spartina salt marsh

Low country Carolinas

Not fair to pair the Carolinas when one is north, the other south, and when I have just skirted them, brushed up along beaches, and slipped into cities and smaller, pretty towns, like the colonial capital of N.C., New Bern, and the lovely seaside Beaufort. But it is true that people talked about shagging in both places, and not what the British mean when they use the word shag. Dancin, dancin, said Isle of Palms (S.C.) Dolly, who shags and does ballroom and takes lessons to improve both; and nephew Mark listed dancin along with guns, religion and football as the cultural lynch pins of his low country section of North Carolina.

In North Carolina, one bumper sticker said, " I'll keep my guns, my faith and my freedom, and you can keep the change," referring to the change Obama promised. Oh this president is not popular here, unless perhaps with the many black people, the African American population.  The lovely soft voiced Helen, for instance, who comes from the low country but taught in Washington for 30 some years; or the Preacher and his wife from Midway, Georgia, who invited me to their church in Savannah, or the young attendant whose eyes widened when she welcomed us to Thomas Ryan's old slave mart in Charleston with the reminder that "Human beings were bought and sold here." Or all the many others on the train, who laughed and called out across the aisles as we slowed and then stopped for track work just before Wilson, and one woman bundled up her things and her sons and almost got off at the wrong stop. Wonderful conductor on that run, so perfectly patient with the overweight young white woman who asked, "When w'all gonna get to Fayetteville? When? Are we gonna get to Fayetteville at 7:30?"

"M'am, I'll tell you when we get going again." White woman, black people. Well, it is a way of describing, to say black or white, Caucasian, African American, whatever.
 We have so few black people in western Canada.  Here I look and look. In fact I am pure-t momucked as some life long low country folks might say, at least I believed that I was mommucked when I thought the word meant amazed. Actually it means harassed or bothered, and I am not bothered at all by this broadening of experience with African Americans. Perhaps instead I am gob smacked (a phrase Irish might say to indicate amazement or shock) by my own ignorance, assumptions, because one has a tendency (even if she knows better) to generalize until experience becomes personal.

I might could research that word mommucked and other distinctive phrases, such as saying, "Can you carry me to the store?" which reminds me both of the song, "Carry me back to ole Virginny" and the French word apporter, to bring.

 Mud. Oh yes, we sank into pluff mud on Carrott Island, and I almost lost my niece's shoe, but we did see wild horses far off and horseshoe crabs and egrets and the wonderful spartina marsh grass, and it was warm enough that we could have been wearing swim suits, which we did the next day, on Atlantic Beach, watching the surfers, the surf, the jet trails in the sky.

Charleston! Elegant, with its own French quarter, Vendue Range, which originally could have meant selling street or row; and street after street of graceful houses, the sweet grass basket weavers on the street, the boys selling palm frond roses that remind me of Palm Sunday, and then the other world of the Islands with their newer graceful houses, some of them sprawling testaments to the hubris of owners who must feel they can defy hurricanes. Conversations employ Hugo as a reference point, as in pre-Hugo, post Hugo. Squadrons of pelicans cruise just above the water. Clusters of ibis poke their curved red bills into the sandy soil edges of the golf course.

Across the Inner Coastal from friend Susan's place is Goat Island, where a father of three young children recently hung himself. Adding to the tragedy for the family, is the fact that he hung himself from the end of his dock, the one that juts out into the Inner Coastal where barges and sail boats and yachts of all kinds can navigate from the Gulf of Mexico off Brownsville, Texas, all the way to the Manasquan Inlet in New Jersey. What did they think, all those navigators who passed, if they looked, if they saw.

On this rail journey south, my view encompasses the immediate side of the track, usually the right side, and the places I stumble upon or am shown. I can say only what I see, saw.