ahoy, pollen season…

I did it, finally! Yes, that unheard of thing called… downloading my phone pics to my computer. Time to catch up, at last. Some of you may remember that I went north for Spring Break, to Pennsylvania and Maryland. And it snowed. Yes, while I didn’t have a glove or scarf to my name, 3-4 inches of snow fell that night, and I had a time of it, clearing and reloading my car.IMG_20140317_081020044 IMG_20140317_091033331 IMG_20140317_091215858Anyway, it’s been a few weeks (I think), and the first bursts of spring have already arrived in the form of pear blossoms and cherry blossoms, and even the pink tulip trees are just about past. How did I know that? Well, aside from the trees beginning to turn green instead of pink or white, my car is simultaneously turning yellow.IMG_20140317_091842445 IMG_20140317_141530361You guessed it, as difficult as it may be. That wonderful time of year, pollen season, has arrived. And as always, I am grateful to not have allergies. However, I’m not grateful for the layer of yellow dust that gets on everything, and with a stiff breeze makes me feel like I had a cloud of dirt thrown in my eyes. Wait, maybe I did. They were putting fresh mulch out, the other day, near the stadium. That was a thrilling walk back to my car, even if it was 80 degrees out. The breeze would have been awesome, except it wafted the smell of fresh mulch in my face, as well as a layer of dirt and pollen that always managed to get behind my glasses. I should be grateful I wasn’t wearing my contacts, I suppose, because then I’d never be able to close my eyes again over the dirt layer. IMG_20140306_121457157 IMG_20140324_110746835 IMG_20140324_110847221 Meanwhile, I have discovered that Clemson doesn’t seem to have an automatic car wash, anymore, and I still need one with an undercarriage wash to get the rest of the salt off my car. Yep, my car has a layer of salt AND pollen on it right now, it’s quite lovely. But when I realized I needed to drive all the way to Anderson (I know, a whopping 20 minutes!) just to get my car washed, I became quite stubborn. Need to come up with something else to do when I get there, before I talk myself into it. If I’m lucky, it’ll even be something interesting.IMG_20140324_110925034IMG_20140324_111034000But for now, I hope you enjoy the contrasting pics belonging to both winter and spring, all with two weeks and multiple states. I hope your spring arrives soon, if it hasn’t done so yet! IMG_20140324_132004433 IMG_20140324_132135012 IMG_20140401_090831628


recent snippets…

Now that I have finished my paper for History 299 (hooray!), I should finally be able to download the rest of my latest pictures onto the computer. Not from my camera, of course, but from my phone. Somehow, when I was in PA during spring break, I took most of my pictures with the phone. I’ll doublecheck to make sure I don’t post any duplicates. But here are a few from that trip and from recently, until the next downloads come through.

And yes, I did see a lot of babies over Spring Break, why do you ask?  ; )  My trip was a hodge-podge of visits with friends and their babies, eating, snow, and lots of other things… and there aren’t even any snow pictures here! Yes, all on the phone, with no time or energy to get them. Later, later. Also, still having issues with the new WordPress photo editing tools, which makes this the second time I’ve attempted to put this post together. Frustrating. But I hope you enjoy the pictures just the same, and maybe I’ll have time to do some real blogging, soon!    DSC_0402IMG_20140316_144811046IMG_20140316_140409361_HDRIMG_20140315_142233163IMG_20140315_113948274     DSC_0384 DSC_0382IMG_20140314_090545434 DSC_0360IMG_20140314_091159935 DSC_0346IMG_20140314_13594560810006600_10152272624424976_822995298_o

pennsylvania good-times…

I know, I know, I’m behind! So sorry. I don’t really think I’ve been TOO busy since returning from PA, but between laundry loads, catching up on odds and ends, and unloading boxes… let’s say I’ve kept myself occupied.DSC_0912

DSC_0958As some of you may know, I left over a week ago for Pennsylvania, to meet up with some old friends and old stomping grounds, as well as to sort through my storage unit. The original plan had been to go rent a U-haul and get my storage unit stuff, but that’s been delayed for a few weeks, because of a better option. So, I’ll have it all soon, but not quite yet.DSC_0048

DSC_0060This visit allowed me to not be so pressured for time, while visiting people, and to leisurely do some sorting, in order to help out with the future move.DSC_0063

DSC_0107So, after my usual 9-10 hour drive to Chambersburg, I arrived at GWH. I lived there for almost five years, working as the full-time housekeeper, and occupied two different houses while there. My summers were spent chasing summer staffers and cleaning up between large groups of campers, while the off-season was spent doing all that on my own, during the weeks… but for smaller groups, usually. I knew all the camp buildings from top to bottom, and got to drive a golf cart year-round. What could be better?DSC_0924

