Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Day on the Water (Updated with New Photos!)

I found the photos I lost from my camera. I had taken a few shots with my camera for work, and I had moved them (along with the others) to my work computer.  So now you can see the cute crab!

I took last Friday off and for the first time in a month had a full day to kayak. It was a beautiful day for early November, clear skies and temperatures in the low 80s. Leaving  the Landings Marina on the north end of Skidaway Island, I paddled out into the Wilmington River with the falling tide.  Along Cabbage Island, which sits on the north side of the Wilmington River, I stopped to relieve myself of some coffee and explored a little creek that flowed through the marsh.

Creek on Cabbage Island
                                                                            At the mouth of the river, where it opens into the Wassaw Sound, I turned left, skirting around Cabbage Island toward Little Tybee Island.  Here I saw a magnificent bald eagle circling above, it’s white head and tail feathers very visible..  Sadly, the only camera I had with me was my iPhone, so I was not able to get a decent photo.

 I’ve paddled to Little Tybee before, but always from Tybee Island, so this was a first from this direction.  There are some long shoals around the east side of Cabbage Island and I made it just in time as I pushed my boat through 6 inches of water.  Another few minutes and I would have been walking and toting my boat across sandbars.  The shallow water continued on until I was in the waters of the Bull River, which also flow out into the Wassaw Sound.
On Cabbage Island,
looking back across the Wilmington River

I ate lunch on Little Tybee and found a place to sling a hammock, but the bugs were pretty bad as the island was blocking most of the wind on the southwest side.  Instead of being annoyed by bugs, I set out to paddle across the face of the sound, where it empties into the ocean.  It was slack tide, which meant the shoals from the Bull River extended out into the ocean.  The only encounter with any waves this trip (and these were small) was when I crossed those shoals.  Had I tried to stay further inside the sound, I would have run aground on sandbars. 

Approaching Wassaw
(Battery Morgan is to the left of the trees)

Coming up on Wassaw Island as the tide was turning, I noticed the remains of Battery Morgan is now well out into the water at low tide.  This “fort” was built during the Spanish American War to prevent ships from getting to Savannah through the Wilmington River, but was abandoned after only a year or so.  Today, all that’s left is a large chunk of concrete that is slowly eroding away from the island.

It was much more pleasant on Wassaw Island, as the wind coming from offshore kept the gnats and flies away.  There are tracks of ghost crabs running on the sand and I spot one and chase it into the nook of an old tree where I capture some incredible photos (however, when I started posting to this blog, I can't find those photos).  I then nap before riding the rising tide back into the Wilmington River and to harbor.  I’d been gone a little over six hours and had paddled somewhere around 13 or 14 miles. 

The Lost Photos:
Ghost crab

From Wassaw, looking at Little Tybee

Inland Lagoon on Wassaw

Kicking back on Wassaw

Battery Morgan at low tide

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Some thoughts

I have been pretty busy lately and not into writing more than what I have to write for my profession and some magazine pieces that I had committed to. Sorry, I haven't been keeping up with everyone.  The next few months also look busy so I am not sure how often I'll be around here.  If you have something that's really good, shoot me a note or email.  As for this post, it is something that's been bothering me and I posted it on my Facebook page this morning and it got a lot of attention, so I thought I'd post it here, too.  I took the full moon photo with my iPhone in early October from Tybee Island.

What is truth? This morning’s “Wall Street Journal” has an article about the on-going hearings about Russia’s influence in American elections. It appears that such interference goes beyond trying to influence the election and is an attempt to divide us. It is especially disconcerting how they have incited racial fears (setting up their own “Black Matters” accounts and “Back the Badge” accounts) to raise tensions between police and African Americans. They even promoted an opening of an Islamic Center in Texas while setting up a counter site (Heart of Texas) to protest the center.
Be careful with what you “like” on Facebook and Twitter and other such media outlets. Are you just “liking” something because it confirms your own bias? I’m sure I have done so in the past. We need to learn how to evaluate the reliability of what we read. Our news sources may not be able to give us the truth (that’s a religious and philosophical topic) but they should be truthful. And, one final thing, be very careful of inflammatory headlines and people who feel they must yell over others! Just my two cents for today....

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

David Whyte, “The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America,” (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 323 pages including notes, bibliography and index.  No pictures.

While attending a poetry workshop on Iona in June, I learned of this book and was intrigued.  When I got back home, I picked up a copy and read it back in August while in North Carolina on a planning leave.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was better than I expected.  Whyte is a British poet who moved to America and found himself involved with corporations as he attempted to encourage their creativity with the use of poetry.

