Thursday, January 28, 2021

How Do YOU Get to Work?

  At the end of our road is South Island, one of the barrier islands that separates Georgetown from the Atlantic Ocean. The only way to get to the island is over the water.  

  South Island was first home to a rice plantation, then, for more than a hundred years, to a community of former enslaved families and their descendants. 


 In 1919, New Yorker Tom Yawkey (owner of the Boston Red Sox baseball team) inherited the island from his uncle and used it as a hunting camp for himself and his wealthy northern friends.  When Yawkey died in 1976 he willed 31 square miles of coastal lands including all of South Island to the SC Department of Natural Resources, creating the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center Heritage Preserve.  

 The island is an important protected refuge for seabirds, alligators, and waterfowl with only a few full time human residents and an ever-changing part-time community of seasonal students and wildlife experts. It is open to visitors only occasionally for history and wildlife tours but the outer boundaries are accessible to anyone. Since birds know no boundaries, we are frequent visitors. 

 The Intracoastal Waterway is a 3,000-mile waterway from Boston, down the Atlantic Seaboard, around the tip of Florida, along the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas.  It provides a navigable route for mariners safer than the open sea and separates South Island from mainland Georgetown. 

   The word “ferry” conjures up a different scene than the actual one at the end of South Island Road. The barge Miss Ellie, visible along the shore at the back, is about 800 feet long and was brand new in 2015. She spans the water by pivoting to bridge the gap and connect the road at both ends. 

  There is no regular ferry schedule. Children going to school, families with appointments on the mainland, island day workers, park their cars at the landing and use a DNR motorboat to cross the 900 feet of water. But when there is large equipment, heavy loads, or large vehicles to cross, Miss Ellie is put into service.

  On this day, a DNR pickup arrived with a heavy piece of machinery as well as mother and children with a car-full of groceries and other supplies. The DNR pickup cab was loaded with the family’s supplies and the ferry was activated. 

  When it had connected with the mainland road, the pickup was driven onto the ferry and across while the family and some interns going to the island to stay walked across with their backpacks.  Another man, just getting off work, crossed the opposite direction to the parking lot with his lunch bag, got in his car and drove away. 

  What an unusual commute to work!


Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Hill We Climb(ed) Yesterday

  Capitol Hill. Inauguration Day of President Biden and Vice President Harris, unique in its simplicity. Every song, every speech — imbued with history, dignity, grace.

    There were many wonderful moments but I’ll share two of my favorites from this long-awaited day.

  The first took place before the inauguration ceremony even began. Two weeks ago to the day, the Capitol was the scene of one of the worst events in US history, an attempted coup. Unbelievable images of chaos, of desecration, betrayal, injury, and death were broadcast from this building, images burned into stunned American eyes as we watched.  

  Yesterday two short weeks later, on Inauguration Day, a hero walked here again.  
 On January 6th, Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman brilliantly and bravely led an armed mob of barbarians away from the Senate chamber and their intended victims.  

  On January 20, newly promoted Deputy House Sergeant-at-Arms Eugene Goodman led Vice-President-to-be Harris to the inaugural area and remained at her side for the swearing-in ceremony.  

 Another stellar moment for me was the marvelous performance of a young poet, Amanda Gorman, of her poem, The Hill We Climb.

 This skinny Black girl, as she described herself, knocked it out of the park! 
  So much responsibility on her young shoulders and she pulled it off like a wise old sage with youthful pizzazz. 
  Tasked with illuminating all that happened in the last four years and the last fourteen days so newly heavy on our hearts; with uniting a countryful of individuals screaming and yelling and even shooting at each other; with comforting families and friends of 400,000 dead Americans and igniting a flame of healing and hope in better days ahead ... 

 I leave you with some of her beautiful words.

Somehow we've weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn't broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried

“It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it's the past we step into
and how we repair it

“We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children's birthright”

Monday, January 18, 2021

Santee Coastal Preserve - Eldorado Plantation Ruins

  We often hike the trails of the Santee Coastal Reserve and one of our favorite trails is the one that leads down the traditional “Avenue of Oaks” to the ruins of Eldorado Plantation. 

  Deep in the woods, the ruins were nearly invisible for years and we walked by the site unaware that they were there. Last summer park personnel cleared the immediate area around the house, including the vista of abandoned golden rice fields along the South Santee River.

  Thomas Pinckney, son of Eliza Pinckney (who introduced indigo cultivation to the colonies), and his mother-in-law, Revolutionary War heroine Rebecca Breton Motte (photo below), inherited the 500 acre plot and built a grand plantation home there in 1797. 