DSC_0915Arriving right before a session of family camp allowed me get in some good local food with friends, at Benny’s Italian Restaurant, before seeing more friends. I love Benny’s, and I always have to get a calzone when I’m there. Not that there’s anything wrong with pizza or pasta… I just love all that ham, mozzarella, and ricotta cheese, packed into fresh baked bread.DSC_0963

DSC_0015Also, I tried bruschetta for the second time. I really do not like raw tomatoes, and I’m not a big fan of excessive amounts of tomato sauce, either, but I still eat that. :)  But in recent years, I’ve discovered a liking for fish tacos, which include raw onions and tomatoes, mixed into the fresh salsa. So, with that in mind, I chowed down on bruschetta… and liked it. Soaking those tomatoes in oil and spices really did them good.DSC_0941

DSC_0949And for the record, when we were at Olive Garden, the next day (we really weren’t intending to binge on Italian!), I ate a tomato in my salad. So there. But not the olives. I have a vivid memory of trying an olive, again, at a Greek restaurant, a few year ago. That didn’t go down well.DSC_0007

DSC_0990Enough with the food, for the moment. One of my first stops on Saturday morning was to go check out the new swings that they built during Boys Camp. The circle of swings was supposed to be a new hangout area for people, especially during family camps. Just a nice place to get cozy and catch up with old friends. I think it was a great idea, whoever came up with it.DSC_0974

DSC_0982Ok, we couldn’t really completely escape from food. I had Moose Tracks at the Chatterbox (snack shop) almost every evening, after the evening meetings. Usually while catching up with friends, or enjoying their kids’ gyrations on the table top. This particular charmer had just gotten her second wind, and I still think that photo is perfect for adding some hilarious captions.DSC_0202

DSC_0073One afternoon, I got in an awesome game of Ultimate Frisbee, though that game also proved that I needed to completely retire my old sneakers in favor of the ones that just arrived in the mail, this week. Aren’t they fantastic? And I couldn’t resist the urge to wander around and take a look at some of the main buildings on the grounds.DSC_0090

DSC_0100When my time with the friends and kiddos was finally done, it was Wednesday morning, and I got up at the crack of early to a very cool Pennsylvania morning. Which was great, because it had been pretty hot, for most of the week. I had planned to try and get some photos of the local views, so I made a stop at Norlo Park to check out the barn and the surrounding area. As always, I wished I could get up higher in the air, in order to show off the rolling hills of PA, in a much better form.DSC_0116

DSC_0125Then, at the storage unit, I loaded my car to the brim, and made one last short stop at the Goodwill store. These scary mannequins are what greets you at the back door. Don’t let the kids see them, they might have nightmares.DSC_0187

DSC_0155I drove over a couple more hills to arrive at Windy Knoll Creamery, but well before they were open. Besides, I was still going out to breakfast with someone, so it wasn’t really time for ice cream, yet. But that area is full of rolling hills to walk up, as well as a spot for me to park my car. The trick is that for all the beautiful views, you can’t always find a shoulder of the road to park on. So, a friendly neighborhood dog followed me up the hill, while I took some pics.DSC_0157

DSC_0166Then, I got back in the car, and proceeded to drive somewhat slowly, and take pictures through the windshield or out the open window (with my camera strapped wrapped around my wrist). Don’t worry, I made sure no one was behind me, so I wouldn’t hold up traffic. Some pics came out well, and some did not. But it’s truly beautiful countryside.DSC_0167

After that, I had some coffee at Starbucks, and a great breakfast at Perkins, and then hit the road for South Carolina. It was a great way to finish out the summer, right before starting school. Which starts in several days, by the way. We’ll see what happens on the blog, after things get going. :)DSC_0175

the flora of hawai’i…

In March of 2008, a friend and I flew to Hawaii to both see the island, and to see my cousin, who was stationed there. As I’ve been transferring pictures from my desktop to my laptop (I’ve been meaning to do this for a LONG time), I’ve noticed a few things.IMG_0388

IMG_0410IMG_0415Obviously, these pictures appear a bit grainier than my most recent photos, but that’s because I was using one of my Canon Powershot cameras. I’m not sure which one, though. Probably it’s the one I still have, but I can’t be sure. But mostly, I noticed that already, pictures of the local flowers were showing up, wherever I found them.IMG_0440