You’d think that management and poets would avoid each other.   After all, management is attempting to maximize the productivity of employees and poetry does little for the bottom line.  Work is about doing, while poetry is about being (20). However, Whyte suggests that both need each other.  Without poetry (and the arts) corporations becomes soulless, and poetry without the corporate world becomes useless.  Poetry can help businesses have employees who are better-rounded and who are creative.  To tap into the creative process of individuals, souls must be nurtured and emotions understood.  Of course, this begs the question as to what is the soul.  And there are no easy definitions or ways to understand the soul. 

It’s not just poetry from which Whyte draws meaning.  He draws from all kinds of stories as archetypes of our experiences in life and within organizations.   There’s Dante, lost and walking in the dark woods and Beowulf facing not only his fears, but the mother of his fears.  He explores the luring passions of fire around which our storytelling and language began, and the Irish myth of Fionn and the need for mentors to teach a new generation to rise even further.  He draws from the wisdom of Greek myths that point to our need to become elders, and to the English poet Coleridge observing the chaotic yet orderly flight of starlings.  In addition to the above who became major themes within individual chapters, he draws from a host of others throughout this book such as Franz Kafka, St. John of the Cross, Goethe, the Bible, the Gilgamesh, Rainer Maria Rilke, Paulo Neruda, T. S. Eliot, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Chinese mythology, Robert Burns, William Blake, William Butler Yeats, Zen, Native American and African legends, Matt Groening (“Life in Hell” cartoons), among others.   

This is not a how-to book on saving corporate America.  Instead, it is a complex book that invites us to consider stories with ancient truths and how they might help us navigate the complex world in which we find ourselves.  

Whyte sees poetry as a way that corporate America can foster the well-being of the souls of employees and thereby allow them to bring creativity into the organization as they navigate the path between imposed orderliness and chaos.  This book is over twenty years old and I know he has revised a new edition.  I wonder if  he addressed how poetry might address Enron and the current political nature of our society.  

  •  The poet needs the practicalities of making a living to test and temper the lyricism of insight and observation.  The corporation needs the poet’s insight and powers of attention in order to weave the inner world of soul and creativity with the outer world of form and matter (9)
  •  Corporate America desperately needs the powers historically associated with the poetic imagination not only to see their way through the present whirligig of change, but also, because poetry asks for accountability to a human community, for rootedness and responsibility even as it changes. (10
  • “If work is all about doing, then the soul is all about being: the indiscriminate enjoyer of everything that comes our way.  If work is the world, then the soul is our home.”  (20)
  • Work is a series of events.  The soul, as James Hillman says, turns those workaday events into experience.  (22)
  •  But at three in the morning, when we are alone, our defenses are down, and we cannot sleep, the huge green hand rises from below and drags us into something hitherto ignored, deeper and more urgent (37)
  •  The harder point is that the fears are almost always irrational.  You cannot reason them out of existence.  If you could, they would have gone long ago.  What does it take to have the maturity to admit the lake is there and then the deeper courage to slip beneath its still surface.  (46)
  • The only real question is not one of winning or losing, but of experiencing life with an ever-increasing depth.  The storyteller says, why not go down… (71)
  •  Those circles of fire were the pivot around which our storytelling and language began.   We must have listened to the first stories over the crack of twigs, with our faces warmed by the fire’s heat and our backs chilled by the surrounding dark.  Little wonder that fire lies in the center of what we understand to be alive and engaged. (81)
  • I think we all live with the hope that we can put off our creative imperatives until a later time and not be any the worse for it.  But refusing to give room to the fire, our bodies fill with an acrid smoke, as if we had covered the flame and starved it of oxygen. (92) 
  • We like the idea of heaven but feel safer when it remains on the other side of existence.  (104)
  • But at the crucial moment, just as it is ready to gather its just reward, the older, experienced side of us will watch helplessly as the eternally innocent and inexperienced young fool, blessed by the grace of luck and youth, simply in the right place at the right time, wanders innocently into the clearing and takes the treasure for which we have worked so hard. (168)
  •  In a country dedicated to the ideals of personal freedom, there has been endless opportunity to be a numberless corporate clone completely replaceable by another corporate clone.  (213)
  • Like a dream, it is astonishingly accurate at taking the measure of our present struggles and indicating the path we are on.  But the impotent thing is not to over interpret the image or the dream.  We place too much burden on it if we are too quick to say it must mean this or it must mean that.  The main point is to live with the image or the dream and let it work its magic on us. (235)
  •  Rilke:  “Stop choosing, he says, between chaos and order, and live at the boundary between them, where rest and action move together.  (242)
  • Living systems, according to John Holland, a maverick and inspired student of complexity, “never really settle down.”  Holland and his colleagues are finding that the plants and animals that do settle down do not survive for very long.  It is as if life is forever trying to keep itself exquisitely balanced on the edge between chaos and order, always about to fall into the imprisoning forces of an overly ordered world on one side and the seductive calls of complete chaos on the other.  (252)
  •  Poets encounter the same problem.  For instance, how to work with the difficult cussed aspects of life without being dragged into a whirlpool of self-pity… Holding on to the gritty particularities of life even as we delve into deeper levels of self-revelation, we reel out the same golden thread Ariadne passed to Theseus to guide him through the Cretan labyrinth.  Attempt to go down without this slight but glowing line back into the world, and we perish, as the self-entangled poets Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton did, devoured by the minotaur of the self-referential ego.  Their poetry had a riveting intensity, but it did not include a great soul world that could save them from their individual personalities (257-8)
  •  Drawing upon the lessons learned from the starlings: Trying to run complex companies, big or small, by imperial command, from the top down, may be the single most unnecessary burden carried by any corporate manager…  It also carries an implicit lack of trust in the essential elements of the system—people. (269)
  • Stop treating people as if they are dangerous vehicles about to spin out of control unless you are constantly applying the brakes.  Educate them into everything you know, ask them to learn more than you know.  Show them not only how to find the brake but the accelerator as well.  (272)
  • Poetry is the art of overhearing ourselves say things from which it is impossible to retreat. (287)
  •  Without failure we have no possibility of appreciating or praising the life well lived, the work well done, a place well taken care of, or the greater ecology that makes up our home. (288)
  •  Preserving the soul in corporate America means reclaiming all those human soul qualities sacrificed on the altar of organizational survival. (295)

