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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Our Vacation--Time to Reflect and Good Eats



We spent the 4th of July holiday in a tiny '2 bed room' (aka a room with two beds) cabin at an RV park outside of Charleston South Carolina. We met my hubby's folks there, they came in their RV and we rented a cabin for myself, hubby and one of our sons. On the 4th we took a boat tour out to Fort Sumter and learned about its part in the civil war. The first shots fired in the Civil War were at Ft. Sumter. The fort itself was made of handmade bricks that were made by slaves on area plantations. This was a very thought provoking thing to me. I know I learned alot about the Civil War, but my thoughts seemed to be focused in on those bricks. There were walls there that were about 7 feet thick-- all made of brick. I saw a few bricks that had names on them, apparently they were scratched in before firing. I wondered if these were slaves names perhaps?

It was strange to me to think of this fort used by those fighting both for and against slavery being built of bricks made by slaves. My thoughts went back in time to the Hebrew slaves building the pyramids. I pondered alot on this--on folks doing other people's work basically. That's always been something that has caught my attention. I can recall teaching my children, when they were small and one of the books I used was the story of the little red hen who grew the wheat and ground it and made the dough and baked it--and therefore got to eat it. Not so in real life though--often one does the work and another does the eating.

Anyhow-- It was HOT in Charleston, and super humid. We were in the bottom of a 2 deck boat going out to the island where the fort was. I thought of those many people, immigrants and slaves who came to America--willingly or not-- in the bottoms of boats. We had a little breeze, but it was still hard to bear. I thought of their trips which had to be infinitely worse. I figure we are lucky to be alive--its amazing our ancestors even made it through the things they had to endure in their days.

The 4th of July was a time of reflection for me in that we were just a tad grumbly at our 'quarters' for this vacation. The cabin we were in was tiny, there was no bathroom or kitchen,we had to cross the road to use those facilities--but there was AC-- hoo-ray! While on the road in my spare time I had been reading an autobiographical book about a black woman's life and her involvement as a young woman in the civil rights movement here in the south. Anne Moody's "Coming of Age in Mississippi". It was a coincidence more or less that I had this book, it just caught my eye at work in the library one day and so I was reading it.

I'm not from the south. My folks are white and were a bit involved themselves in that same movement, as part of the Democratic party back then, and also as liberal Catholics. I personally am of a different religious and political view than my folks--but one thing that I am totally in agreement with is that all people deserve to be treated equally. I didn't grow up a poor black woman and I cannot possibly know how hard it was for this lady. I read her book and at times her raw anger was overwhelming to me. It certainly all gave me something to ponder. I thought about Anne; also called Essie Mae, as I walked about Ft. Sumter in that high humid heat. I thought about her and her younger siblings working from childhood in whatever weather the hot south threw at them in order to help their mother find some way to give them school clothes and food--not good food like I talk about here on Pokeberry so often--but just passing food--to get by on. We are not poor--these folks--they were poor. These folks, they didn't have AC.

Anyhow the South is a thought provoking place to be no matter what. Charleston is historical in so many ways and so full of incredible contrasts and yet so beautiful with the moss hanging from the trees.

Another thing we did in Charleston was visit the Aquarium--mainly cuz my son wanted to go someplace with AC. That was pretty neat--we found out about all kinds of plants and animals that live in the Carolinas including in our area.

The place were staying was near a highway called 'The Sweetgrass Basket Highway'. All along the road there little stands with baskets for sale. I was very interested and thought I'd like to get a basket as a souvenir--and besides I use baskets a great deal here in Pokeberry. Well-- this was an eye-opening thing too. The Baskets are an old African Slave craft. They have been made for many generations by slaves and their descendants. The craft is quickly dying now. I stopped at three of the stands to look at the baskets and inquire into prices and learn what I could from the artisans. What I was told is that young folks aren't learning the craft--I could understand that. I do hardanger embroidery myself--an old Norwegian technique--and I know that young folks are not much interested in learning things that require sitting still and working patiently. Another thing I don't think most young people would want to do is sit out by a roadside under a bit of lattice or fabric when its 90 some degrees and super humid--hoping to make a sale. When it comes to selling the baskets--well-- for me they are simply cost prohibitive. I found out from the basket weavers that they can no longer get the supplies easily. The original sweet grass grows wild along beaches, but sadly development has just about eliminated it. Now the basket makers tell me they must drive all the way to Savannah Georgia to buy thier supplies and the cost of gas doesn't help either. Well-- the result is that the size basket I was interested in ranged in price from $400 to $800. I was interested in paying about $35. (and that would be stretching my budget!)
It gave me alot to ponder thinking about this artisan craft that perhaps won't be there at all in a few years. Most of the roadside stands were not occuppied as evidence of how quickly the Sweet Grass Basket Highway is losing its meaning.

Things change don't they?

Another highlight of our trip--this one just 'fun' really was a delightful restaurant on that same highway where we had lunch. The SeeWee Restaurant is named for a small group of Native Americans that apparently used to live in the area of Charleston--though I don't know much about them. I enjoyed the restaurant. It was full of old fashion fun charm--which you can see from the photos above. Another thing I liked about it was the menu. They specialize in seafood and southern home cooking. I had the local fresh shrimp--which is to die for-- I mean you don't know what seafood really is until you've had it really fresh--which sadly means near water--and we don't all live there. I also got to choose 3 sides from a list that included fried green tomatoes, fried squash, fried mushrooms, butter beans, fried pickles.. etc. I loved the fried squash. They sure do like to fry stuff here in the south. ;)

Anyhow it was a lovely little mini-vacation. Perfect for me. I'm usually good for about 2 to 4 days away from home--after that I NEED to be in Pokeberry again. I'm just not a big traveler. This was a nice trip, if I could do it again--I'd do it in the fall I think--cuz man its HOT there.

2 comments:

  1. What a nice trip you had! We went over to Charleston a few summers ago and took the tour of the town, but had to leave because there were no hotels for an hour out of town. My hubby would have loved the Ft. Sumter trip! We are planning a few civil war historical spots on our vacation as we head back down to Florida.
    BTW...I loved those sweetgrass straw baskets...wish I could do that!!!

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  2. I thought that too-- I'd like to try my hand at it. But-- I'm afraid it is a dying art. Most of the roadside stands were dilapidated and out of use. At one time there were about 75 stands along the highway, now there are less than a dozen.

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