IMG_0444IMG_0445I’ve had to delete any number of fuzzy photos, or ones that were too distant to make anything of, but I’ve sorted through them, and done some editing. I would have been experimenting with the macro zoom option on my camera, at the time, which seemed to do a good job with closeups. But as I was using a point-and-shoot camera, I wasn’t looking through the viewfinder, but at the screen on the back of the camera. It’s also likely that I was taking pictures on the fly, as I tried to keep up with Joel and Carrie. Who knows?IMG_0456

IMG_0455IMG_0459But since I haven’t been out taking local photos in some time, I thought I’d revisit a past trip, instead. Perhaps you can see how far I’ve come with my photography since then?IMG_0479

IMG_0481IMG_0488Of course, I have any number of other pictures of our trip, but at this point, I don’t know how to sort through them and blog about them. I have my journal entries from that trip, but just like the FB Notes that I used to write, using my shorthand journal, they’re somewhat lengthy. I’ll see what I can do. If I have time before school starts, maybe I’ll formulate a description of that trip, but I can’t promise anything.  : )IMG_0490

IMG_0489IMG_0498Meanwhile, I’m getting ready for a trip to Pennsylvania, as soon as I’m finished with my job on Thursday. I’ll be hitting the road on Friday, and probably spending more than the weekend there, catching up with people, and sorting my storage unit. If you’ve heard anything about a previously planned trip to get the unit stuff, we’ve pushed the move date back, but it’s still sooner rather than later. More on that, some other time.IMG_0512

IMG_0514IMG_0515But I should have some pictures of friends, babies, and the PA locality, after I get back. Have a great week!IMG_0520IMG_0564IMG_0699

the why-me? factor…

I should’ve known, I suppose. Or should I? When was the last time we had SO much rain that it occurred to me that I should move my car several times, in order to discourage intruders? I knew that bugs will head inside, sometimes, when there is a lot of rain, because they’re looking for dry ground, and shelter from what must be a global flood, to them. But how often do I leave my car sitting for several days? Not very often.

Spending several days with friends in Georgia was wonderful, and I’ll talk more about that part of it, later. But I was expecting a leisurely drive home to Clemson… when I saw an ant on my dashboard. I squashed him, thinking little of it. And then I saw another. By the time I had seen four or five of them, I was getting worried. Because it had finally occurred to me what MIGHT have happened, while Georgia and South Carolina were getting drowned in rain, and my car had been sitting in the same spot. I was hoping I was wrong, however.

You can never find an exit, when you want one. I’m sure it took another half an hour to find an exit, and then pull off at a gas station. The second I opened my car door, I almost freaked out. Ok, I wanted to freak out, but had to keep it under control. A stream of ants was running around the door jamb of the driver’s side door. So, I opened a different door… and it was even worse. I ran into the gas station, hoping they would have bug spray, but no such luck. I ran out, slightly panicked, and NOT wanting to get back into my car, but reminded myself they didn’t seem to be getting on the carpet or anything fabric. Just on the plastic stuff, in the door.

I managed to find an Ingles, and hurried in, just as it began to pour down rain, once more. Here I was, wearing my sundress that I had worn to church, trying to keep from slipping in my wet flip-flops, carrying an umbrella, and all I wanted was ant spray for my car! When I saw the Terro ant spray on the shelf, I took a brace, momentarily. Terro ant traps… my family and friends swear by that brand, so the spray must be fantastic.

Back out into the rain I went, where eventually, I had about three doors open at a time, to keep from soaking the inside of the car, and to deter anyone from making a grab for my purse. Not that any sane person would be out there in the rain, purse-snatching. But I had swarms of aunts in the back door jambs, which made me want to do a dance of disgust and run away, not deal with the problem. Holding an umbrella in one hand, I stomped through the puddles, spraying my doors, the door jambs, parts of the floor, and even on my dashboard (while trying to protect the CD player).

Once I was back in the car, I tried to convince myself that nothing was crawling on me, as I drove away. You know how it is, you get any creepy-crawly on or near you, and you feel like there are more. About an hour later, the rain had stopped, and I needed a break, so I pulled over at a Starbucks. Then, it was time for the next step. With no rain coming down, I popped the hood, and looked inside. And had to take several deep breaths, before calling my dad.

With a stream of ants running around near the battery, I wanted to know if it was safe to be spraying ant spray near the engine, while I continued to resist the urge to run away and cry. Or scream. Or something. So, after getting the go-ahead, I sprayed down everything I could reach (aside from the engine itself), and left the hood open. Then I went inside for coffee, and stayed there for a while. Just keep breathing. Coffee will help.

