A Heck of a Day

Jim Valvano says there are three things everyone should do every day. “Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”

I liked the advice the first time I read it and resolved to do these three things each day—and more, like exercising and expressing gratitude and spending time with family and/or friends. Getting out of Dodge to laugh, think, see, exercise, and experience life with special folks can double the fun. That’s what happened on a recent weekend when my sister Ann, her daughter Katherine, and my daughter Elizabeth went to North Carolina for a Vintage Market Sale and spent a few hours in Chimney Rock.

Just being in the car together was a treat. We sang, told stories, ate snacks, philosophized on life, and shared family secrets. Around and around the curvy road from Hendersonville to Bat Cave we went, impressed with Katherine’s driving and the gorgeous sights. I mentioned that an aunt’s husband, a policeman, had been killed chasing a speeding car along a mountain road, and the atmosphere became hushed as we considered Aunt Doc’s loss.

Someone asked about going to NC with grandparents, and I said I remembered making the trip many times, a lone little traveler in the back of their light green Chevrolet, probably a ’53 or ’54. Ann began singing “See the USA in Your Chevrolet,” and I joined in. One of our daughters remarked, “I knew they’d start singing,” and her comment was all we needed to continue belting out Dinah Shore’s jingle.

Soon we were in Chimney Rock and under its spell—again. Having climbed to the top of the Chimney one steamy summer day, we looked up at it with awe and appreciation, knowing that we’d conquered it. Katherine parked the car, and we hustled across the street toward a bridge.

The bridge was barely wide enough for one vehicle at a time, but there was plenty of room for pedestrian traffic so we started walking across it, the sounds of rushing, gurgling, bubbling water all around and below us. Loved that experience—the four of us connected by blood and love and memories standing in such a sacred place. We took pics of the place and of each other.

After crossing to the other side, Katherine and Ann turned left and began walking up a hill into a quaint neighborhood I’d often spied from afar. Our morning stroll on that street nestled between mountains and situated by a creek was marvelous. “What would it be like to wake up and see such a sight each day?” Katherine wondered aloud.

The small houses were unique and charming. Elizabeth took a photograph of one of the picturesque homes and the for-sale sign in front. “No worries, I could never live this far from the coast,” she said. I understood. The mountains and the beach are both “thin places” where a person can feel the presence of the divine. And yet, living near the edge of a continent is awesome, grand, and humbling.

We were in high spirits. We laughed, exclaimed over the beauty around us and the sweet charm of the houses. Takeaway: that beauty has been there just waiting to be seen and felt, but we had to cross the bridge to do it, something none of us had done on previous visits. Cross over and enjoy the journey.

 

After coming back to the main drag, we visited a couple of shops, and the younger set purchased a few treats including a pearl ring and a geometrically designed shawl. When we went into a shop of gems overlooking the creek, I scarfed up some colorful glass rocks that were free. They’re now in an Easter dish reminding me of those moments.

Next stop: Riverwatch Bar and Grill. We sat on the second story porch, and although we couldn’t see the water, we heard its ever-present roar and glimpsed the Carolina blue sky with its white puffy clouds. A couple of times, I got up and sauntered over to the edge of the porch for a peek at the creek. A young boy around twelve years old tried to go from one slippery rock to another. Eventually he was successful, but it made me feel kind of encouraged to see that he, like us, had to struggle a little.

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Lunch behind us, we got into the creek itself…or stood on some huge boulders, that is, joining about a dozen other people taking advantage of the setting for photo ops. Seeing and hearing the “alive” water wasn’t enough for Katherine, and before we left the area, she dipped her toes in the freezing, rushing water.

I think I can speak for the other three “girls” when I say it was a heck of a day.

Shug’s Reminder

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If sappy isn’t your cup of tea, don’t read this. At the same time, we might have degrees of sappiness and different definitions. While you might think it means sentimental, foolish, or silly, I’ve recently learned that sappy can mean full of vitality and energy. That definition probably refers to plants, though; I’m not sure. I just want to tell a story!

