Seaforms and Carolina Wrens

I think it was Sarah Ban Breathnach who said that some days are filled with simple pleasures and that others are redeemed by them. This post is about the former situation. Saturday was a day chocked full of simple pleasures, the kind that make your heart sing and rejoice in the beauties of the earth, in people’s various gifts and creations, and in the importance of friendship..and really of all connections, both human and nonhuman.

Connie and I headed out in the late morning to see the Seaforms exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art. In a word, awesome. I truly do not have a vocabulary sufficient to describe these magnificent, colorful assorted glass shells, jellyfish, and other treasures of the sea. How, we wondered, could a mortal man create such spectacular beauty in a studio? We walked around like “country come to town” admiring each and every piece, exclaiming anew every few moments, “Look! Can you believe this? Isn’t it gorgeous? Check out the color, will you?” Incidentally, admission is free on Saturday. Before I forget, we visited the museum gift shop and purchased glass Hershey’s kisses to commemorate the viewing the glass seaforms.

Outside in the brilliant sunshine again, we sauntered down Main Street for a block or two and partook of the lively energy of a Latino festival. The food smelled SO GOOD, and we were sorely tempted to stop and enjoy a taco or two. Since we’d already planned to eat at DiPrato’s at the edge of the university campus, however, we resisted the allure of the delicious aroma and headed for the car. Along the way, Connie spied a tiny bird on its back, apparently fighting for its precious life. She gently turned it over, and the little creature struggled to move. “Maybe he’s resting,” she said. We had the same scary thought that some big-footed human might come along and squash the pretty little green backed hummingbird and were trying to figure out how to move him without harm when rescue arrived. An African American man who had been enjoying the festival came upon us, appraised the situation, and tenderly moved our feathered friend off to the side beneath some shrubbery. “At least now he’ll die in peace,” he said. 

We jumped in the Highlander again and headed for lunch, swerving around the curves and hills near and through the university. Once inside, we feasted on salad, sandwiches, and the best pita chips and pimento cheese in the world…yes, they’re that good. The food was excellent, and our fellow diners and our “girl talk” added to the ambience of the experience. 

Lunch over, we spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for a few specific items including just the right gift for Connie’s friend Paula, the book club book that I have yet to read, and some cupcake dessert plates at TJ Maxx (love that store!). We also strolled through Pier 1, and both of us thought of our iFriend Hayden and the little goodies we had fun selecting for her last week.  Where else but in the good old US of A can one freely explore such a bounteous display of merchandise? I wouldn’t call us materialistic; I would say, however, that we enjoy looking and touching things of beauty.

Our excursion over, I dropped Connie off at her home and reflected on our day. Ain’t life grand??? There are so many good things out there to see and experience, but so often we’re too busy, busy, busy with the details of our lives that we don’t stop long enough to see them, much less savor them.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven through Columbia, SC, but until Saturday I had never, no never, noticed the little Carolina wrens hopping around the sidewalks.

Sea Shells by the Seashore

When summer comes, I find myself getting beach fever and can hardly muster the energy and will to go to work. For 28 years, even though I was working about 15 miles from the strand itself, I could “sense” the nearness of the ocean’s roar and the sandy beach with the sea birds standing as sentinels as they looked “as one” at some sight unseen by my human eyes. Now, 130 miles away, it’s not so easy. Sure, the warm wave pools are still there, as are the squealing children, the shell seekers, and the incoming waves. It’s just not the same, though. I need a vacation, a weekend trip to the seashore.

 

What is the hold that a beach has on me? Whatever it is, I think it casts the same spell on millions of others as well. Last week, I came across a little book entitled Gift from the Sea that I read many years ago when I was a younger mother. There were many passages that spoke to my life and situation at the time, and when I skimmed the book yesterday, I was amazed to see all of the things I had underlined. The passages took me down memory lane as I recalled the sometimes overwhelming responsibilities and “occupations” that I had, most of them centered around the home and family. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, author of this timeless volume, remarks that that saints were rarely married women because of the distractions inherent in raising children and running a house. “Human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life.”