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Iona to Skye

candles at farewell servic
This is a posting of my trip to Scotland from back at the end of June and early July.  This picks up where I left off on my "week on Iona" post.

I wake up dreaming.  It’s my last morning in Iona and in the dream, I’m returning to the bakery to work. It has been many years since I worked there (in reality, I left that job over 30 years ago).  I was dropped off by the 13th Street entrance. I rang the bell, but then remembered that I had a key.  I was sure it wouldn’t work, as it had been so many years, but discovered it did work. I stepped into the plant and then woke up.  Of course, I haven’t had a key to the plant since I left and the bakery closed in the mid-90s.  When I woke, I looked out the window at the gray dawn.  I dressed, brushed my teeth, and finished packing up before going down to the dining area for breakfast.  I left my pack in the foyer, where it was to be picked up and taken to the ferry. Today’s breakfast is early, at 7 AM.  We eat quickly, in time to walk down for a 7:30 AM chapel service.  The ferry leaves at 8:15 AM. 

             The ferry is filled with folks with whom I’ve spent the past week.  Many of them came over on the same ferry the previous week.  We didn’t know each other then.  Many are now returning home, but I have another week to travel in Scotland.  As we gather our luggage and load aboard the ferry, the Iona staff gather to tell us goodbye.  We wave as the ramp for the ferry is raised and soon we’re racing across the sound.  It is drizzling but the water is calm.  There’s a bus waiting for us at Floonphort and we quickly stow our luggage underneath and are soon on our way across the Ross of Mull and Glen More, back to Craignure.  An hour and a half later, we arrive and the ferry to Oban is waiting.  There is no time to explore.  Most of those who’d been in the poetry group sit together on the ferry.  Knowing there won’t be time in Oban to eat lunch (which is a shame as it’s known for its seafood), several of us have lunch on the ferry.  I have a breakfast roll with bacon and egg (essentially a large yeast roll split in two with the bacon and egg stuck in between the two halves).  The talk is light as we know our time together is coming to an end, but that we’ll still have a train ride ahead.

A view of a loch from the train
We leave the ferry in Oban and walk across the street where the train is waiting.  It’s just two cars and quickly fills up and minutes after boarding, pulls out.  Most of the group is heading to Glasgow and begin making plans for dinner, but I’m getting off the train after about two hours, at Crainlarich, where the Oban branch connects with the West Highlands line.  I depart at the station and realize that there is not much of a town, but there is a small restaurant on the other end of the station.  I order a bowl of soup and some coffee as I wait in the dry room for the northbound train for Mallaig.  There’s perhaps fifteen of us, who’d come in from Oban, waiting for the train.  It arrives about thirty minutes later.  After they separate coaches (one set goes to Oban), we board.  There are not enough seats and ten of us find ourselves sitting on our packs between cars.  The conductor complains that they were supposed to have four coaches, but were given on two.  For the next hour, we sit uncomfortably and crouch a little tighter as it seems more passengers are getting on than off at each stop.

Crainlarich station 
What I could see from my perch on my pack, the train was passing through some incredible scenery with tall mountains and rivers.  At Tulloch, we picked up a group of four Germans who are spending twelve days hiking in Scotland.  They are about my age, three women and a man, and had decided to jump ahead.  As they board, they bring with them some of the dreaded Scottish midges (a biting gnat).  The next thing I knew they are biting me. The woman sitting next to me tells me that they had only been bad for the last mile or so of their hike. As we couldn’t really see scenery, we spend the time talking about our favorite hikes in various parts of the world.  One of them had hiked in the Sierras and seems impressed when she learned that I’d hiked the John Muir Trail. 