For the rest of the trip home, I had an occasional invader come into the car, and crawl out on the dashboard. So I kept the spray handy, and kept my windows cracked, whether it was raining or not. Because it was extremely humid and I have issues with the smell of exhaust, I could never go long with the air cycling from the outside, so I finally just kept the AC running, with the windows partially open. And yes, it was raining for a lot of this.

There were so many wrecks on the road, because of the slippery roads, and the traffic kept slowing down and speeding up. But I was doing fine, if a little uptight over the bug problem. And then, I still don’t know if the van didn’t have brake lights or if I just missed it. I saw a license plate at such close range that I’ll never know how I didn’t hit that vehicle. I hit the brakes and threw my car into the other lane. Had I somehow remembered that that lane was empty, because of an upcoming police car (helping someone with a flat tire)? Or would I just have hit whoever was in that lane? I’m sure what almost happened to me is why so many people were in the ditches, even when it wasn’t raining. So much traffic, and cars stopping and starting.

That near-miss just about gave me a heart attack, and for the first time, when I got home a road trip, I told my mom that I never wanted to get into the car again. Or at least, for a very long time. I proceeded to hose out the engine of my car, even as it began to rain again, and then hose out all the crevices all around my car. The ants kept looking for any non-poisonous space they could find. By the time I was finished with the hose, the rain was really coming down again, but I just stayed out in it, cooling off and calming down further.

It was  a crazy trip. One of those trips where you want to ask the sky, “Why me?”. What did I do to deserve that? Nothing, of course. These things just happen, and it’s just life. But though I’m usually the kind of girl that isn’t overly bothered by bugs, I’ve been extra antsy about them, all day today. And no, I’m not intending a pun, though I know where the word comes from, now. When I woke up, I had to take a deep breath and go check my car, because I had this dread that it would be just as bad, again.

Thus far, the spray and the hose seem to have done their work. But I don’t think I will be very “trusting” of my car, for some time after this. So, if you see me staring hard at the door jambs of my car, any time soon, you can be sure of what I’m looking for. Any unwanted visitors, so I can be rid of them, right away!

Now, feel free to laugh and squirm over this, and the fact that you didn’t have to deal with it. And I’ll get ready to tell you about the rest of my fun, though wet, weekend in Georgia. The trip home was the only bad part!  : )

i’m back, with buckets…

The rain continues to pour down. Will it ever stop again? I know, I know, the forecast says partially cloudy or something, so it pours down in gallons, half the time, and then the sun peeks out to tantalize us. The back and front yards of lots of homes look like a cross between a jungle and a lake. Does that make it a swamp, yet? Depends on the lay of the land, I suppose.

Of course, if we lived near a river, we’d be having some major flooding, I suppose, like when I was in Emerald. We have a lot of lakes, but they were so low, before all this rain started, that they’re just now getting full. I think the lake property owners have a little ways to go before they’re at flood levels.

You may have guessed I was away. I took my laptop, too, but never felt like getting it out. Too busy visiting with friends, or just goofing off and reading a book. You’ll have to wait a little longer, for me to catch you up on my crazy trip home and my fun with aforementioned friends.

Meanwhile, I was so wound up from my drive home that blogging was the last thing on my mind. For now, I just need to get to bed early, so I can be rested and somewhat awake, when I head to work in the morning. Yep, it’s back to the daily swing of things, but I’m actually looking forward to it. I feel like I haven’t seen some of my friends in forever, though it’s only been since last… Wednesday. No customers came into my workplace on the Fourth of July (imagine that!), and my manager’s manager finally let us close the cafe.

I hope you had a marvelous Independence Day, wherever you are in the United States, and I hope that everyone else had a great week.

Now, if we could only send the rain out west, where they’re having drought and forest fires! They need it much more than we do, at this point!

converging on each other…

It was about six or seven years ago, during one memorable Charleston trip, that we christened our friend Drew with the title, The Lurker. One of the original photo-bombers, somehow, he would just end up in the background of most of our photos. Eventually, we had him “lurk” there on purpose. Over the years, the nickname has lingered, and he still has a talent for silently walking up behind people, or appearing in pictures he wasn’t intended for. It’s a talent that most of us don’t have.DSC_0257

Of course, I wasn’t thinking about this, when I left Clemson. I hit the road at 8 am, and was half an hour past Greenville, enjoying my music, when I noticed a truck starting to pass me. Well, I thought it was. I glanced to my left, looked away, and then looked back again, slightly startled. Sure enough, Drew was looking determinedly at me, from the passenger seat of that truck. I promptly grabbed my phone, to tell my two best friends that “Drew’s lurking at me… from Tom’s truck!”. They thought that was funny, because he had come up in conversation, so technically, he was lurking in the conversation, too. Such talent.DSC_0258

