Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Trees at Beaufort


If you drive around the islands off the coast of Beaufort at low tide, you’ll see more mud in a day than most people see in a lifetime. At high tide, these muddy flats turn into shallow lakes. This constant movement of water into and out of these expanses —which defines many an island—gives the impression that the ocean itself breathes.

Sometimes spartina grass grows in such a consistent pattern you can look across a vista of marshes and swear you’re looking at a field of grain. In the state of South Carolina, only Charleston County, which is a larger county, has more marshes than Beaufort.

I spent October watching tides and working on a manuscript. It’s become obvious to me that I can make the most sustainable progress in writing by secluding myself. And I’ve just about completed a first draft of the sequel to my three previous antebellum novels.

On the day before I returned to Columbia and my real life, I drove around and took photos.

Trees, especially live oaks with streams of gray moss whiffling in the breeze, are known to live 500-600 years, which means some of the old ones were around for the Revolutionary War, antebellum cotton plantations, and the Civil war. If only they could tell us what they’ve lived through.

I can’t believe how many photos I took of roads. Not highways. Dirt-track roads with grass growing in the alley. 

Obviously you can only go about 30 miles per hour without rattling your teeth, but these roads are one reason I love this area.

And then there are the marshes.

Some time ago when I was driving to Tombee Plantation, I discovered a small family graveyard overgrown by trees and shrubs. Since I was last there, the shrubs have been cut away, and you can see the headstones.

Without a sandy beach, the town has been saved from the frenzy of wholesale tourists. There are so many things to like about Beaufort. More than Bay Street with its restaurants and art galleries. Between the commercial street and the river is a landscaped park with swings, picnic tables, and paths. I like to sit in one of the swings and watch the sea traffic on the river. Smell the water. Feel the breeze.

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