Glenfinnan Viaduct 
At Roy Bridge, a number of folks get off and the vestibule on the train where I’d been crowded in was pretty much left to me and the Germans.  They and about half the train gets off at Spean Bridge and I’m finally able to find a seat.  The mountains are spectacular as we head toward Fort William.  The train pulls into the station, then backs out several miles to where the mainline continues to the east, running along streams.  Between Lock Eli and Glenfinnan, we slow as we come around a bend before crossing over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct. This stone arched bridge is truly a work of art and was featured in the Harry Potter movies.  The tracks kept heading east, through Lochailort and Beasdale, running through a number of tunnels.  At Arisaig, which boasts a harbor filled with sailboats, we can see the ocean again (or at least the Sound of Arisaig).  Off in the distance are the steep cliffs on the Isle of Eigg.  Leaving here, the train heads northwest to Morar, and then on to Mallaig.  The hills are grassy and heather populates the rocky ground with ferns in the low places.
Glenfinnan Station
South of Mallaig
Mallaig from the ferry
The train pulls into Mallaig late.  Across the platform from us is the Jacobite train, a tourist railroad featuring wonderfully restored dining cars and pulled by a steam engine.  They make daily runs between Mallaig and Fort Williams.  I wish I had time to check out the train, but have only a few minutes to make it over to the ferry terminal for the ferry to Skye.  In no time, we’re sailing.  I’m sad I didn’t have time to spend in Mallaig, but am curious about Skye, a place where my ancestors supposedly sailed from when they headed to America in the mid-18th Century. 

Ferry to Skye
I hiked here for a late dinner
I have reserved a spot at an Eco-Camp that is just off the ferry dock.  I hike in and am given my choice of several spots, picking on that seems best for a hammock.  I realize there is no place to eat (there is a coffee shop/ice cream parlor by the ferry terminal does breakfast and lunch, but it closed at 6 PM, before my ferry arrived.  I’m told the Ardvasa Hotel has a good pub and is only a mile or so away, so I head down that direction.  I sit outside and enjoyed a wonderful burger (I wouldn't normally order a burger, but this was made with local beef and I'd been mostly vegetarian during my time on Iona).  Rounding out the meal were fries, a salad, and a bottle of Skye Red beer.  The total came to 18 pounds, but as I learned, things are expensive on Skye.  I enjoyed the meal while watching the soft light of the northern latitudes in summer. It was 10:30 when I got back to my hammock.  It had been an exhausting day.  I was in bed by 10:45 and asleep shortly afterwards. 
View while walking back to camp

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

A Poem and an Explanation...

Jimmy Carter at the opening of his Sunday School class
It's been two weeks since I've blogged (or caught up with the blogs of others).  I am not sure why for I haven't been that busy.  But the weather is cooler and I have taken long walks in the evening.  Other evenings I've spent watching Ken Burn's "The Vietnam War" and reading.  Among the books I've been reading has been Diarmaid MacCullouch's The Reformation; David McCullough's The Wright Brothers, Michael Herr's Dispatches (If  you're interested in Vietnam from the soldier's POV, read it); Archibald Ruthledge's Peace in the Heart; and several books of poetry including Anya Krugovoy Silver's Second Bloom.  The other night, I began the poem below after reading a chapter in Ruthledge's book and a number of Silver's poems.  

I still have several drafts of blogs I need to finish and post from my trip in June/July to Scotland, as well as my experiences this weekend as we visited Plains and Andersonville, Georgia.  On Sunday, we were in Jimmy Carter's Sunday School. It was a treat and exceeded my expectations even though we arrived early (6 AM) while it was still dark.  As I joked, I don't normally go to Baptist churches but when I do, it's under the cover of darkness and a former President is teaching Sunday School.  (It was also Jimmy Carter's birthday so in a way I felt that I along with a few hundred other folks crashed his party).  Now for the poem: 


There is a section in the Hastings Cemetery where children who died during or before birth are buried.  This area is at the back corner of the cemetery, on a ledge overlooking the river. A few years ago during a spring flood, some of the graves were lost to the Thornapple, a river that flows into the Grand and then in Lake Michigan as its waters make its way to the sea.

Bury me with the children who died prematurely
and planted in simple graves, at the back of the cemetery,
far from the gaze of the mourner, ‘cept broken-hearted parents.

Bury me under a huge sycamore,
whose broad leaves shade the ground in summer
and white bark appears ghostly on a foggy morn.

Bury me where the river makes its sharp bend
its swift waters carving into the bank.
There, I can hear the river’s call as it rushes past. 

