An Endless Love Affair

 

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Looking from Rockville over to Seabrook

 

You would think after thirty-one years here in the South Carolina Lowcountry I would take foregranted my surroundings. When you tend to live somewhere it is typical to ignore the area offerings such as museums unless you have company. I see vistas of marsh, river, and ocean on a daily basis and I adore those views, they instantly calm me and make me thankful for getting to live in this beautiful place.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to ride with friends out to a house in Rockville, which is still a pristine village much like it was back in the 1800’s when this particular house was built. I could easily imagine a life here away from traffic and our crazy suburban sprawl. If only I was retired and didn’t have to think about the practical things such as commuting to work!

The house built in 1829 was loaded with character and a gem by itself, but it was the water views that took my breath away. I never tire of looking across the water and marsh. I often wonder if I had this view from my back porch, would I be too distracted to write or would I just find my creative well constantly replenished?

I’m not sure but I would be more than willing to find out. I think I might have to write a book where a lucky character will get to live in this charming house with this magical view and I can live vicariously through them.

I truly hope that when I’m one-hundred and eight (the age I am planning on living to) my love affair with the South Carolina Lowcountry will still burn with the same intensity it does today. Considering that fire has been steady for thirty-one years I can’t imagine it will ever burn out.

Lessons From the Tide

 

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Low tide

 

I was driving down Longpoint Road today which crosses the marsh in several spots. It was high tide and the water encroached on the road causing the cars to spray water up onto each other and it got me thinking how the ebb and flow of the tide is much like the ebb and flow of time, history, and our personal lives.

When the tide is high we float and flow, think the roaring 20’s, record stock markets and reaching pinnacles in our careers. Those moments are great but hold on to your hat, the tide will turn and ebb, taking you down to the mud and reveal what lies beneath, think The Depression, the recession and days where nothing seems to go right.

While we may crave the high tide moments, I think we grow more from the low tide moments. When we are down to the mud, we can see what’s buried there with us. We see what needs to be fixed or addressed, but we also find nuggets of wisdom and treasures to carry with us as we rise again, think oysters and artifacts.

The biggest takeaway for me from this musing on the tide was it will always turn around. Enjoy the high points while they last, but don’t expect life to stay there. Learn all you can during the low points and know that if you hang on things will head back up.

I love this South Carolina Lowcountry life, I find inspiration every day from this beautiful place. At the moment I think I’m somewhere between low and high tide, I have learned I can’t turn it until it’s good and ready, but I can roll along with it and make the best of whatever stage it has me in.

Awaiting Irma’s Impact

 

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water supply including the fur babies

School has been canceled and I gratefully slept in this morning. For over a week Irma has been clamoring for my attention and I began by evaluating what I had in my hurricane supply kit and what needed to be replaced or supplemented. As she maintained her ferocity I made contact with my go to place in the upstate to make sure the fur babies and I would be welcome. I made a list of the things I would need to pack to take with and what I would need to to do in the house and yard, some of which is on the agenda today,

On Social media, people are already grumbling about the fact we didn’t have school today, and while I might have preferred working a least a half day today so it would be one less day to make up, I again am grateful for the time to secure the classroom yesterday afternoon and have a two day window to take care of the house, yard and evacuate if needed.

We are still twenty-four to thirty-six hours for knowing the actual impacts to expect, but the track last night and this morning indicate my evacuation place will get the same or possibly more impacts than the lowcountry. So I will press on with prep and be glad to be busy and not glued to the TV for every minor shift in track and wind. A decision to leave will have to be made by Sunday morning, regardless the house and yard will need to be prepared.

Having lived in the lowcountry for thirty-one years I am now a hurricane veteran, my first being the devastating Hugo in 1989. I was a victim of the evacuation debacle of Floyd, had a crazy diverted route home from Mathew and have hunkered down at home for others. So I know it is better to be over-prepared and overly cautious with things like canceling school. Storms will do what they do, no matter what science tells meteorologists with all their models. A last minute jog either direction or a sudden slowing down or speeding up is always a possibility and can drastically change the circumstances for impact.

