31/05/2008/7:35 pm, Charleston, SC/Amherst, NS
OK, I admit it right up front - this is a gross oversimplification. But... there are some things on my mind. Can you hear the rant coming?
I left Charleston early Friday morning to fly home to Nova Scotia for a visit with my dad and Jim stayed on board Madcap. We both ended up having experiences that fit this heading. I flew from Charleston to Washington to Ottawa to Toronto to Moncton - that's four flights and five airports. Should be ample opportunity for some conversations and new experiences, right? Wrong. People talked only with those they were accompanying, or they kept their heads in books and papers, or they looked around without focusing on anything. The incident that hit home the most was on the last flight. I had at least been able to exchange a hello with the person seated nearest me on one of the other flights but the last guy foiled me completely.
I had the window seat; the middle one was empty; a short, grey-haired, well-dressed man sat on the aisle. He didn't come anywhere close to making eye contact as he put his briefcase in the overhead compartment or as he sat down. I'm pretty quick to offer a greeting, but I do find it hard to do without eye contact so, even as I read my own book, I kept alert for that opportunity. It never came. He never looked sideways. When the plane finally landed and we all stirred to collect our belongings, his eyes slid across and over me without pausing. I smiled but I might as well have been invisible.
I know that unwanted conversations in tight quarters can be a pain. I know that sometimes we all have things on our minds and don't want to talk. I know some people are shyer than others. I know this was probably just a run of people preoccupied with their own concerns. But... what a loss for us all. In that one particular example, he might have had some really interesting thoughts to share. He might have been interested in what I'm doing. At the very least, we would have acknowledged each other's presence and wished each other a pleasant day. There would have been some kind of communication.
As for Jim - he went to the beach party at the resort that a couple of folks had told him about. When I talked with him on the phone later, he said he stood pretty much by himself. One fellow talked with him but that was all. Folks conversed within their own groups, and we all know it is really hard to break into a closed group - if we even dare to try. The music was good and he enjoyed that. But... how much richer an experience it could have been. (Like the next night when a cruiser from down the dock came along and invited him over for a fabulous evening.)
How did we get to this practice of ignoring the people we are among? When did we stop being interested in others? Why did we start believing it is acceptable to dismiss the traditional patterns of greeting? Whatever happened to the simple joy of, even briefly, meeting someone new?
I like the way they do it in the Bahamas: they wave or nod and say "Hello" and "Goodbye". They ask, "How are you doing?" and maybe they even mean it. Sometimes real conversations evolve.
I like the way cruisers do it - except perhaps in Georgetown, Exumas - I think I grumbled about that a while ago!). We wave and say "Hello" and "Fair Winds". We ask, "Where have you been?" and "Where are you going?" and "What was it like?" and "Are you having a good trip?" and we usually really want to know. Sometimes new friendships are formed; sometimes it is simply best wishes that are exchanged as each boat goes on its way.
Each interaction steadies our keels, adds wind to our sails or gives our engines a boost. Each interaction acknowledges our presence in the world. And Good Grief! How can that not be worth it?!
30/05/2008/12:13 pm, Charleston, SC
That's the way my dinner tasted the other night, and that's how this area felt to me.
Jim and I took the water taxi over to Charleston on Thursday afternoon, (leaves the marina on the hour - costs $5 one-way or $8 round trip per person), wandered around the streets to enjoy the sights and sounds, and devoured several of those heavenly southern concoctions of pecans, butter and sugar - pralines. They have to be one of my all-time favourite sweet treats - especially warm and fresh out of the pot.
We took the trolley back (free for Marina or Resort guests - leaves resort on even hours - like 2,4,6 - and returns about 15 minutes later from the Ben and Jerry's store on Market Street at Meeting St). Even though I complained that this marina is not as convenient as the City one, as long as one is willing to work around the trolly/taxi schedule, getting to historic downtown Charleston is not difficult.
We discovered that the Mount Pleasant side - where the Harbour Marina is located - has a different - and quite juicy feel! We got a real sense of the tides as we strolled along the wharf beside mud banks littered with oyster shells. Brown pelicans flew by us, perched on posts air-drying their wings much like the cormorants we have further north, and dove for fish. The water smelled salty - that smell that I can't even begin to describe - not unpleasant, not strong - just a bit of a tang - a juicy smell. Green grasses grew up luxuriantly along the mud banks, and more birds sang loudly from the midst of them. Laughing gulls with black heads and white bodies swooped around, and the occasional snowy white egret stalked along the edge of the water. For all the life above the water, we knew there was as much and more under it: fish, oysters and shrimp and crabs, dolphins and any number of plants and insects. The air was filled with the richness of all of them too. The word "succulent" came to mind and when I looked it up to see if it fit, the definition "full of vigour and richness; not dull" seemed just right.