DSC_0260Yes, my girls from Pennsylvania were on their way south. When I lived there, we would drive to Seabrook Island, together, all 10-13 hours of it, depending on traffic. Now, they have to make it on their own. This time, they drove down early, stayed overnight in Charlotte, and were on target to meet me in Summerville at noon. From there, we would leave my car at a friend’s, and travel to Charleston and Seabrook, together. After a year in Australia, I still don’t think we’ve caught up on talking, in our handful of visits, since I returned.DSC_0265

Within half an hour of my destination, I was entertained to see “The Ark” go rolling down the highway, next to me. That was the first time I pulled out my camera and I took it with me everywhere, for the rest of the weekend.DSC_0275

We stopped for lunch at Tbonz, near the Market. Just now, when I finally looked at my picture of the menu again, I thought the menu had been misspelled. Turns out, I never knew that Tbonz’ full name was Tbonz Gill & Grill. For a minute there, I was worried. Spelling mistakes should NOT be in your menu, that’s for sure. Their sweet potato fries were awesome, but don’t order the she-crab soup. Not a winner.DSC_0277

After wandering the whole Market, we crossed the street to look inside of Charleston’s Candy Kitchen. Located on the corner of North Market Street and East Bay, I had never noticed it there, before. Usually, when we cross the streets, outside the Market, we’re further down, and don’t notice what’s up on the corner. As you can see, this is one of the places where you gain weight by looking…. or breathing in the scent of chocolate.DSC_0278

DSC_0283My only purchase was a stick of rock candy. Ah, the memories that come with those treats. Not all good, of course. The main one was from going to Charleston on a school trip, and staying overnight on the U.S.S. Yorktown. We also did the Fort Sumter tour, and I bought some rock candy for that trip. Promptly chipped a tooth that I had just had fixed. Or maybe that was the first chip. I had to have that tooth fixed three times within two weeks, because it just wouldn’t stay fixed. But at the age of 10 or 11, I was horrified by the mishap.DSC_0285

While walking past the U.S. Custom House, on the way to the parking garage, I took another look, and really liked the design on the top of the columns. Don’t you?DSC_0289

After climbing all the stairs to the roof of the parking garage, and making our way back to the car, I was in the driver’s seat again. Charleston isn’t my favorite place to drive, but I am much more used to city driving than my friends, so I always volunteer for this part of things. If my directional sense goes wrong, we get the GPS out. But that always ends interestingly, because I don’t always listen properly to that little voice.DSC_0296

So, last time we used it in Charleston, we almost got seriously lost, trying to follow the directions “Jane” gave us. I’m much better off using my own judgment, and not worrying too much. Charleston is on a peninsula, and sooner or later, you reach the waterfront, and/or come to a bridge. I generally know which direction I should be going, even if I don’t remember the street names.DSC_0301

Having eaten lunch rather late, we skipped the dinner get-together, and went straight to Freshfields Village, at the roundabout in front of Kioway and Seabrook Islands. Goodness, I still remember back before they built that place. And before they built the big bridge on Main Rd. There used to be a “spinning bridge”, instead of a regular draw bridge, and it was a pain, if you got stuck on the road, when the bridge was being “spun” to let boats through.DSC_0303DSC_0304

Instead of dinner, we went to the Marble Slab Creamery, and hemmed and hawed over our choices. I finally decided on Amaretto ice cream, with chocolate chip cookie dough mixed in. The guy working there thought this sounded wonderful, and said he’d have to try it. From there, while I was paying for my ice cream, he asked where we were from, and when I told him Clemson, he said “That’s where I go to school!”.DSC_0306

Turns out, not only that, he’s an engineering student and comes into my cafe regularly. When I informed him that I was the cashier, he KNEW that I had looked familiar. But who really would have thought you’d find your Clemson cashier at an ice cream join, near Seabrook Island? He never “woulda-thunk-it”. He wouldn’t know that I’m at Seabrook, twice a year, every year since 1998.DSC_0308

After all the ice cream was devoured, we headed onto the island, driving “gently” as we went. Yes, the signs really do tell you to drive gently. And after the gatehouse, you HAVE to follow the speed limit (25 mph), or risk getting pulled over by a golf cart, if you go more than 3 miles over the limit. I kid you not. It happened to a friend, about ten years ago, and he still hasn’t lived it down. Most of our group have forgotten how Kelvin drove his motorcycle to Seabrook, only to find that motorcycles weren’t allowed on the island. So, he had to wait for someone to give him a ride to camp. But Gary has never lived down getting a ticket from a golf cart.DSC_0310