By Tuesday the tale of Irma in the lowcountry will be written and we will know what the impact is. Somehow I don’t believe it will be as life altering as Hugo. Those of us who lived here for Hugo describe life in terms of before and after Hugo, much like the country does for 9/11. The images of trees snapped like toothpicks, the crumpled metal roof of the house I lived in balled up like a tissue tossed on the street, the water mark on the wall about as tall as me and the coating of pluff mud on most of my belongings are still as vivid today as twenty-eight years ago. I imagine Texas will view life that way with Harvey being the divide in time.

Hugo taught me one thing that has stayed with me, things are just things. If I have my family, including the fur babies and we are safe and healthy, then I have everything I need. Houses and stuff can be replaced, pictures are a sad loss, but the losing of them doesn’t erase memories. So if you are in the path of Irma it may impact your life with inconveniences and problems but as long as you have your life and those of your loved ones, you are blessed beyond measure.

 

 

Letters Impactful as Words

 

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Just a few of my monogrammed items

A very funny post has been circulating among my friends and I am sure a much wider audience poking a little fun at the Southern girl’s penchant for monogramming. It has a video of a very romantic proposal and the woman begins to imagine what her new monogram will look like, only to realize it will, unfortunately, spell out the word DIE.  So naturally, the bride to be, declines and runs for the hills.

I would never walk away from true love over a monogram, but I might decide to become a singular letter girl. This entertaining post got me thinking about monograms and letters in general and how they can be powerful even when they don’t actually spell a word.

For example, with a last name that begins with A, I quickly realized in school I was bound to be first on the class list most years. I always felt sorry for the Q-Z crowd. As the shortie kid who was always last in the class picture line-up, it was nice to know I would be first in some things.

License plates are another place those three ubiquitous letters that some computer randomly selects can be a happy accident or an unfortunate one. One set of plates I had here in South Carolina began with the letters BTK. During that time the news about the BTK killer our in the Midwest was all over the news and it really bothered me to have those letters on the back of my car. My next set was not much better, DRK. Really!? I am not a negative or sinister person. It’s almost enough to make a girl open up her monogrammed wallet for vanity plates.

Acronyms for organizations or programs can also be unfortunate. In my primary field of education, this happens all the time.  Right now we have a data reporting requirement called our SLO’s (we say SLOW) It is a time-consuming data entry process done three times a year. We also had a student assessment program a while back called, SCRAPI (we called it scrappy and the trainer was not amused).  There are some good ones out there, GRITS, Girls raised in the South for example.

I have written several posts over the years about monograms and I am unashamed of my enjoyment in them. Somehow a monogram elevates an object, plus it makes it easy to keep track of your stuff. So poke all the fun you want, I will be happy to respond on my engraved note cards.

 

Embracing The Coyote

 

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The patch covering up my loggerhead turtles on my student seat sacks for our new school. The Design is by Melissa Gaddy, very talented owner of Marsh Grass Monogramming.

 

Almost 13 years ago, my school was over crowded and we split by grades, K-2 moving into our own school with the cute mascot of Loggerhead turtle. Living in the South Carolina Lowcountry with many of our communities championing the sea turtles, it was a natural fit and I loved it.

Presently these two split schools have become overcrowded again, a consequence of living in paradise and having the likes of Conde Nast declare you the top destination. So the new split brings prek-5 back under one roof in the new Carolina Park Elementary and our new mascot is the Coyote.

It was bittersweet to leave the school I thought I was going to retire from. I miss those left behind, but so grateful for the ones taking the journey with me. I miss the idea of a school focused on the primary grades, but love that I will see former students grow and will have older kids to do collaborative projects with for my students.

One thing I have been resisting is the idea of a Coyote over a turtle. But when the color scheme of blue, green and gray was introduced and the very talented Melissa Gaddy of Marsh Grass Monogramming made the coyote more cute than fierce, I began to warm to the idea.

Yesterday I got to take a tour of the new building with fellow faculty and staff. I was blown away by the natural light and the finishes. I am in love with the storage that is built into the rooms. Here I am a 25 year veteran of teaching and I feel giddy like a new teacher.

