Saturday, February 2, 2013
The Museum of Americana
My thanks to The Museum of Americana, which has accepted and published in its February issue my poem “Monday Morning Service.” The Museum of Americana is a literary review and can be found at http://themuseumofamericana.wordpress.com.
I wrote this poem a number of years ago while vacationing at one of the barrier islands off the coast of South Carolina, don’t remember which one. My husband and I had won the trip at a school fundraiser and were staying at a resort that provided bicycles. On a weekday afternoon I took off on a bike and rode the paved roads out of the resort and quickly found myself coping with sandy ruts in an area sparsely settled with small frame houses. Many gray bearded trees grew about the road as well as in the yards, where you might see an old electric stove, or part of a piano, or just about any kind of automotive part, in particular used tires. On the porches, you might see reserve mattresses or fairly upholstered chairs that had been exposed to the weather.
I passed an unoccupied church that literally sat in the sand on the side of the road. Its drained appearance—it was made of concrete blocks and cement and was painted an off-concrete color—gave it an air of desolation. A grand old live oak grew so close its roots surely undergirded the pulpit floor, and beneath the tree sat a man on what had been the front seat of a 1960s automobile. I say 1960 because the plank-like seat could easily accommodate three people.
I was feeling misplaced on my shiny bicycle, but the man seemed to be napping, which made more sense than biking given the heat of the day. The silence got into my bones. An enduring silence that brought to mind the kind of peace that comes when you know you have a place in the world and a reason for being here.
After I rode back to the cultivated lawns and shrubbery of the resort, I wrote “Monday Morning Service.”
THINKING ABOUT BEACHES
Though Carolina coastal areas are geographically neighbors, they vary significantly not only economically but in character. Needless to say, beaches take on some of the qualities of the tourists who frequent them.
There’s an island for every vacationer from the richest to the poorest and youngest to oldest. If you have more money than discretion, Hilton Head is a perfect destination. A week in a seven-bedroom house overlooking the Atlantic can be rented for an amount of money a modest person could live on for a year. Needless to say, the views are spectacular, the beaches aren’t crowded, and the houses are “well appointed.” You’ll be tempted to forget your diet in the numerous restaurants where the quality of the food lives up to the price tag.
For the well-heeled, there’s also Isle of Palms just north of Charleston with spacious beaches and big houses. They’re building bigger ones every year. Its added advantage is the proximity of Charleston, a big plus for history buffs as well as the gourmet in your party. Charleston’s restaurants have earned their good reputations.
If you’re more of a family-oriented traveler, Edisto Island has oceanfront homes at less cost. Many people like the fact that it’s just commercial enough to provide several restaurants, a grocery store, a gas station, and the necessary trinkets shop. Similar to Edisto Island but with fewer commercial concerns is Folly Beach.
The young crowd likes Myrtle Beach with its music, parade of cars, motorcycles, and pedestrians. The beach is crowded, loud, and filled with activity. There are enough souvenir shops to entertain you for days, as well as live shows, theater, and music revues. Every year Myrtle Beach awards a medal to the best Elvis impersonator and sponsors a shagging contest, though its pavilion has become a victim of time. And if you’re a golfer, you can try to improve your score on a different course every day.
There are also quiet beaches, usually visited by old-timers who know the area better than travel agents. Pawley’s Island, one of the smallest islands, doesn’t have a grocery store or restaurant, but the homes and beaches are wonderful. It’s loved because it’s quiet.
If you’ve already spent your vacation money on a new car and still want to go somewhere, camp out on the beach at Edisto Island. Drive to the Atlantic Ocean and turn north, away from the family houses, and you’ll enter the campground, which is literally on the beach. As you get comfortable in your sleeping bag, you’ll be soothed by ocean breezes and the roar of waves .
Several coastal towns without beaches attract visitors with their history, charm, and art. I’m thinking of Beaufort and Georgetown, two of my favorite places. And of course, there’s Charleston. Thriving artists live in these cities, and when you walk along the main street, you’ll see a number of art galleries selling their work.
There are many more destinations along the SC coast, each with its own fan club. A Richmond friend of mine goes to Kiawah Island every summer. Murrells Inlet has a reputation for great seafood. Hunting Island is mostly a state park, but if you can reserve one of their cabins, you can do better than I can. They’re always booked up. Harbor Island is a gated resort where you can rent condos. Its beach is on the tranquil waters of St. Helena Sound. Among the other interesting places to visit are Surfside Beach, Sullivan’s Island, Garden City, Dewees Island, and Seabrook.