Arrival involves much unloading of cars, running and hugging all the arrivals, and lots of general excitement. For me, it used to involve running up and down the boardwalk in my flip-flops (I only fell once), but a foot injury wasn’t allowing that, this time. It was a beautiful evening, with a gorgeous sunset. And even the deer are somewhat friendly. Or at least, unafraid of humans. I got quite close to this one, to take these pictures. But I didn’t go too close, I was afraid the deer would panic and run me over. That’s something that I would never live down.DSC_0315

People still don’t quite believe the story about Kelvin and I finding a deer head washed up on the beach, so many years ago. Aside from us, there were no witnesses to the event. Unlike when the plane landed on the beach, or the large turtle washed up after a boat collision. But if I got run over by a deer, there would have been multiple witnesses, as everyone was on the boardwalk, in the snack shack, or in the gazebo. So, I behaved myself, and so did the deer.DSC_0326

I know, I know, I’m just getting started. But I took a lot of pictures, so this will get things going. Stay with me, I’m catching up!DSC_0327

i’m at seabrook…

As you read this, on a (hopefully) sunny morning, wherever you are, I’m probably eating a splendid breakfast in the camp dining hall. Not just any dining hall, because this camp & conference center has a CHEF. If I’m not eating scrambled eggs, grits, or French toast, I might be wading in the ocean, before heading to the morning meeting. You never know. Depends on what time you’re reading this. DSC_0247

If I’m on the beach, maybe there will be dolphins close enough to shore that I could get some good pictures of them. Someday, I’m going to get a longer zoom lens for my Nikon, so I can get closeups of dolphins in and pelicans on the water. DSC_0301

When I’m in the chapel, I will be sitting with some of my best friends in the world, singing our hearts out, before the meeting begins. The weather is supposed to be HOT, so we’ll probably have the air conditioning blasting inside, requiring all the girls to bring jackets or pashmina scarves to wrap up in. DSC_0336

If you’re reading this on Saturday afternoon, I am definitely running around on the beach, in my water shoes, throwing a frisbee. Or playing volleyball, and picking the sand spurs out of the ball, every time it gets hit into the weeds. Or swimming in the ocean, because the weather is supposed to be glorious! And not wearing sunscreen, because I never do.DSC_0349

And if you’re reading this late in the evening, I will be sitting on the bleachers, by the campfire, playing my guitar. The stars will be shining over our heads, and hopefully, there won’t be any clouds for them to hide behind. We’ll go beachwalking, argue over the constellations, and jump up and down like little kids, when we see a shooting star. I always seem to miss them, because I’m never looking in the right direction.DSC_0415

I wish you could all be here, so since you can’t, you have something to look forward to, when I return. I’ll have pictures and a story or two to tell! Oh, and before someone gets after me, I wrote this on Thursday, and I definitely screwed up all my tenses. I’m pretty sure I went back and forth between past, present, and future, but I’m not going to try and correct myself anymore. Grammar-phobes, beware!DSC_0480

words before photos…

You’ve heard this complaint before, but my photos sometimes get in my way. I am a writer first, and a photographer… somewhere about fifth. Ok, maybe it’s third or fourth, by now. My photos have come a long way since I was a teenager. And then, they’ve probably come just as far, in the last two years alone.

But like I said, I’m a writer first. If I’ve never written a book, how was I a writer, before I started this blog? Well, I’m not even talking about the stories I’ve started, over the years, and never finished. I’m talking about the art of letter-writing. Have you heard of it?

The internet only arrived at our house when I was about fifteen (1995), and my older brother started college. We somehow wired his school e-mail to come to our house, and then I was able to write short e-mails to my one cousin who also had e-mail. It was the DOS screen type, black screen and white letters, and you could only write a letter as long as the screen, no scrolling down. If you had more to write, you had to start a new letter, and heaven forbid anyone pick up the telephone. If they picked up the phone, you lost your e-mail, unable to copy and paste it again. Had to start over, completely. Oh, the wails that ensued, when someone touched that phone.

I’m talking about even further back, though, when I actually wrote letters to my friends. You see, even though I had friends in school, my closest friends were always my cousins, who lived in faraway states like Michigan and Massachusetts. Long-distance telephone calls were expensive and nearly unheard of for kids my age, so letters were the only option. And didn’t we keep the mailman busy!