I have approximately 4 to 6 years to cap off my educational career before I turn to writing full-time. I am truly thrilled to have such a beautiful place to pass those years. While I will always be more of a fan of the beach and native creatures that make the Lowcountry their habitat. I might just find I enjoy howling at that palmetto moon too.

A Jewel In a City of Treasures

 

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A view of Randolph Hall under the Oaks by the Cistern

Almost thirty-one years ago my parents dropped me off to begin my college adventure on this beautiful and historic campus. The College of Charleston just received the distinction of the prettiest college campus, but the truth is the grounds and buildings have been picturesque for decades.

It was the seductive beauty of brick pathways, gaslight lamps, long reaching oaks with swaying Spanish moss and a collection of flowering and evergreen specimens that was too intoxicating for me to resist. I felt instantly as if I knew it, somehow it was a place I could call home.

The College campus feels more like a park in the heart of the city. I can’t even imagine the hours the horticultural team logs to keep it shining in all seasons. There are many places to stop and sit and soak in the scenery. The ironwork gates around the campus are works of art and the stately Randolph Hall reminds the visitor that the College history is woven into the history of the city and this nation.

More important than all this visual beauty is the beautiful soul this institution has. As a student, I felt connected to my fellow students, professors, and even the administration. Thirty years ago, the College was about half the population it is today, but I hope the current students feel they are part of a family like I did. Some of my best friends have come from those years.

I love learning and the College was the ideal environment to soak it in. With only one exception in my four-year degree and then a year and a half spent getting my masters, my professors were passionate about their subjects and really cared about my success in learning the material.

So yes the College of Charleston is easily the prettiest college campus but what makes it truly beautiful is the people and the commitment to education that focuses in on the value of learning and produces graduates that have the critical thinking skills to be successful in whatever field they choose.

 

If you cross the line, tap the roof!

 

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Tapping the roof at the South Carolina/North Carolina Border

A number of years ago I traveled with some of my Charleston friends to Sewanee, where two of our newly wedded friends were attending the Episcopal seminary. It was a memorable trip for a variety of reasons.

For one, road tripping with friends is always an adventure and it was enjoyable sharing the journey. It was a glorious fall weekend and the scenery was spectacular. We also attended a soul stirring service on campus. But the most memorable part of the trip was learning about a custom practiced by those who travel to and from Sewanee. When you leave campus, you tap the roof to summon your guardian angel to travel with you. The idea is that Sewanee is a little piece of heaven so when there you are protected, but out in the big wide world, a little extra protection is needed.

This struck me as a charming tradition and I adopted it as a personal custom when I travel. Now I suppose to some this may mark me as eccentric, but I’m okay with that. Aren’t we all eccentric to some degree? Plus writers should be even more so. Of course I don’t live on the hallowed ground of Sewanee, but I do live in the hallowed state of South Carolina. The lowcountry has a beauty I would equate with Eden, and the people of South Carolina have loving, beautiful souls, just look at how we handled the Mother Emanuel shooting. We are not a perfect people and there are ugly things in our past, but we continue to grow and improve by loving our fellow citizens.

Okay, you know I love South Carolina, it is my little piece of heaven on earth. So, back to my personal custom. When I leave South Carolina, at the border in the car, or as the plane takes off, I make the sign of the cross and tap the roof. I suppose on the plane I really tap the underside of the storage compartment, but that will have to suffice, I don’t mind being eccentric, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m crazy by standing up on an airplane and jumping up to tap the roof.

My guardian angel safely on-board, I roam away from home with some peace of mind. I also have a return tradition. When I re-enter South Carolina, I kiss my finger tips and tap the roof, telling my guardian angel thank you and take a break, we are home.

 

Office Hours

 

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My work area

One of the advantages of living in the South Carolina lowcountry is the proximity of the beach and each season I seek the sand and surf for different purposes. For example, in the winter I love to walk, think, process, and reflect. In the summer I set up my office hours.

A writer never really takes time off, your brain is always contemplating stories and characters, consiously or subconciously. Teachers on the other hand have what some consider the gift of summer, but what teachers know to be comp time for the many hours we work beyond our contracted hours. As both an educator and a writer, I spend a lot of hours working. That could be teaching, private tutoring or my author life and I enjoy it. Too much down time and I get a little antsy. Too little and I crash and burn and that what has me savoring this summer.