  It was the home of Thomas and his wife Frances Motte Pinckney and owned by his descendants for over 150 years.  

“… situated on a sandy knoll, jutting out into the rice-fields, embowered by live-oaks with their outstretched arms and lofty magnolias with their glittering foliage,” “the spacious mansion, which he (Pinckney) planned and built with his own carpenters, is very suggestive of a French chateau, with its wide corridors, its lofty ceilings, and its peaked roof of glazed tiles.”  (Source unknown)

  The Pinckneys called their home El Dorado, “The Golden One”, for the buttercups (or according to another story, Golden pitcher plants) that formed a carpet of yellow around it in the spring. 


For many years El Dorado was another successful South Carolina rice plantation with 90 enslaved African field workers and house servants. Rice made South Carolina the wealthiest state in the country in the first half of the 19th century and in 1819 President James Monroe was a guest here at the Pinckney home.  

  In 1863 a Union gunboat traveled up the river during the War Between the States and shelled the house, knocking out one of the brick arches underneath. 

  The family’s rice mills were torched by the Yankees but the home itself was spared destruction by the timely arrival of the Confederate Cavalry.  

  After the war, the property remained in the the Pinckney family but when the enslaved workers were freed, the grand lifestyle of a rice plantation was over forever. 
(Photo of river gunboat from Wikipedia)


On May 10, 1897, fire broke out in the chimney of the house. 

The chimney had apparently been damaged in the earthquake of 1886 and someone built a fire, not realizing that it had cracked. They were unable to control the fire and the house burned to the ground.  

 In the late 1950s the property was purchased by the Santee Gun Club, the ruins of El Dorado settled under hundreds-of-years-old oaks, giant magnolias, and dense tangles of vines and undergrowth. 

  It’s an eerie sight now to round a bend of the trail and see the remaining chimney standing tall over the rubble, to pause and imagine the grand house, the busy plantation bustling with workers, two rice mills, a whole village of slave houses, gardens, and animals, all overlooking the rice fields as far in any direction as one can see.    

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Fungus Fun-Facts and a Feast for our Feathered Friends

This warm, wet winter we are having is producing more fotogenic fungus in the woods than I’ve ever seen. I hope you aren’t tired of my fungus finds!  

We came upon these new-to-me Stinkhorn Fungi on a hike, and they were just everywhere over a half acre of recently cleared forest.

Stinkhorn fungus seems to come in many shapes, sizes and colors, including the bright red and brown ones we saw. The ones below were each about 5 inches long.  

They grow fast —  four to six inches an HOUR, and with such force they have been known to break through asphalt!  That’s really amazing because the one I touched (you know I had to touch it!) was so soft and fragile it felt like pudding.  Wet, slimy pudding that melted in the spot where I had put my finger.  

Once they mature they give off an odor that smells like manure or rotting flesh. Not nice for human noses, but attractive to flies that eat the slime that forms on the end and then carry off the spores to new locations. Fortunate for us with so many around, these were too young to “stink”.

Two more fungus blooms from our hike, names unknown.  

With the mild winter we have had so far, the birds have been abundant. This holly tree was loaded with berries on Saturday.  On Monday afternoon a large flock of robins discovered it and nearly stripped it of berries!  

We keep a feast available in our wooded backyard for our visitors. This is our set-up, with tasty treats for all.

The blue hanging bowl holds grape jelly for the orioles, and on the ground is a pile of sunflower seeds for the mourning doves and squirrels. 

In this feeder are black oiler sunflower seeds, a finch seed mix, meal worms, and suet peanut nuggets.  

  It’s a busy place most of the day!

  Yesterday’s visitors: 
cardinals, mourning doves, pine warblers, Baltimore orioles, eastern bluebirds, tufted titmouses, white-breasted nuthatches, chickadees, house finches, chipping sparrows, purple finches, brown thrasher, downy woodpecker, ruby-crowned kinglets, Carolina wren, redwing blackbirds and cowbirds. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

JANUARY - New Year in the Winter Woods

  This long-awaited new year - 2021 - dawns, infused with our most timid hopes and wildest  dreams.

Three hundred sixty five days, 
8,760 possibility-infused hours.

           Christmas Wreath Lichen

Turkey Tail Fungus

A hugging tree

  We all offer up our heartfelt hope that we can travel, embrace loved ones, see strangers’ faces, expect health and security, kindness and civility.

Ice forms on a pond

In January

Let your fields lie fallow, for seeds must rest before life returns.  

Pause your busyness to 
                     Dream. Imagine. Plan.

Rest and refill your cup.