Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Sunshine State, and the Political Clouds

I've been away for a few days, in Florida visiting my mom on the occasion of her 90th birthday.
Her birthday was earlier in January but I think when it is your 90th you have good reason to celebrate for the whole month!  
We picked a neat restaurant that is in an old grocery store/railroad station/post office/telegraph office/trading post, circa 1894.  When  the post office closed, it was still the smallest post office in nation.  
We sat in this corner, the post office corner.  The only thing that has changed is a mural on the wall behind us depicting the postmaster.  Grant, Florida was just a tiny settlement of fishermen and trappers and their families.  Their mail went out from a bag hanging on a post that someone in the train reached out with a hook and grabbed as the train went by.  It was quickly replaced it with a bag of incoming mail.  
This photo is a painting from the restaurant as it was too dark to take a photo when we were there.  It was fun and lived up to its slogan -- The Best Pig Roast on the East Coast.  

📌 📌 📌 📌 📌 📌 

It was nice to have a small break from the news and concentrate on family for a few days.  But it is impossible to ignore what is happening for long and impossible not to be affected with the sadness and fear.  
The faces of the Syrian refugees on the news who have gone through so much to stand on the brink of immigration, now returned to limbo ... well, they are just heartbreaking.  
It brings to mind this quote that hangs in our National Holocaust Museum:


We can't stand back.  We have to speak out. What seems to be happening

 just can't happen in our country.

I was very involved in Minnesota with refugees, first the Hmong who came from Vietnam in the 80s when I taught them English at night, helped them fill out forms, set up bank accounts, apply for jobs, and anything else to help them understand the confusing culture they found themselves in.  In the early 2000s it was the Somali families sponsored by my church and town where I participated in the same kind of assistance.  

Then, for the most part, the families were welcome.  My heart goes out to those recent arrivals who will face the climate of America today where "foreigners" are suspicious, unwelcome, feared, even hated.  My grandsons go to school with little Muslim second graders and up until now a little girl in a headscarf was just another second grader to them.  The policies of the present government will only divide us, stir up more hatred toward America, and increase incidents of terrorism.  Ack.  

This morning we did what we always do when the things get too heavy -- walked the beach.  We were rewarded with sunshine and a pod of dolphins that swam with us, parallel to the beach, breaching so we could see their grace.  

And then when we got home, a Baltimore oriole appeared at our feeder, and this:


The first blossom ever on our lemon tree!  

The lime tree is also covered with buds. 

(They have both been moved into the sunroom as we have had some cold weather.)


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Waccamaw River

The Waccamaw River, one of five rivers that flow into Georgetown's Winyah Bay, begins in the swamps of North Carolina.  The old river city of Conway, SC has a walk that follows the banks through pretty scenery and some of the river's history, 
history that includes Native American camps, Civil War sites, indigo and rice fields and plantations, ferries, steamboat builders, and more.



 The "black" color of the water, really a rich brown, doesn't mean the water is dirty.  It is stained by the tannin from the trees in the swamps it flows through.

Before reliable roads were built, the Waccamaw, along with four other rivers, provided the only transportation for people and goods for the county.  The government built a steamboat works on the river to build the boats which had their paddle wheels on the sides rather than the rear to navigate the bends in the river.


Also along the banks and built out over the water are old warehouses for the crops the steamships were to pick up -- rice, cotton, peanuts, fish, oysters.  The steamships were about 125 feet long and could carry 150 tons of freight.  
Up the bank from this warehouse sits an old peanut warehouse, built in 1900.  It has been minimally restored and the day we were there they were getting ready for a wedding reception inside.  

 Green peanuts from the farms around were stored in the warehouse before being loaded on railroad cars.  Kids selling fresh boiled peanuts for five cents a bag were common on the streets of Conway at harvest time.

At one time the warehouse was also a tobacco warehouse, a lumber warehouse,
 and a plant food factory.
When we finished our walk we were hungry and found this little cafe just up from the river.  
Fish and chips for me and a burger for the writer!


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Standing Together

The "real" Women's March yesterday was in Washington, DC, where planners planned for 2 million and 4.5 million showed up.  But all over the nation, and even around the world, people came together in numbers that surprised everyone to walk together and stand together against injustice and a President with a frightening agenda.  
In Charleston, SC, we feared the rain would keep people home.

We were stunned when, for over an hour, a steady stream of marchers came out of the fog and rain from two directions to join those already gathered in the park.

We watched the 200 originally expected grow 
to "well over" 2000 -- 
 women and men, young and old, babies and children, black, white and brown, Muslim, Christian,
 atheist (their signs said so), Native Americans, LGBT, immigrants.
The theme was "unity, activism, and empowerment" and boy, we needed a dose of hope in the hours following Trump's inauguration and his immediate actions to undermine social security, cripple protection of the environment, increase the cost of affordable housing for the poor, and destroy the Affordable Care Act. 

Some of the diverse issues represented ...