When I awoke this morning, I immediately thought of something I’d read many years ago. I don’t recall the source and am paraphrasing a little. Perhaps some of my humanities buds can enlighten me/us. “Awake, the brain begins to burn like a coal in the dark” is the way I recalled the line this morning, a phrase that led to these thoughts:

What a powerful and marvelous organ the brain is! Without it, I wouldn’t even wake up! Once awake, I wouldn’t be able to sit up straight, walk across the floor, toast my bagel, or digest my food. And gee whiz, those are not even “thinking things” like remembering, planning, learning, organizing, or daydreaming.

Speaking of memories and thoughts, I then began thinking of the numerous good things going on in my life:

A walk on the beach with a brother and later seeing a movie with that same fellow (isn’t it mind boggling to realize that some people have never seen a movie or tasted popcorn?), shopping with one of my beautiful daughters, reading an informative blog post written by my son, eyes that enabled me to see frolicking dogs and skittering sandpipers on the beach, knowledge that my sweet husband would be going about town doing good deeds for various family folks today, the sound of birdsong outside of my window, memories of my mother who loved listening and watching birds, thoughts of my granddaughter Brooke who just won second place in the 400 at a track meet yesterday, and on and on and on.

I checked my iPhone and saw that the temp was 45, too chilly for me to go to church. I had no tights to cover chilly legs! But then, it hit me. “You’ve got an abundance of all the things that really count, Girl!” Knowing the source of the above and many more blessings too numerous to enumerate, I got gussied up and headed to church. Was I ever surprised when I turned onto 48th Avenue and saw the empty parking lot. Turns out there was Stake Conference in Florence today that I didn’t know about.

Do good intentions count? I’d like to think so. Yes, I definitely think so. And get this. When I got back home and started leafing through a local publication, I noticed that The Color Purple is being presented by Conway’s Theatre of the Republic through May 5.

I’m coming back here (to the coast) to see the production. And here’s one of the reasons. There’s a scene in the movie (and play and book) when Shug and Celie are walking through a field of purple flowers, and Shug tells Celie that she thinks God gets perturbed (her phrasing is much more colorful) when people walk by the color purple and don’t notice or thank Him.

I think Shug just might have a point. How can I not be grateful for so many gifts that I enjoy in this beautiful world? And how can I not be aware of the source of them all?

Dogs and Sea Birds

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I should be grading assignments. I know that. And yet, I just have to share some pictures I took when my brother Mike and I took an early morning walk along the beach a few hours ago. I texted him last night to say I’d pick him up at 7 this morning unless it rained, and this morning he wrote and said, “Je suis prêt.” I think that meant that he was ready and waiting. He’s not French, just unique. He can speak French and German. Nice having a polyglot for a brother. I’m exaggerating just a bit. His French isn’t that bon (bien?), but his German  is.

This morning when I picked Mike up, it was raining. Mall walking was a back-up plan, and I’m sure glad that by the time we arrived Myrtle Beach State Park, the steady rain had slowed to a drizzle. Within five minutes, it had stopped completely. Malls are fine, but there’s just something extraordinarily special in Mother Nature’s offerings, and this morning’s sights and sounds were no exception.

This morning we saw frolicking dogs, one of whom was turning around and around and around chasing a red cloth that he had in his own mouth. It was hysterical to watch, and we wondered aloud whether he would be dizzy after so much twirling. Farther along the strand, we spied two small figures out in the cold ocean, and Mike said, “Can you imagine going in the water this morning? You know they have to be freezing.” About that time, we saw their father watching from the shore and asked when he was going to join them.

“I’m not! That water’s so cold I can’t even keep my feet in it,” he said.

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Mike and I came to the area just beyond the Springmaid Pier where there’s often a swash of water so deep and wide that a person can’t cross over without getting wet. Anyone familiar with this stretch of shoreline knows this exact spot. We considered jumping from rock to rock but thought better of it. Can’t afford to break a limb at this stage of the game. No problem. We simply turned around and walked south for another 45 minutes.