Bury me close to the ledge where in a few years or maybe a century,
a spring flood will free me and those kids
and I’ll lead them on a grand adventure.

In our box boats we’ll shoot through the gates of the Middleville and Irving dams,
forgetting the dangers for it no longer matters to the dead.
We’ll laugh as we catch an eddy below and float in circles.

At Alaska, the village-not the state, we’ll shoot the rapids
and when we meet the Grand we’ll chat with those fishing for salmon
and wave to the pedestrians on the bridges at Grand Rapids.

I hope it is night, with waves breaking over the piercing lighthouse,
when we leave the river at Holland, for the lake.  We’ll then float more slowly
watching the lights on shore fade from sight as we navigate by the north star.

Time will slow as we slip from one lake to another
and over those falls at Niagara that terrify all but the dead,
before making our way into Canada and down that great waterway.

And years later, if our wooden boats hold up, we’ll slip out the St. Lawrence
and into the cold waters of the North Atlantic along with ice bergs,
riding the Gulf Stream as it heads north and then east and back south.

We’ll bed down with wintering puffins
and watch whales play as they ply the sea, while we pass
Iceland and the Faroes, Scotland and Ireland, and on beyond the Azores.

Bury me with the children, in the back of the cemetery,
And in time the river will call and we’ll float
to where peaceful waters gather. 

-jg  September 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Travels due to Irma

Irma from a satellite 
Irma was a bitch.  I don’t know how else I can describe the storm.  I’m just thankful that by the time I had to deal with her, she had lost most of her strength and was more of a nuisance than threat to life and limb.  But I can’t forget what she has done to such much of the Caribbean along with the Keys and South Florida.  A friend of mine moved to St. Martin two years ago.  They were able to catch a flight out just before the storm, but everything they had there was destroyed and they’re left with two suitcases of clothes.  The photos from there are devastating, as are the photos of the Keys.  Although the storm passed to the west of us, we had a much higher storm surge than we did last year with Hurricane Matthew. 

In the middle of the cone (9-7-17)
 It is amazing how quickly the weather can change.  We were still watching news about Harvey flooding in Texas when Irma popped up on our radar.  Up until it skirted Cuba, the weather folks had us right in the middle of the cone.  But then it moved further west, bringing destruction to the Keys.  Although we experienced tropical winds, it wasn’t hurricane force winds.  Still, there were few trees blown down on the island, it was nothing like last year. 

But for a while, Irma looked scary.  Five days out, it appeared she might even miss Florida or bump into Florida’s eastern shore and hit here as a Category 3 o4 4 storm—a major hurricane.  The last major hurricane to strike Georgia was in the 1890s (a decade that saw two such storms). Living on an island meant we were went under an evacuation order beginning, Saturday, September 9.  Many people cleared out before then, and a few who waited till Saturday decided not to leave because by then it was pretty clear the storm had taken a more western track.  I left that Saturday, as planned, having done everything I could to secure property and backed up things at work.  I was glad I’d spent Labor Day (without much thinking about the storm) cleaning out the gutters for the fall and not kayaking. We received just over 7 inches of rain the day of the storm (compared to 12 inches from Matthew).  With nothing more to do, it was time for a hurricane road trip! 

Leaving Coastal Georgia while all of Florida is evacuating is tricky. Thankfully, I had a new downloaded audible book, David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers, giving me over 12 hours of listening.  As Interstates 95 and 75 were creeping along.  Interstate 16, which runs from Savannah to Macon (where it merges with 75 for those heading to Atlanta) wasn’t bad.  They have even closed the eastbound lanes to allow for two more lanes for west bound traffic.  As I was going to stay with relatives northwest of Atlanta, I took I-16 to Dublin, then drove through the countryside on US441, which took me to places that I’d always wanted to see.  I swung through Milledgeville, the old capital of the state.  I have heard much about this town from a fellow blogger, Lynn, I wanted to check it out.  When I told folks here my interest, they thought I was crazy, reminding me it was also the place where the state insane asylum was located.  I also knew it as the home of Flannery O’Conner (who spent her early years in Savannah).
As I made my way up 441, I kept avoiding the bypasses around town and taking the business routes. I just drove through Milledgeville.  In Eatonville, I spied the Uncle Remus Museum.  That was worth stopping, but I learned they’d closed for an early lunch (it was about 11 AM).  I looked around the grounds, then headed over to the Georgia Writer’s Museum.  This was a new museum and they had exhibits mostly on Alice Walker, Flannery O’Conner, and Joel Chandler Harris (of Uncle Remus fame).  I was surprised to see certain folks on the Writer’s Hall of Fame, like Pat Conroy.  While I have enjoyed many of Conroy books, I have never considered him a Georgian.  He’s from South Carolina (and that state needs all the culture boost it can get), but I think he brought gas in Georgia once (or maybe he stayed in an Atlanta hotel for a few nights), so they claimed him.