It was good to be part of the comaraderie, hope, and anger for a few hours.  
It was uplifting to see a generation of young men supporting the rights of women, to see people who cared enough to give up their Saturday and stand in the rain.  

When the march was over and all had left the park, we were still in the parking lot eating the lunch we had brought. The roadsides of South Carolina are a cesspool of litter but in the park just vacated by over 2000 people who had stood in the rain -- at lunch time -- for hours, there was not ONE plastic water bottle, not one scrap of litter in the grass.  Not one.  
I'm not sure what that says but it was, for me, the brightest spot in a rainy day.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sunset Lodge

Quiet little Georgetown has a few skletons in its closet. 

One big one is the Sunset Lodge where Madam Hazel Weiss, a former school teacher, and her young girls, hand picked by Hazel from the West Virginia mountains, teamed up with wealthy industrialist and Major League Baseball Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey to provide "services" to the men of South Carolina.  
 About three miles south of town, the brothel did business from 1936 to 1969.  

Hazel's girls, as they were called, were an asset to the economy of Georgetown.  They worked at the Lodge for about six months and while they were here they had plenty of cash to shop at Georgetown stores for clothing, shoes, jewelry, and other nice things for themselves and to send back to their poor families in West Virginia.  One department store had a special buyer/clerk whose job it was to handle Hazel's girls' gowns and negligees and other needs.  

Hazel was discreet about her business but in a town of a few thousand, where most people had known one another for generations, I would imagine the girls would be hard to miss.  Hazel didn't allow them to speak to men on the street or go into town or stores unchaperoned.  Often they were just driven to the door, the store owner came out with merchandise, and they shopped from the car.

Operating an illegal business, Hazel did what she could to keep on the good side of people in town.  She gave generously to Little League baseball, Easter Seals, March of Dimes, helped with Thanksgiving baskets for the poor, and some say that she was instrumental in funding the building project of one of the churches in town.  
Hazel's birthday was October 28 and every year everything was free for Georgetown men on that day.  It is said that Georgetown flower shops stocked extra flowers that week because they would always sell out.  She also closed the Lodge to the public for a week in the spring when the state legislature adjourned and reserved the girls for legislators and judges.  The state legislature meets in Columbia, 125 miles away.  

The Post and Courier of Charleston described Sunset Lodge as "perhaps the most widely known site in S.C., with the exception of Fort Sumter."  Sailors just into port in Charleston would catch a bus up Highway 17 to visit Sunset Lodge and river tug pilots would schedule boat repairs in Georgetown so as to spend time--and money--with Hazel's girls.

Hazel closed Sunset Lodge in 1969 when her health began to fail.  

The Lodge burned down in 1993 but behind the lodge 
some of the little houses 
where the girls provided 
their services still stand.

Since it closed the Sunset Lodge name has been carried on by whatever business occupied the land.  There is now a row of apartments to the right painted bright blue and called Sunset Lodge Apartments.  When we go by I always wonder if the occupants have any idea of the history of the name. 


Friday, January 13, 2017

My War on Plastic

The Biggest Fail!
Bad news for waterways and roadsides.   Michigan was in the news this month when they joined 6 other stars in passing a law banning cities from banning plastic bags and other plastic containers.   Apparently the restaurant lobby in the state pushed the ban through the legislature.  

There are over 200 forward-thinking U.S. cities 
that have banned single use plastic bags.

 Unfortunately, a state bag ban ban will supersede city laws.

That's not going to stop me from doing what I can!

This was our shopping this week, along with another bag of fresh fruit and vegetables.  

The staples, all from bulk bins, will last at least three weeks and probably a month.  We have to drive about an hour away to access a store like this but if we do it monthly and combine other errands (and some fun) with the shopping, it's worth it.  The bags are paper and we save them to fill over and over.
We bought: 2 kinds of oatmeal, a variety of  dried beans, oat bran, lentils, barley and rice. We also bought olive oil and coconut oil in glass jars (in stores near us we can only get them in plastic bottles).  
We carried all our groceries to the car in cloth bags like the red one.  Not one piece of plastic came home with us with this lot!  
We didn't do as well in the produce department.  Most produce was prewrapped or bagged in plastic.  The fails: no loose carrots, cauliflower, or parsnips and the apples and oranges that were loose were double the price of those prepackaged in plastic (even though they looked exactly the same).  The wins: onions, sweet potatoes, and an avocado. Nope, we didn't buy the ones on the left! 

The Writer bought something we needed from Amazon because we live in an area with limited shopping and sometimes Amazon is the only place we can find what we need. 
 The item itself was in the small box with no other wrapping inside.  However, the small box came inside this giant box (which I could have easily sat in) with plastic packing all around it.  The item itself was not fragile and could just as well have been shipped in the small box alone.


The Writer is 6'1" tall. Easily eighteen feet of unnecessary plastic.

