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.

Thor-eau-Lantern

I have always enjoyed carving pumpkins.  In every Halloween home video, I'd be standing alongside my brothers happily scooping guts and separating seeds, all while chomping on a wad of gum.  It's been eight years, though, since I handled my orange and black knife set.  My last piece was a tribute to the Chicago Bears.  It was quite a challenge because, in addition to its detailed design, I carved only half-way into the flesh.  After three hours of work, I was left with an awesome pumpkin, a severely cramped hand, and no desire to ever sculpt another jack-o-lantern.  

I'm not sure if I was getting pumpkin out of my brother's ear or if I was giving him a pumpkin wet willie.  Either way, we were having fun!

I'm not sure if I was getting pumpkin out of my brother's ear or if I was giving him a pumpkin wet willie.  Either way, we were having fun!

Chicago Bears pumpkin, 2006

Chicago Bears pumpkin, 2006

I was struck with renewed inspiration and enthusiasm a few weeks ago, while browsing through a Martha Stewart Halloween magazine.  An article featured a collection of pumpkins carved with linoleum cutters.  What an ingenious tool for such a task!  I knew that my carving hiatus was to end; it was time for me to dust off my 10th-grade printmaking skills, and head to the craft store and pumpkin patch.

For my subject, I drew inspiration from my recent trip to Concord, MA.  Browsing through Thoreau quotes, I found the following:  "I would rather sit on a pumpkin & have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion."  After reading this, I knew what, or shall I say, who I wished to carve.

Below are all of the tools I used in my process (with the exception of tracing paper and a pen). 

From L to R: a pumpkin, inspirational photo of Thoreau, carving tools, a stylus from Nintendo DS, a Speedball linoleum cutter kit, and Martha Stewart transfer paper

From L to R: a pumpkin, inspirational photo of Thoreau, carving tools, a stylus from Nintendo DS, a Speedball linoleum cutter kit, and Martha Stewart transfer paper

I traced the original image of Thoreau with a pen.  Rather than puncturing the pattern into the pumpkin, I used Martha Stewart transfer paper (basically carbon copy).  It worked wonderfully!  I layered my tracing over the transfer paper onto the pumpkin.  Using a stylus (from my Nintendo DS), I retraced my drawing.  It left a precise, light grey guide for carving.

(click on the photos below to see them full-screen)

The final project including the hand-calligraphed quote:

 
 

Have a Thoreau-ly enjoyable Halloween!!

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!)