March in Vermont. It’s about sap starting to flow, and the earth starting to thaw. It’s about Mud, and that’s with a capital “M.” Like many Vermonters we are anxious, make that desperate, for the onset of spring, and we’re not above cheating to get there. Towards that end, Silverbelle Sandy and I got in the car and pointed it south … destination The Low Country.
We plotted a route that would avoid the dreaded I-95 corridor, and traveled at a pace suitable for grizzled denizens of The Jungle, overnighting in places like Kingston, NY, Harrisburg, PA, Staunton, VA, and Charlotte, NC. To keep us amused I loaded my phone with audios by and about one of the area’s most famous chroniclers, author Pat Conroy. (Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, The Water is Wide)
We were surprised, and pleased, to learn that our destination of Fripp Island, a barrier island just east of Beaufort, SC, had been Conroy’s home for many years. As we passed through Beaufort on the final leg of our trip we learned that it was home to the Pat Conroy Literary Center, and that the ribbon-cutting for its grand opening would take place on the forthcoming Saturday.
The event was open to the public, and would be feauring a welcome address from Cassandra King Conroy whose memoir of her 20 year marriage to Pat had been our audio entertainment for the last five hours of our travels!
Southern society was on full display at the Saturday event. Bow ties, blazers, pimento cheese hors d’oeuvres (a Beaufort specialty)
We made our way out to Fripp Island, expecting the semi-wilderness of Pat Conroy’s description. It’s now a gated community of six square miles of 400 tame, browsing deer and omni-present golf carts. Our host, Maureen “Mo” Shanahan combines a career as a nationally-known specialist in diabetes with a hunger to be a kickass percussionist. Meet Mo, shown here with long-time friend Silverbelle Sandy. Mo is now officially a Silverbelle, too:
The gig was an Episcopalian church service. Being a disciple of the church of The Jungle, I came equipped with Airpods and a phone full of podcasts, but the setting was so idyllic, the music so good, and the backdrop of birdsong so pleasant that the devices remained in my pocket. Even the sermon about the prodigal son was more interesting than the versions I’ve heard in the past.
Here’s Mo rockin’ out during communion
Can’t quite believe I am saying this, but going to church was … for ONCE … a pleasant experience.
The Gullah/Geechee experience was found on nearby St. Helens Island.
“Gullah”, derived from African word for “Angola,” describes a culture rooted in the barrier islands that buffer the mainlands of Georgia and North and South Carolinas, known collectively as the Low Country, from the Atlantic Ocean. When you are within the Gullah experience, the distance between South Carolina and Africa does not seem so far.
I am fascinated by the Gullah world and the insight it provides to the history of this country. It harkens to our own ancestry of our mountain Silverback gorillas. I will write more about it when I find a way to do it tastefully and appropriately. Gotta figure that out …
Meanwhile, a few glimpses into life on Fripp. These images provided by Silverbelle Sandy.