Above and around us was the gray sky filled with white fluffy clouds. I used to know the name of them but have forgotten. Perhaps one of my grandchildren will let me know a nimbus from a cumulus. Beside us was the greenish gray ocean, roaring and pounding on the shore. And yes, it was flecked with foam. We walked out on the pier and observed the seabirds as they sat like sentinels keeping an eye on the ocean (and their next meal?). One of them sat hunkered down as though hiding from something. Humans with iPhones perhaps? We went through the gift shop on the way to and from the pier, and the gentleman there assured us that the weather would be nicer later in the day. The beach in any kind of weather is good!

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Mike and I talked about religion, blessings, America, family, and health. About the latter, we concur with the experts that prevention is better than any cure. We don’t know that exercise and attention to diet will solve all health issues, but we do know that a sedentary lifestyle and too many doughnuts can be hazardous to your health and longevity. About family, Mike said he knew for a fact that our youngest brother David was the favorite because his name has two syllables while the rest of us have names with one: Jayne, Mike, and Ann. Crazy, funny guy! The truth is that if our parents had a favorite, they hid it well.

Time to start reading assignments. It’s a great big beautiful world right outside of your window, and experiencing some of its wonders with a cool brother got my day off to a wonderful start. Mike also said that of the four of us, he thought I was the most “out there.” Hmmm. Good or bad thing?

Old Sheldon Church Ruins

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Leaving Beaufort after a few hours of browsing and sightseeing, Martha suggested that we look for the signs to Old Sheldon Church.

“What’s that? Something historic?” I asked.

“Yes, it’s an historic site, ruins of an old church actually. People have ceremonies there,” she answered.

“Ceremonies?”

“You know, like weddings,” she said.

“Oh, I see.” But I really didn’t. Nothing Martha had said prepared me for the sights and sounds of this sacred place. When we came upon the site, I was so immediately spellbound that I pulled up just beyond the gate and turned off the ignition. I didn’t even see the nice parking lot across the tree-lined low country road.

Once inside the gate, Martha and I went our separate ways, each of us snapping pictures of the beauty around us. Aren’t iPhones amazing? The church remains are what loom majestically in the large space, so naturally we walked through, behind, and around them. Then there were the graves, big and small, old and somewhat recent. Who were these people? Why was this land important to them? What was their history?

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It had been raining on and off most of the day, and no matter where I stood on the grounds, I heard frequent splats of raindrops falling from the huge oak trees. Cleansing and refreshing. The air was cool, adding to the magical ambience of the place.

As I walked within the remains of the old church, I wondered about the congregations who had met there witnessing weddings, funerals, baptisms, and other rites of passage. They had listened to words of encouragement and guidance from the pulpit, sang hymns of praise and thanksgiving, and perhaps felt a calm respite from the world during their moments inside the sanctuary. How do I know that? I felt it.

The sense of peace and refuge was almost palpable. But there was a disturbing presence beneath those huge trees too, one of fear and desecration. We walked about almost reverently, each of us with our individual thoughts and feelings, only speaking occasionally in low tones. As we left the grounds, I read a sign and realized the source of my unease. Twice built and twice burned, Old Sheldon Church and its people had suffered much loss.

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As we headed back to Edisto, I found myself marveling at the richness of South Carolina’s low country. It’s lovely. And so full of history. After the touristy aspects of Beaufort (not a complaint, just an impression), a visit to quiet Old Sheldon was the perfect topper for the day. We both felt better for our presence there, and I hope Old Sheldon felt better for ours.

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The Art of Shedding

I had an ice cream sandwich for lunch Friday. Or maybe it was more like an appetizer since I ate a Chick-fil-A sandwich mid-afternoon. I live differently when I’m here at the beach. It’s where I come to get away from my other life, the one with schedules and deadlines and demands.