I left Eatonville, looking for a place to eat. But appeared all the eatin’ places were on the south end of the town and I was heading north, I didn’t find a place to stop and drove on to the delightful town of Madison, named for the President.  I learned that this town hosts an annual Christmas candlelight tour, which would be worth the travel to experience.
African American Museum
(house was built by a former slave)
Madison was one of the towns that was just pillaged and railroad tracks torn up by Sherman and not burned, supposedly because it was the home of one of the Confederate hospitals. The downtown area appeared prosperous and around it was many nice older homes.  I ate at the Madison Produce Company where I had a delightful Cranberry and Pecan Chicken Salad Panini.  It was delicious.  I can’t say the same for the Rosemary and Olive Oil potato chips.  Afterwards, I walked around the town.

They have an African-American museum, which was closed!  I then took the greenway around town, which lead to the train tracks and then around the cemeteries.  There were a couple of section of graves for those who had died in the Civil War (at the hospital).  The tomb stones were all planks of white marble.  Some had names, many were for those who were “unknown.”  I was surprised to find a few slabs with no name, but identified as “Colored” and “Hospital Attendant.”  Later, I saw a sign saying that these marble slabs had been placed in the 1970s and I wonder if they had any idea as who were buried in each grave.  According to another sign, the town maintained segregated cemeteries until the Civil Rights area.  After a pleasant couple hours in Madison, I drove into Atlanta on I-20 and then headed north.

Kirkin' o' the Tartans
While in exile in north Georgia, I worshiped at First Presbyterian in Marietta, which was holding a Scottish Heritage “Kirkin’” Service.  I thoroughly enjoyed the service, from the music to the tartans flying and heard a very good service on heritage.  The preacher spoke about how followers of Jesus need to be careful that in the zeal of celebrating our heritage we not offend others, for we need to remember that Jesus calls us into a new kingdom.

 Knowing that Monday was going to be all rain (as the remnant of the hurricane moved over us), I spent Sunday afternoon exploring north Georgia.  I always like visiting Cartersville (it’s a great place to watch trains) and I walked around the town.  

remains of 19th Century Iron Furance
I also headed over to Cooper’s Furnace, which was an iron making venue in the first half of the 19th Century (it all came to an end with Sherman’s march down through the area on his way to Atlanta and today part of the site around the furnace is at the bottom of Lake Allatoona.  While there, I was able to see a demonstration project for hybrid American chestnut restorations.  The chestnuts were major trees in the Appalachian region of the country but were wiped out early in the 20th Century due to a blight.  Some trees still continue to grow but before they mature, they die back.  The hybrid is an attempt to reestablish the chestnut. 
Allatoona Dam

America Chestnut

Barber Shop roofing in Cartersville

Monday was a day of rain.  I left for home early on Tuesday.  While driving, I finished listening to The Wright Brothers as I tried to cut through the country and avoid the mass parking lot known as I-75 as people headed back to Florida.  Unfortunately, the area between Atlanta and Macon received a lot wind and there were many trees down and the power was mostly out, so instead of sitting on the interstate, I sat on US23, waiting in long lines to get through one stoplight towns (with a stoplight not working, causing traffic back up).  I returned home late in the afternoon, to a bunch of limbs in the yard, but thankfully no down trees and no flooding.  Unfortunately some on this island were not as lucky as the storm surge moved in and flooded many garages and a large number of cars and golf carts was destroyed.  

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hampton Plantation (and an Irma update)

The last week has been crazy.  A week ago, Hurricane Irma seemed to have us in her sights.  The whole coastal area of Georgia went under mandatory evacuation on Saturday.  They later rescinded the evacuation for all but the islands (I live on one of those islands) but by then I was half way across the state.  I left Saturday and came back home to a messy yard on Tuesday.  Thankfully, I only have a lot of clean up.  Although there was a lot more flooding this year than from last year’s hurricane, there were only a few trees down (last year somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 trees were down just on his island).  I had written his before the quick evacuation and never had time to post it. 
Front of Hampton Plantation
the Washington Tree to the left

 On my way back from North Carolina a couple of weeks ago, I took the long way down US 17.  Actually, this route is a bit shorter in miles, but takes a lot more time.  It’s not interstate and you get the pleasure of going through many towns and seeing different sights.  I took this route in order to make a slight detour to visit Hampton Plantation. As I wrote about in a recent review, I have discovered the writings of Archibald Rutledge.  He was born at Hampton in the 19th Century and the last person to live on the plantation.  Having grown up at Hampton, he later inherited the home. After a teaching career in Pennsylvania, he moved back to the plantation in the 1930s and spent the rest of his life restoring it as he devoted the remaining decades of his life to writing.  Shortly afterwards moving back South, he was honored with the title of the South Carolina poet laureate, a title he held till his death in 1973.  In 1970, Rutledge sound the plantation to the South Carolina.