In high school, I learned how to type, and for only getting half a semester in the subject, I learned quickly. The class ended before I could get very good with numbers, but aside from that, I’ve always been able to type almost 100 wpm. In fact, that’s almost as fast as I can think.

When you’re maintaining close friendships through letters and long e-mails, you don’t have someone there with you, telling you when to stop. You go through their letters, make sure you address every topic, in detail, because who knows when they will have time to reply, and you want them to respond in kind. I lived for my letters, over the years.

What does this have to do with being a writer? Well, here on my blog, my aim is usually to tell a story, whether I use pictures or words. What are you doing, when you write letters to close friends, if not telling them the daily story of your life? You’re trying to make them see, hear, and almost touch what you are living through. And when it’s between close friends, you are being honest, and not even avoiding the harsh details of your life.

Eventually, my letter-writing translated into e-mail and Facebook form. When I went to Indonesia in 1999 (or somewhere around there), I wrote e-mails to my mom (and forwarded to several other people), every day, so she would know what my time there was like. Those letters were also forwarded to my own e-mail, so I still have the descriptions from that month, full of as much detail as I could squeeze in. I also took a large number of photos, and they’re in a box somewhere, waiting to be transferred to CD. Someday.

When I went to Ireland, for a two-week mission trip, in 1999, I didn’t have computer access. So, I used the method that I continue to use when I can’t write regular e-mails, I keep an old-fashioned journal. Nowadays, I write them in shorthand, but then, I wrote them in detail. Every night, I documented our day, so that I would be able to type it up and immortalize it, afterwards. And since I was afraid my camera might get stolen, I took a handful of disposable cameras with me, to capture what Ireland and London (we were there for a day) looked like. Those pictures are in a box somewhere, too.

Some of these journals were typed up, afterwards, and sent to people in letter form. Others were posted in Notes, on Facebook. This was long before my blog ever existed, but I still wanted my friends and family to know what these places were really like, and what adventures I had.

The most recent version of the journal-to-blog posts would be from my cruise to the Bahamas, and my week in Sydney. After writing a shorthand version of my days on the cruise ship, I condensed it into a short blog post, some time after I began my blog. Probably when I was feeling jealous of my Aussie friend’s cruise in the Pacific, to Vanuatu, and islands like that. My week in Sydney, of course, was journaled straight onto my computer, with my photos all pre-edited, just waiting for me to get back to Emerald, and an internet connection. It was basically blogging without access to a blog.

Every time I have written up a trip or an experience, you’ll find mentions of me using my camera, but that was never the most important thing. You can look at an album of photos and have no idea what you’re looking at, or what funny little incidences happened with each. I have always wanted to have people see the adventure from my WORDS, and then fill in the blanks with the pictures, afterwards.

Which brings me back to my original complaint, which I probably shouldn’t be complaining about. I still love to take photos, but occasionally, I take so many of them, that I feel required to catch up on posts full of photos, when I really want to do something that’s much more writing-oriented. It ends up feeling like the photos forced my hand, whereas I want the writing to force the photos. Or something like that.

But I’m trying to catch up. A friend wished me a happy weekend, and hoped that I would get out and take some photos. I said, “Noooo, I have too many of them, I need to catch up.”, which probably sounded slightly odd to her. But it makes sense to me. And with my latest post about Tillman Hall, I feel that I’m finally catching up with some of my previous pictures, with my post on Sirrine Hall to follow, soon after.

When that’s done, I can go back to letting the words take me where they will… and the photos will follow, as a side dish. A more pleasing side dish than they ever were, when I was a teenager, but still, not the main course for this blog.

a charleston reconnaissance… waterfront park

During our time in Charleston, I had a strange obsession with the cobblestone streets and the stone sidewalks. Probably because I kept tripping on the uneven sidewalks, and then the cobbles were beautiful, but uncomfortable to walk on for any period of time. And I wasn’t even wearing flip-flops! I am not normally this clumsy, but when you’re looking for the next photo opportunity, you just don’t watch where you’re putting your feet, and then having trippy walkways just isn’t fair.DSC_0616

DSC_0613The cobblestone roads are a well-known feature of the backstreets by the waterfront, and I always drive over them to reach our usual parking garage. And then, Waterfront Park is only one block away. Built in the late 1980′s, its completion date was slightly after Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston, but it sounds like they still managed to open on time, even with the hurricane damage.DSC_0614

DSC_0617Some of my first Charleston memories involved driving a friend down for the Cooper River Bridge Run and staying overnight in a hotel. That weekend, one friend got a ticket for not using her blinker when she changed lanes twice in a row (the cops were out in force, that weekend), and getting pulled over by that cop scared the daylights out of us. I think I was eighteen, at the time (before anyone asks, there was no alcohol involved on this weekend, because my friends and I don’t drink). DSC_0628