Alas, after a long weekend at the beach, I’ll soon be homeward bound. Don’t get me wrong. I love my home, neighborhood, family, and friends, but there’s no beach there. There’s no roaring ocean, no high and low tides, no seabirds, no long expanse of coastline to walk along. Instead, there are also deadlines and due dates and bills to pay.

 I had an ice cream sandwich for lunch Friday. Or maybe it was more like an appetizer since I ate a Chick-fil-A sandwich mid-afternoon. I live differently when I’m here at the beach. It’s where I come to get away from my other life, the one with schedules and deadlines and demands. At the strand, I try to leave as much of that behind as possible, especially when it comes to behavior and attire.

My behavior doesn’t change drastically here at the beach. It’s not like I turn into some wild child who frequents clubs and bars. Nope. I’m the same old Jayne, just Jayne without the constraints of home. If I want to go shopping at the Myrtle Beach Wal-Mart at midnight, I will (and have). If I want to read at 11:00 in the morning, I will. For some reason, reading just for fun is something I see as sort of a guilty little pleasure when I’m in my “other life,” and I usually restrict times for fiction reading to early in the morning or late at night. Maybe it’s because I’m always in motion, always taking care of business.

I dress a bit differently at the beach too. Since any and everyone reading this probably does the same thing, there’s no need to elaborate on this. And yet, here’s one little thing that I just have to mention. I’ve seen more exposed body parts on the beach that I ever cared to see. You know what I’m saying, right?  

And tattoos? I learned what a “full sleeve” means from one of my students last week, and I saw several of those. Then there was that lovely young woman with her entire calf covered, front and back. What was she thinking? Or was she thinking? Putting a positive twist on things, when she’s older, at least she’ll have a good disguise for her spider veins!

But it’s fine. It’s really fine.  Once a person crosses the line between sea oats and sand, it’s anything goes (almost). Most days I’ll don a bathing suit and hat, and at the last minute I’ll throw on a cover up. It stays on until I cross the line and then stays in my bag until I get ready to cross it again.  In the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “One learns first of all in beach living the art of shedding; how little one can get along with, not how much.”

Time to get back to reality. After all, it’s my “other life” that makes this one possible.

Traveling South

The weekend travelogue continues. We checked into the Holiday Inn in Beaufort and were really impressed with the lodging. The only minus was the lack of a continental breakfast, something that used to be considered a frill and is now looked on as an expectation.  Still, the room was clean and pretty…loved the marble bathroom floor.

On the recommendation of the staff at the Holiday Inn, we went to the Dockside in Port Royal for dinner.  A little off the beaten path, the restaurant is on the water and provides a magnificent view of the harbor and the shrimp boats. We arrived right at sunset, and I took several photos of the beautiful setting sun and the surrounding area. During our wait, we chatted with a couple from Kentucky, and I enjoyed listening to their travel agenda for the next several days. I also enjoyed extolling the virtues of Savannah…love that place! I volunteered to take their picture, and they returned the favor.

The meal at Dockside was superb! We loved the ambience of the restaurant, the friendliness of the wait staff, and the scrumptiousness of the food. The prices weren’t that bad either. Truly, I’ve seen higher prices in other seafood establishments whose food can’t compare in taste, variety, or quality.

The next morning we headed out of Beaufort towards Hunting Island State Park and stopped for breakfast at the local Huddle House. What a microcosm of Americana!  A HH diner can always expect to be among the high and the low, the rich and the poor. On this particular morning, the noise level was deafening, and we soon determined the reason for it: two men trying to outdo each other with their stories. Finally one of them, the one dressed in his Sunday duds, got up to pay his bill, and we sighed a sigh of relief. “He can’t talk to himself,” reasoned my husband about the gent who was still sipping his coffee. WRONG! Not only did he talk to himself, but he also crooned a few melodies, and after a few moments we sort of succumbed to the situation and began enjoying the music. I also enjoyed seeing several mother/child combos sharing waffles bacon together.