old rice dikes
It was a hot day and I was sweaty after just walking from my car to the ranger’s office.  It was about 1 PM and I learned there would be a tour of the house at 2 PM.  I signed up and then back to my car where I liberally applied insect repellent before walking through an interpretative area about the slaves who used to work the rice fields around Hampton Plantation.  Some of the dikes are still in place as well as some of the water controls that worked with the tides to flood the fields with fresh water.  The markers make it clear that the ones who were to credit with the wealth of the families who lived in the plantation were the slaves.  I also walked down to where Rutledge’s grace is located.

Hampton Plantation had a long history, going back into the pre-Revolutionary War days.  The early residents (ancestors of Archibald) were Horrys (Horry County is where Myrtle Beach is located) and  Pinckneys (that family also owned a plantation that is now a wildlife refuge near Hilton Head).  As friends of George Washington, he stayed here on his Presidential Southern Tour.  Supposedly,   Horry wanted to chop down a large live oak that blocked his view of his horses, but George having become a tree hugger after that cherry tree incident of his youth, pleaded for him to keep the tree.  The “Washington Tree” still stands and is huge.  Up in between some branches, there is a bell that dates back to the early 19th Century and was used to call folks to the dinner table or assemble people when there was danger.

During the tour of the house, we were told stories about where Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox) was sitting when a contingent of Red Coats came riding up.  There was a trap down downstairs and the Swamp Fox was able to go out the back and hide in the swamp.  The plantation had a lovely ball room that covered the eastern side of the house.  When talking with the guide about life at the plantation during the summer, the ranger quickly reminded us that the owners never stuck around during the summer.  Rutledge would head up into the North Carolina Mountains during the summers he spent there.  Later in his life, he spent his summers a waterfront house in McClellandville.  I wonder how his lovely portrayals of Hampton might have changed if he spent his summers there working in the rice fields?

Another interesting thing in the house was a crack in the chimney and wall in the ball room.  This all came from the 1886 earthquake.  This 7.3 quake brought much damage and death to Charleston, SC.

Back side of house (the kitchen house to right and out of view)
Visiting Hampton was a nice way to divide my drive into parts and allowed me to stretch my legs as I got to see things that helped me better appreciate the writings of Ruthledge.  Click for my review of Rutledge's  God's Children.   John Lane in his paddle along the Santee (Hampton is located a few miles from the Santee on a creek that flows into the larger river), also refers to the Hampton and Rutledge.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Paddling Across Romerly Marsh

Leaving Delegal Creek
(notice empty osprey nest)
They changed the weather forecast for Friday so I thought I would take my kayak out to an extended trip.  I launched at Delegal Marina a little before ten, knowing that I had just over an hour before the tide turned.  The winds were stronger than expected, coming out of the south, which provided resistance as I paddled out of the creek.  By the time I was in Ossabaw Sound, the wind was coming off my starboard side and I found the skeg worked wonderfully as I maintained a straight line toward the south end of Wassaw Island.  The last mile or so, as I paddled by the shoals off Pine Island, the waves began to build.  As I crossed the entrance to Wassaw Creek, I was paddling in three foot waves.  The boat handled perfectly.  I made the five mile paddle to the island by 11:15 (which would be close to 3.5 miles an hour which wasn’t bad with the waning tide).  

Ranger station on Wassaw
Normally I would be ready to crawl out of the boat, but it was so comfortable that I paddled about a mile and a half up into Wassaw Creek, stopping at the ranger station for the National Wildlife Refuge.  There was no one there, except for a couple of fishermen who had decided to hole up under their dock.  They fished there, in the shade for over an hour and I think they caught one fish.  I pulled out on a sandy beach a ways down from the station, took out my lunch and hammock, and found two perfectly spaced trees up on a high bluff where I could enjoy a nice breeze.  I strung the hammock and then had lunch.  

Lunch stop
Lunch stop
The Good Life
My original plan had been to return the way that I came or back through the Odingsell River, but I have always wanted to try to paddle through Romerly Marsh to the north end of Skidaway Island. I’ve done this before, paddling in the ocean, but I wanted to go through the marsh.  I figured it would still be close to 17 miles (the distance it is in the ocean) due to the curves in the creeks.  I knew there is a dredged cut I’d have to find, and it’s not very wide. I made a call to get picked up at the Priest Landing marina and headed out about 1:30.  I was hoping to be back around 3:30, well before any afternoon thunderstorm.