I have learned from past summers, if I schedule too many tutoring students, I don’t feel rested for the next school year. Plus, as my writing career continues to grow it needs more of my work time. I also know my time at the beach is non-negotiable, it is a must.

See beach time is more than relaxing, it is time set aside to read without distraction. If you read anything touting advice for writers, a given on the list is to be an avid reader. I have been a devourer of books before I began school and always have a stack calling my name.

During a typical school year I manage to read a book or two a month but in the summers I can read several books in a week. To keep that pace, my office hours on the sand are a committment to reading. The average person might think I’m loafing, but I can clearly make the case that I’m working dillegently. At least that is my story and I am sticking to it!

So with my toes in the sand, skin buffeted by the breeze and ears filled with the waves lullaby, I can spend several hours soaking up the beach and the literature on my knee. These are office hours I can enthusiastically fill. From one of my favorite Cole Porter songs, “Nice, gig if you can get it.”

 

My Cheating Heart

 

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View from the Magnolia Cafe and Bakery in Beaufort, SC across to Lady’s Island.

I have made no secret about my love for the South Carolina lowcountry and the Charleston area in particular. I came of age here, I have loved, lost, lived with this place the backdrop. It is permanently etched on my heart, the saltwater, and the pluff mud course through my veins, I think my very soul would shrivel if I had to leave here forever.

But, I have a confession to make. I’ve begun an affair with a little town down the coast. Beaufort is also part of the magical lowcountry. The Port Royal Sound is captivating and the town itself is how our area was long ago, before mass growth.

It’s a walkable town. Residential is close to the commercial areas and the small annex campus of USC. Beaufort is big on charm and the arts. It has an intellectual and literary side that is palpable, and I’m drawn to know more. It is not crowded or pretentious. It is not in a hurry, Beaufort is a comfortable chair on a breezy porch. It is the gardenia in the garden, inviting you to stop and soak it in.

Yes, I have fallen hard. I have fantasies about buying a little cottage where I could live part-time, I don’t think I could bear to leave Charleston altogether. Fortunately for me, part of the book I’m finishing and most of the book next on my writing to-do list take place in that siren on the Port Royal Sound. I plan to make many repeat trips, you know. . . for research.

I hope I won’t make Charleston jealous and I hope she understands. She truly is my first love and will always be. I’ve just discovered this heart is big enough for two.

 

Lowcountry Magic

 

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Just another stunning lowcountry vista

To say that I have a love affair with the South Carolina lowcountry hardly describes how I feel about this place I call home. I was just working on a chapter in book three of my lowcountry home series and writing a description of this love brought tears to my eyes.

I’m not sure if many people would call this a blessing, but we are under a severe weather threat today and all after-school activities were canceled, including our faculty meeting, which left me free to get home this afternoon. Not wanting to fritter away this rare gift of extra time, I threw a load of laundry in then settled in to write. I have taken a few breaks to vacuum a few rooms, but I am very satisfied with the amount and quality of writing I have wrung from myself.

I wrote a scene with Lizzie walking along the waterfront in Beaufort. She is soaking in the vista and her senses are overcome by the views and the pluff mud at low tide. I could close my eyes and see, smell and hear what makes the lowcountry the lowcountry in my mind and my heart sang with joy.

The lowcountry is a tapestry of colors and textures to please the eye. The aroma of pluff mud is as pleasing to me as fresh baked bread or a magnolia blossom. I would swear the brackish water in this place where the rivers meet the sea courses through my veins along with my blood. I like to think it is the same for my character Lizzie.

I would hazard a guess that a regular dose of a marsh view or a walk along our beaches is as effective on blood pressure as any pharmaceutical on the market. Every day on my commute to work I get to see the marsh and the river. In the morning, these vistas fill my heart with joy. In the evening, I find it calms my mind and transitions me out of teacher mode before I get home.

Yes, I love the lowcountry with my heart and soul. The magic of this place has been woven so intricately into the tapestry of my life, it feels as if I would unravel if I tried to remove it. Not that I have any desire to do so. What a muse for a writer. What a place to call home.