I'm claiming this last one as a win.  We checked all the stores near where we live for a new handheld scrub brush that was not plastic.  This was the best we could do.  It's kind of big for my hands and is meant to be used on a long handle.  But hey, it is made of wood and has natural bristles, and the only other one we could find was from Amazon and would have been shipped from England!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

McClellanville, a South Carolina Fishing Village

Welcome to McClellanville, our favorite little coastal town just down the road, population 525.  When you turn off the main highway and head east into town through the moss-draped oaks, past the huge white colonial homes losing their paint, you feel as if you are going back in time.  
McClellanville has no chain stores.  There's a coffee shop, three or four fish markets, and an old restaurant with the bathrooms outside on the porch serving seafood that was swimming in the sea that morning.  You can buy supplies at the gas station out by the highway.  

For sightseers, there is the Deerhead Oak, 67 feet tall, 30.6 feet in circumference, and judged to be a thousand years old.
There are usually people visiting 

at the picnic tables 

and children swinging on the tire swing 

in its shade.


McClellanville became a fishing village when Portugese shrimpers up from Florida settled there.  Today fishing, shrimping, and oystering are still its only industries.  

Shrimp trawlers are docked at the Carolina Seafood Company on Jeremy Creek and two other fish companies that buy and market the seafood caught by McClellanville fishermen.

In 1989 Hurricane Hugo nearly devastated McClellanville.  The huge shrimp boats were scattered about yards and roads in the town and up against century-old oaks.  The strongest part of the hurricane passed directly over the village and residents took refuge in the high school, which was the designated storm shelter.  To their horror, the storm surge surpassed all expectations and threatened to drown those in the school.  In complete darkness, they managed to boost each other into a crawl space above the ceiling of the building as the water rose higher and higher.  Fortunately they were safe there and no lives were lost in in McClellanville during Hurricane Hugo.



The high school auditorium the morning after Hugo where those sheltered had first climbed on tables, then on tables on the stage, then into the crawl space above the ceiling as the waters rose around them.

Huge shrimp boats and other boats were scattered about the yards and roads in town, piled up in heaps of debris.

(Photo from ABC News)

There is a small museum in town with exhibits about the rice plantations that once stood on the land the town now occupies, the fishing industry that is its livelihood, and a bit of good advice about some of its less friendly citizens.

Like this guy.

In case you are ever out in your kayak and see a log with eyes (also known as an alligator), you might need to know exactly what size critter you are looking at.  Did you know (I didn't!) you can tell by estimating the distance from its eyes to its nose (do NOT get out of the boat to do this!) and, calculating 1" per foot, that's how long your gator is.  

Yes, that is a gator skull and those are its REAL teeth.  

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The 'Jazz Singers' of Quilting

"Like a jazz or blues singer teasing apart a melody,
the artists play off their grids with unexpected riffs
of color and form."

I can't remember when I first learned of the quilters of Gee's Bend, Alabama, but I've been intrigued with their quilts and their story for years. I've envied those who got to see exhibits of their work in some of the largest U.S. museums.  Then, a few weeks ago we read that some of the quilts were going to be in a small gallery an hour or so up the coast from us and I couldn't wait to go!
The quilters are African-American women who still live in Gee's Bend, an isolated island-like curve in the Alabama River, that was a cotton plantation built in 1816. Descendants of the plantation's slaves, many families retain the last name of Pettway, the plantation owner who required all his slaves to take his last name.
From slave times on, the community was, and still is, one of the poorest in America.  


Their quilts were made from the smallest scraps of fabric the women could get their hands on, made purely for a practical purpose -- to keep their families warm.  

Because of their poverty and isolation well into the 20th century, they developed a style like no other, all their own.


One of the early quilts, made of the men's well-worn work clothes, denim shirts and overalls.

Scarcity of material forced the quilters to find beauty and creative expression in unique ways.


"a palette of old shirts, overalls, aprons and dress bottoms whose stains, tears, and faded denim patches provide a tangible record of lives marked by seaons of hard labor in the fields of the rural South."

The Gee's Bend style is considered unique and one of the greatest African-American contributions to the visual arts.  
Each quilt grows from the center out, with surprising colors, unusual patterns, and unexpected rhythms.


The little community was quite shocked when the outside world discovered  their quilts in the late 1960s and began offering money for them, as much as ten whole dollars a quilt!  

When museums began exhibiting the Gee's Bend quilts in 2003, most of the quilters had never seen any part of the world outside of Gee's Bend.  Their presence was requested at the opening of a large exhibit in New York.  They refused; no one would ride in an airplane!  Some did finally did consent to riding a bus and the film about their trip is quite moving as these humble, sweet women have their first look at the world outside of Gee's Bend.  

Corduroy quilt
In 1972 Sears and Roebuck hired some of the women to sew pillow covers from corduroy provided by the company.  They sewed the covers for a few cents ... and then used the scraps for their artistic expression: their quilts.  



Seven hundred people still live a simple life in Gee's Bend.  
The fourth generation of Gee's Bend quilters still create their original designs.  
If you want to buy one, I hear the going price is now $2500.