I sit here rather dumbfounded and stunned. Once again my pathway has opened up into a beautiful sunlit sea, one filled with laughing gulls, blue crabs, dolphins, bridges, pelicans, tiny fiddler crabs that scuttle and hide every time I tried to take their photo, soft sandy beaches and shrimp boats. Charleston called to me in the form of a friend in Seattle that wrote and introduced me via facebook to a good friend of hers, DeAnne, that lives in Charleston. DeAnne warmly invited me, a complete stranger, into her home and showed me the local side of the city. We shared much in common, a love of art, beauty, cats, daughters, ex-husbands, contempt for racism, desire for new beginnings, and self-discovery. She took time out of her life to show me things I have never seen and give me a vision of South Carolina through an insider’s eyes. It was also the week of Spoleto, Charleston’s 36 year old annual performing arts festival with theatre, dance, music, and poetry going on all around the city.
The first day I arrived I explored the historic district on my own. It is absolutely beautiful, the old homes and streets filled my senses with richness, my imagination with hoop skirts and southern belles. Situated right on the bay, it was….golly I get tired of trying to find the words to describe the varied gorgeousness, they all seem so inadequate. It was like stepping back in time, and I wandered around in bliss not really paying attention to where I was going, just getting lost in neighborhoods with mansions and churches. I did start paying more attention to reality when I stepped off a curb into a hole and twisted my ankle rather badly. I favored it the rest of the day, hoping I hadn’t broken anything. But I was determined not to miss a thing and didn’t let the pain deter me from any of my meanderings.
When it was time for a break I went toward the water and walked out on a dock and found wooden swings facing the view. It was such a brilliant piece of heaven on earth to relax and swing after walking all morning in the heat. I blest whoever was responsible for this bit of design, it was brilliant!
I explored four blocks of the City Market, vendors selling things like candles, jewelry, hats, pottery, not really anything I was interested in but part of the scene to observe. Near there the horse-drawn carriage tours line up and I heard this was a must-do activity to learn specific history about the homes and areas of town. I normally would not do this kind of thing, but they are well-regulated and the horses are well cared for, so off I went and it was very informative and I had a delightful guide with a history degree.
She taught me the difference between a cemetery and a graveyard…a graveyard is always connected to a church, cemeteries not, and she recommended a South Carolina specialty of she-crab soup, which I had for lunch, even though it was a very warm 82 degrees. It’s very much like clam chowder only made with crab. Luckily I didn’t know that “roe” (eggs from the she-crab ovaries) was in the soup until AFTER I ate it. Sounds bad, but it was good.
I wandered and got lost a bit more and happened upon a poetry reading and sat next to a delightfully friendly woman that I could tell had a sense of adventure like me. She knew the poet and I enjoyed listening to the spoken word rhythms and honesty of soul that flowed from his lips. A delight after the sweaty trudging I’d been doing.
I bought a ticket for a Noel Coward play that evening and threw a dress on in the car so as to be presentable at the old restored Dock Street Theatre. My ankle was holding up but it was feeling the strain. As I gratefully relaxed onto my seat in the theater a man, tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I would be willing to switch seats, as he and his wife were split up. He sweetly offered a glass of wine at intermission as compensation and I was happy to oblige.
He held up his end of the bargain and bought me a glass of wine and we all visited as we sipped. My journey was discussed and they shared a trip they were going to take in a few months to Katahdin in Maine. My jaw dropped open as Mt. Katahdin is on my list of possible things to do on this trip as Henry David Thoreau climbed it and wrote about it in The Maine Woods. They didn’t know this bit of trivia and were thrilled with the idea of reading the book before they go. It is such a small world, and I was so tickled to meet complete strangers and have something so remote in common, and be able to enhance their future travels.
After a long day I was welcomed to DeAnne’s home with open arms and we stayed up chatting like old friends until 2:00am. (to be continued…)