This turned out being harder than I thought.  The map showed the cut being further from the Parson family holdings on the island than I thought (they were close to the docks), which I discovered after spending an hour going down false leads.  When I made it back into the main creek, saw someone on the Parson family dock, I paddled over and asked if they could help me.  They pointed me to the right channel, told me to take the second left, which would be marked with a PVC pipe.  I never did see a pipe (in a kayak I’m a lot lower than someone standing in a boat).  I got lost again, but thirty minutes later I had found the cut.  Each time I got lost, I had to paddle back against the tide.  By this point, I was tired. I had also broken a paddle, but thankfully had another with me.

The Parson family purchased the island in the 1860s.  In 1969, they sold all but a 150 or so acre holding to the Nature Conservancy for one million dollars. They, in turn, sold the island to the government to be used as a wildlife refuge. This kept the island from being developed and it is considered one of the most natural islands along the Georgia coast, since it has never been farmed, logged, or used for raising livestock.  The only development on the island are several homes in the Parson holdings, the Refuge ranger's station, and a Spanish American War era battery on the north end that is slowly eroding away.

The marsh is an interesting area.  There are a number of hardwood hammocks within the marsh (with live oaks and sort) and these trees were filled with a variety of birds.  I saw several osprey, ibis, egrets, a variety of ducks, sea gulls and pelicans.  I love watching pelicans fish and one dove into the water not more than 20 feet from my boat, making a big splash.  As he came up, he threw his head back and swallowed.  I also saw a couple of alligator in the marsh.  One, I surprised as I paddled around a bend.  He jumped out into the water and almost hit my boat as he dove under it. 

Dead end
As I floundered in the marsh, I kept looking for where the tide was going against me as I headed in the right direction, for I knew then I’d be paddling out toward the Wassaw Sound.  High tide wasn’t until 5:20 PM, at which time I could probably make it through over the marsh grass, but then I would have to paddle against the tide back to the marina.  When I found the cut and where the tide changed directions, it felt good, as I was now sure that I had only a couple of miles before I would be in Wassaw Sound (and then five more miles before I was at my destination). 

In Wassaw Sound
Once in Wassaw Sound, I turned inland.  In the distance, a storm was brewing.  It was already after four.  I would paddle hard for a bit and then rest.  Thankfully the ocean breeze was strong and to my back, as it gave me a push and also kept the thunderstorm from moving over me.  Instead, the storm moved north, parallel to the coast.  Yet, it was close enough that I saw a dozen or so strikes of lightning.   Once I entered the Wilmington River (where I regularly sail) I felt safe. 

I arrived at the marina at 5:40 PM.  I figured I’d paddled over 20 miles, but I had fulfilled my goal of paddling across the marsh.  

Destination in sight
(notice broken paddle)

The Skeg (photo to answer questions below)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Rain, Kayaks and Ants

Although we’re a ways from Texas, we’ve been getting a lot of rain here, too.  Thankfully we’re not flooding and prayers for those in Texas and Louisiana who have lost so much.  Hopefully everyone will be generous and help them through this disaster. My only problem is that if the grass doesn’t stop growing and the rain doesn’t stop coming, I’m going to need a rice harvester to cut it.  That said, between the rains on Friday, I picked up another kayak from a friend who was clearing out his garage.  He made me a great deal on a Wilderness System 18 with a few scratches, but in very good condition.   I took it out Friday evening, hoping to be paddling between storms.  Well, another storm came up and I got wet, but I enjoyed paddling the boat.  I have never been a fan of rudders on kayaks and this one has a skew instead of a rudder.  It was windy and there were waves and whitecaps, but the skeg helped the boat to track beautifully as I tried it in various positions. This is a very fast boat.

my foot on Monday
But one bad thing happened.  As I was taking my boat off the car at a wildlife ramp along the Intracoastal Waterway, I received a call on my cell phone.  I laid the boat on a grassy medium and took the call.  It was from another paddler whom I’d left a message of going out paddling and since I thought he might want to join me.  As we were talking, I realized something was biting my foot.  I thought it was a mosquito or maybe a gnat.  When I looked down, I noticed that my feet were covered with dots.  At first I thought fleas, then realized it was red ants. I told my friend I had to go and ran out into the water to drown the buggers.  And then I went kayaking.  By the time I got home, my legs were beginning to burn.  I had 26 bites on my right foot and ankle and another eight on my right leg.  On my left leg and foot, I have another 20 bites.  I also received a few bites on my stomach and on my left hand!

Much of Saturday and Sunday was spent soaking my feet and putting baking soda on the bites.  The cool of the water helps a lot.  When I had to put on shoes and walk for a ways, my feet burned.  On Monday, I picked up some new “After Bite”® as I realized the bug cream I was using was over a year out of date.  That helped more.  I have now moved to calamine lotion and my feet are no longer burning as badly.

Last night, I went out for another evening paddle.  As I was putting the boat back in the garage, it began to rain again.
Last night's paddle