  To whom and to what did it once belong?  A boat?  A dock?  A barn?  And where were its companion pieces?  Of course, upon discovery of such a scrap on a sunny day, I might have asked myself the same questions.  Yet, there was something about the fog that heightened my inquisitive nature. 

 
 
I really love fog. It hides you from the world and the world from you. You feel that everything has changed, and nothing is what it seemed to be. No one can find or touch you any more. Its the foghorn I hate. It won’t let you alone. It keeps reminding you, and warning you, and calling you back.
— Eugene O'Neill, Long Day's Journey Into Night
 
Bridge at Kiawah Island.

Bridge at Kiawah Island.

 

In the fog-filled wintry weeks ahead, I look forward to discovering new, intriguing curiosities.  Until then, I'll find myself viewing these photographs with the same nostalgia as listening to a memorable ballad on repeat...

Botany Bay: The Beach

Botany Bay Plantation is not your typical tourist attraction.  Located on Edisto Island along the Atlantic Ocean, this Wildlife Management area features a maritime forest, historical structures, a picnic pond, salt marshes, and a shell-filled beach.  It also happens to be the filming location of the Gullah village/wedding scene in The Patriot.  

Your first taste of natural beauty comes as you thump down dusty Botany Bay Road.  Sun filters through the dense trees lining each side of the dirt lane.  Spanish moss hauntingly drips down from the branches above, like ghosts inviting you to discover this secret sanctuary.  As you slowly approach the visitor station, you already feel transported to a primitive world.  

 
Botany Bay Road

Botany Bay Road

 

The park volunteer gives you an interpretive driving map that provides informative tidbits about the sites around the Plantation.  Although marked as the last stop on the tour, many people choose to visit the ocean first.  After a short walk on a path through the wetlands, you approach the water's edge.  Aptly referred to as a boneyard beach, this particular sandy strip is littered with uprooted trees and beheaded palms; a result of beach erosion.  

 
Boneyard Beach

Boneyard Beach

 

Nature and man work side-by-side to shape artistic displays.  Weathered roots and branches create ever-changing driftwood sculptures.  An abundance of seashells provide ornamentation for pruned palms.  At high tide, the sparkling blue sea encloses the withering trees.  It makes one imagine that a fantastical Atlantis lies just below the water's surface.

Naturally created driftwood sculptures

Naturally created driftwood sculptures

The sea-shore is a sort of neutral ground, a most advantageous point from which to contemplate this world.
— Henry David Thoreau
 
Nature creating driftwood sculptures.

Nature creating driftwood sculptures.

 

Stay tuned for the next installment where I'll explore Botany Bay's historical structures and woodlands.

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

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!)

Autumn in Vermont

From the time I was a child, I dreamed of experiencing autumn in New England. This vision was influenced by film and literature, specifically Baby Boom, Little Women, Mermaids, Hocus Pocus, Walden, and Gilmore Girls.   I imagined being enveloped in a world of oranges, golds, and reds dotted with colonial architecture and white picket fences.  The wait was over as this year my mom and I embarked on a 2,500-mile road trip, beginning in SC and traveling throughout each New England state.  

We spent our first full day touring Vermont.  We started at the Massachusetts border, drove up to Rutland, and, around dusk, made our way to Concord, NH for the night.  As evidenced below, I fell in love with Bennington, VT.  So, without further ado, I share with you some of my favorite moments from The Green Mountain State:

View from Bennington Monument looking south.

View from Bennington Monument looking south.

View from Bennington Monument looking west.

View from Bennington Monument looking west.

Below is a gallery of photographs taken near/in the First Congregational Church of Bennington.  Across the street stands the Walloomsac Inn.  The images I've gathered are from an addition to the building.  The original portion of the structure dates back to 1771.  It served as a tavern and inn for centuries, hosting such visitors as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.  It is now a private residence and rumored to be haunted.  It's curious that this menacing structure neighbors such a luminous one.  (Roll over images to read captions)

Autumn leaves.  I love the crunch, the smell, and the color.  I wish we had a color change in the Lowcountry...

Autumn leaves.  I love the crunch, the smell, and the color.  I wish we had a color change in the Lowcountry...

 
Farm reflections on a rustic road in VT.

Farm reflections on a rustic road in VT.

 
A farm along Route 7 in Vermont.

A farm along Route 7 in Vermont.

Recommendations:

  • Bennington, VT (obviously) including First Congregational Church of Bennington, Bennington Monument & gift shop, and Bennington Potters
  • Turning off onto rustic roads to enjoy the countryside
  • The Barley House Restaurant in Concord, NH---their curry beer battered fish 'n chips are delicious!

My other two favorites: Maine & Massachusetts...coming soon!