 

Although it was written many decades ago, the challenges and issues faced by Lindbergh are the same ones faced by women in today’s crazy, bustling world. In fact, although women in Siberia, Cameroon, or Ceylon might not have her specific set of circumstances, they can still identify with Lindbergh’s ponderings about a woman’s life, her obligations, her relationships, and her needs. She lived in an upscale suburb of Connecticut and was the mother of five children, and yet there’s something in her writing that can touch the souls of women everywhere whether in a grass hut, McMansion, or mountain shack.

 

The chapters in Gift from the Sea center on Lindbergh’s musings during a two-week vacation at the shore. Leaving husband, children, and house behind, she lives in a bare beach cabin without heat, telephone, plumbing, hot water, rugs, or curtains. Loving her simple beach life, Lindbergh takes a shell at a time and describes it in relation to other things in a woman’s life. For instance, the moon shell reminds her that quiet time, solitude, contemplation, and “something of one’s own” is needed. The double-sunrise represents the pure relationship found in early stages of friendship and marriage, and she reminds the reader that there is no permanent return to an old form of relationship since all are in the process of change. The oyster bed symbolizes the middle years of marriage and family, especially as the home itself grows and expands to accommodate the growing family.

 

Now in midlife, I can better understand her affinity for all the shells as reminders that each cycle of the wave, the tide, and the relationship is valid. When Lindbergh leaves her seaside home away from home, she sweeps several shells into her pocket to remind her that the sea recedes and returns eternally. The shells serve as her “island eyes” and remind her of lessons learned about solitude, closeness to nature, life of the spirit, and the cycles of human relationships. I probably have a hundred or more shells at home, most of which are on my back porch. Thanks to re-reading this book, now I can better understand their significance and symbolism.

 

As a P.S., my DH and I are going to Myrtle Beach for a few days during the week of the Fourth. I think he’s planning to play golf, read, and eat shrimp and oystsers. I’m planning to read, walk, relax, and people watch ON THE BEACH. And yes, I have plenty of sunscreen, Doc.

Minnie Pearl and Friends

Spring Break 2008 has been great so far. Although our plans to travel to the Big Apple were nipped in the bud (cash flow problem), we decided to get in the trusty Toyota and head up the road to Nashville. Neither of us had ever been, but we researched it before leaving town Monday morning and felt pretty comfortable about our visit.

It was dark when we arrived, and since we were tired after seven hours in the car, we decided to grab a bite to eat and check into the hotel. The next morning we were up early, ready to go and do the tourist thing. First on the agenda was securing tickets for the Grand Ole Opry. After all, how can a person go to Nashville without visiting that legendary site?

Tickets secured, we signed up for a Grayline tour of the city, and thanks to our driver, it was both fun and informative. Among other things, we learned that Minnie Pearl earned two college degrees, Alan Jackson used to deliver mail to Opry performers, Porter Wagoner was a chronic insomniac who often slept only two hours per night, and printing and publishing is the #1 business in Nashville. We did other typical day-tripper things like shopping and eating out (even at 11:00 at night…a big deal for us small town residents). We did a little shopping. DH found a Bass Pro Shop, and I found a marvelous mall. Someone recommended that we tour the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, and thinking that’d we be in and out in fifteen minutes, we decided to sandwich it in. We emerged 55 minutes later, agog at the foliage, waterfalls, restaurants, atriums, conservatory, and ballrooms that we’d seen.

Because it was a Tuesday night, the Opry singers and musicians weren’t big names like Loretta Lynn or Lorrie Morgan; they had been there the previous weekend. In fact, there were no female performers at all on Tuesday, but the men who were there were all talented and well worth the admission price. My personal favorites were Little Jimmy Dickens (quite amusing) and Chuck Wicks (eye candy as my friend Dorothy would have said). Until this week, I didn’t know that the Grand Ole Opry was actually a radio show that’s broadcast three nights a week from Nashville on an AM radio station known as WSM (650 on the dial, I think). Since it’s actually a radio show, the performances from the Opry house are interspersed with commercials from sponsors such as the Cracker Barrel and Humana.

The most important thing I brought home from the trip was the sure knowledge that these singers, song writers, musicians, and other performers are using their God-given gifts and that they work hard, very hard, to hone their craft(s) and entertain their fans. Before our visit to Nashville, I never thought that much about Vince Gill, Roy Acuff, or Tammy Wynette. Thanks to our trip up the road, now I have an increased appreciation of these country greats. I can’t get Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” or her untimely death out of my mind. And just so you’ll know, we listened to 650 AM all the way back to SC