Breakfast behind us, we drove to Hunting Island State Park, and I loved loved loved loved the scenery along the highway.  So green and tropical. At last we went over a very narrow bridge, and within moments we were at the entrance of the park. Ever since seeing a documentary on Hunting Island, I’d wanted to visit it, and we were both excited to finally be there.

Once inside the park, we first visited the beach. It was awesome! The beach was wide, the sand was white, and there were numerous dead tree limbs and trunks. People used the latter for hanging their bags, clothes, and other personal belongings. A few of the smaller limbs were decorated with shells. I loved it so much that not even the dozens of dead jellyfish dampened my mood. After leaving the beach itself, we walked a 1.4 mile trail through the maritime forest. The forest was on our right, and a lagoon was on our left. We were in heaven…or I was. I took picture after picture with my iPhone so that I could relive those moments in the months and years to come.

Although we were beginning to tire a bit, we couldn’t leave the park without visiting the lighthouse. I had read about it at the visitor’s center and wanted to see this special landmark “up close and personal.” In fact, I decided to climb to the top, and I’m so glad I did because the views were spectacular.  A young girl who was struggling for breath ran past me and declared that she was trying to beat the girls’ record of 15 times up and down in two hours. The boys’ record was 17 times. When I descended, she was still huffing and puffing. Hope she made a new record.

My hubby and I then decided to sit in the shade and eat a huge chocolate ice cream cone. It was divine, both the refreshment and the relaxing experience. Before leaving, we walked down once more to the beach. He says if you’ve seen one beach, you’ve seen them all. I say, “No way, Jose.” They’re all different, and the one at Hunting Island State Park is one of the most unique I’ve seen yet.

My friend Christy is looking for the perfect spot for a special weekend getaway. I hope I’ve convinced her to visit Beaufort, Port Royal, and Hunting Island. I know I’ll be back.

Fast Recovery

The human body is remarkable in its many capabilities, including the healing process. Last week, I could hardly walk. Today, there are barely traces left of my injuries. Praise goes to my Creator for the fearful and wonderful way He made our bodies.

Earlier today I read an inspiring blog on the Guideposts website about a woman who was snowed in last week. At the end of  the blog, she asked if anyone had a snow story to tell, so I wrote a few paragraphs describing my fall and its subsequent injuries. When I tried to post it, however, I couldn’t see the Post option. Not to be outdone, I’m going to go ahead and post my snow experience here on myown blog.

My little Southern town  got about six inches of snow last week. After being housebound for a couple of days,  I was determined to go for a three-mile walk despite the protests of my husband. Walking is something I try to fit in everyday, and I was feeling beyond antsy.

“Why do you have to be so stubborn?” he asked. When he got no response, he said, “You’re crazy to go out in this, you know.” I turned a deaf ear and continued dressing for the wintry afternoon.

Bundled up with earmuffs, coat, mittens, and a cool hat, I walked gingerly around the neighborhood, alert to all the tricky places (slick ice). All went well. Then about 2/10 of a mile from our house, I saw a BIG snowball and just couldn’t resist kicking it. Only problem was that it was a BIG iceball, and it was stuck to the road. Immediately, I lost my balance and fell, bloodying both knees and bruising my palms and my ego. My fingertips began to burn, and I realized that they too had been scraped even though I was wearing mittens.

Hoping no one saw me, I got up quickly and trudged home. My sweet husband took one look and couldn’t resist saying, “I told you so.” I gave him a fierce scowl and then went to inspect the damage. My knees needed an antibiotic ointment and huge bandages, and it wasn’t until yesterday, nearly a week later, that I felt comfortable enough to remove them for good.

Today, the tip of my ring finger on the right hand is still a little blue and purple, but it doesn’t hurt to type anymore. There are scabs on my knees but no gashes or signs of bruising. I can walk without limping. Yay! I can’t help but think of the scripture in Psalms 134:14 that reads, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made….”

The human body is remarkable in its many capabilities, including the healing process. Last week, I could hardly walk. Today, there are barely traces left of my injuries. Praise goes to my Creator for the fearful and wonderful way He made our bodies.