Jim and I both remarked that we're not sure we could go back to fresh water. We love the possibility of spotting marine mammals, the buoyancy of salt water and the smell. We love the tides - that continuing reminder of the ebb and flow that is part of our own lives and of life on a larger scale. We love the way the currents help us get places, and the way the depth changes - giving us new vistas to see. (Well ... we don't always like the depth changes!) It is easier to see the channels at low tide, and there is more room for error at high tide. I kind of like the way the tide forces us to conform to a rhythm greater than our own - even when it means we have to get up early or stay out late to make a passage.
Dinner on Thursday night was succulent too. Gail left a message on the website that we should explore Shem Creek. Dixon, the trolley driver, told us one of his favourites was the Shem Creek Bar and Grill and drove us over there. On the porch, we met Mark, who volunteered that the food was the best there is and who walked us right inside. With all that, how could we go wrong?
Just before that though, we lingered on the bridge over the creek to watch the evening action. Shrimp boats lined both sides of the creek - with their long netted arms all neatly folded up. Pleasure boats were tied up wherever they could find a spot. Fishermen hosed off boat decks and diners lounged on restaurant decks. In the middle of it all, dolphins surfaced and dove as they fished the creek; pelicans floated between the boats, flew up and swooped down to fill their pouched beaks with dinner. The place was fully alive with both people and creatures.
Once inside the Shem Creek Bar and Grill, the choices were almost over-whelming - everything looked delicious. We finally settled on a couple of dishes and proceeded to eat one of the best meals we've had. Jim's big bowl of shrimp and scallops in a creamy sauce over white grits was perfectly cooked and seasoned. It was my platter of assorted seafood, all lightly sautéed in butter and garlic that blew us both away. There was a chunk of mahi-mahi, a stuffed crab shell - that was mostly crab and not filler, juicy pink shrimp, and creamy white scallops that were soft and sweet and tender. The veggies - slices of yellow and green summer squash and carrots and long, thin beans were all crunchy-tender, and the grains of red rice were chewy. Oh - it was a feast and we ate and aahed and ate and aahed!
Juicy, tender, succulent, rich; we were filled in more ways than one when we got back to the boat that night.
28/05/2008/8:23 pm, Charleston, SC
Here we are in Charleston again (Well - in the pretty picture above - we are still in Fernandina Beach!) Seems like yesterday and seems like forever ago that we had dinner at the BBQ place with Mary and Blair (Strathspey), and roamed the streets with Terry and Sue (Jim's cousin).
We departed from Fernandina Beach at 0800 hours on Tuesday when it looked like we'd have a smooth passage up the coast. Yes - it was smooth. A few rolls but nothing to complain about, and some wind but not enough to allow us to turn off the engine completely. We covered 157 nautical miles and dropped the anchor in the Ashley River about 1030 hours today. It is amazing to realize that in two jumps up the coast, we covered miles that took us two weeks on the way down. We had to skip Georgia this trip north so we'll return to visit Savannah and Cumberland Island in more depth next time.
After a rest, some lunch and some discussion, we moved over to the Charleston Harbour Resort Marina. I'm flying back to Nova Scotia on Friday for a few days and Jim decided he'd feel more comfortable on a dock for that time period. It makes it easier for him to come and go. He can do more boat jobs - washing, scrubbing, waxing! And if a big wind blows through, he'll be in a better position to manage it.
Last fall we stayed at the Charleston City Marina and were very pleased with it. We thought we'd try the Charleston Harbour Marina this time for a change; we'll see how it works out. So far, we can tell that the staff is not as well trained as those we met at the City Marina last year - in handling lines, in providing information, and it seems to me that it isn't as convenient - we can't just walk to the downtown.
I've just read a couple of good books: The Water is Wide, Pat Conroy's story of the year he spent teaching on Yamacraw Island, a tiny island a whole world and just a sliver of water away from South Carolina, - a very good read; a totally different one but entertaining and informative, (and it kept me awake on my watches last night) was Shark River by Randy Wayne White - a Florida writer. Jim is reading Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile and finds it enlightening and baffling at the same time. After we've both read it, we'll rent the movie.
That's it for now - an astoundingly short posting for me!