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.

Forgotten Landscapes

There is something romantically haunting about the South.  Large, twisty ancient oaks arc over roadways.  Wispy Spanish moss creeps down from their branches, swaying like ghosts in the breeze.   The region's tumultuous past only lengthens the shadow cast upon its landscape.  Harmonious romantic notions stem from books and films that retell tales of gallant gentlemen and their ladies fair (yes, I'm referencing Gone with the Wind).  An abundance of abandoned buildings littered throughout the Lowcountry emphasizes these themes.  Perhaps they are part of rural America's culture.  Though, in the cornfields of Illinois, I do not remember seeing such structures.  Nevertheless they are part of Southern life.  

Somehow, their presence never seems frightening or eerie.  When I stumble upon these forgotten fortresses, I feel the same sense of calm and mystery that tends to overcome me at cemeteries.  More than anything, abandoned buildings pique my curiosity.  I wonder what led them to such a fate.  Some have logical explanations, like the boat below which was transplanted when land became sea during Hurricane Hugo.  Once the water receded, the Lil Bounty, and many other vessels, remained permanently beached.  

 
Lil Bounty on Wadmalaw Island

Lil Bounty on Wadmalaw Island

 

Other buildings have likely been left behind due to economic hardships or deaths.  I find irony in how quickly nature begins to take over abandoned structures.  I imagine what the parcel looked like prior to man deciding to construct a building upon it.  Perhaps it was a meadow with wildflowers and grasses growing tall.  Or it had a widespread tree shading the earth below.  A looming, dark forest full of fragrant pines might have been ferociously cleared to make room for a house or gas station.  And now, after man has finished his need for the space, nature returns to reclaim its stake.  Weeds and tree branches slowly creep up camouflaging bricks, siding, and window panes. 

 
 
Sunset Motel in Walterboro, SC

Sunset Motel in Walterboro, SC

The structures above were all photographed from the road.  While I noticed this church from the same vantage point, I felt compelled to take a closer look.  I can explain away the states of the various buildings above.  However, the church still puzzles me.  Due to the instability of the structure, I didn't dare go inside.  However, from its doorway I saw a centrally placed, back-lit piano.  It seemed to be suffering from the same deterioration as its surroundings.  I can understand that the congregation may have run out of money and thus abandoned the building, but why leave the piano?  My imagination (as it often tends to) got the best of me leading me to wonder if, under a sliver of a palmetto moon, a passing visitor hears the haunting notes of piano music ringing out from the glass-less windows... 

 
 
 
 

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!