That same weekend, I let my friends cut and layer my hair, in the hotel bathroom, and they actually did a pretty good job. It only took them several hours, though. And that was probably the first time I ever let my friends put makeup on me, and they did a nice job of that, too. My parents still have  a picture, taken in front of the Pineapple Fountain, from the next day, with haircut and makeup.DSC_0629

When my mom and I reached Waterfront Park, I stopped to look at a small amphitheater looking area, which I’ve seen before, but never stopped to examine closely. There were no signs explaining its purpose. Did people give speeches and impromptu Shakespeare performances from the big granite circle? I climbed up to take a look, and let my mom take some pictures. But while I was hollering directions at her, concerning the camera, I realized my voice was amplified once I stood in the center square. Or at least, it sounded like it was.DSC_0633

Mom said my voice went down in volume, after that, but it might have been because I thought I was shouting. Surely, it was actually amplifying my voice, so that anyone nearby would be able to hear it easily? I’ve looked online, and can’t find anything about it. I hopped down to let my mom come up and try, and she was surprised by the effect, as well. Maybe someone who knows about amphitheaters and acoustics could explain it to me. It was quite intriguing.DSC_0637

We took a break on the lovely benches facing Charleston Harbor. From there, you can see the U.S.S. Yorktown, which now houses the Medal of Honor museum, as well as a whole museum of old-school airplanes. I’ve toured the ship several times in recent years, one memorable visit right after I had injured both knees, and then had to climb numerous steep stairs on board the ship.DSC_0639

But when I was in elementary school, we went on an overnight trip to Charleston, and slept on the Yorktown.  I wonder if schools can still do this? I remember sleeping in the triple or quadruple high bunk beds, which hang on chains. And during the night, we heard a loud crash from above us, which was one of the boys falling off the very top bunk. Ouch.DSC_0638

Also, from the Waterfront Park benches, you can see the rest of Patriot’s Point (where the Yorktown is located), the new Cooper River Bridge, and even, Fort Sumter in the distance. Over the years, we’ve walked the new bridge, seen all the other ships and submarines at Patriot’s Point, and toured Fort Sumter many times. With my ever-growing interest in photography, I’d be interested to see them all again, to see if there’s anything new that I haven’t photographed before.  : )DSC_0640

DSC_0641Even the marshy area by the pier, with the marsh grasses, has memories for me. One year, there were so many of us visiting the area, that we got divided into two groups, accidentally. My cousin was in the group that was throwing a frisbee back and forth on the waterfront, and it went over the railing into the marshy area, at low tide. She climbed over the railing (I’ve seen the pictures), dropped into the muck while wearing her flip-flops, retrieved the frisbee, and then had to be hauled back up by the guys. I wish I could’ve actually seen it happen.DSC_0642

After a decent break, we walked over to the Pineapple Fountain, which is always visually stunning, in person, and in pictures. Another incident that I missed, one year, was a guy friend of mine deciding to climb it, while still wearing his rollerblades. Frankly, I don’t think anyone’s allowed to climb that fountain, but he never got caught. I still don’t know how you climb ANYTHING, while wearing rollerblades. But if anyone would do it, Kelvin would.DSC_0643

DSC_0645Some self-portraits were necessary by the Pineapple Fountain, with no one around to take them for us, and then we went down the lovely tree-lined walkway to the main fountain, in front of Vendue Wharf (which we usually just call the Pier). The Pier is a nice location, especially in summer, for sitting on the swings and hanging out, or for racing up and down the floating dock, at the end of the Pier.DSC_0647

DSC_0658Last time I was there, the “maps” were full of water, since it had just rained, and there was even water under the teeny-tiny bridge. Several blocks are covered in these maps, showing what the layout of Charleston was like, in each different century.DSC_0657

DSC_0651But the fountain (I don’t know if it has a name) is the main attraction, during the summer, for kids. I think I’ll call it the Entrance Fountain, for lack of a better title. Well, I think anyone would love to play in it, even the grownups. Just throw the swimsuits and sunscreen on the kids, take them downtown, and let them play in the Entrance Fountain until they’re worn out. Wouldn’t you like to? Just remember, no lifeguards.DSC_0652

DSC_0653And so, after a long day in Charleston, we walked back to our parking garage, by way of the Art Gallery, which is right behind Waterfront Park. I’ve never been inside, though. Come on, on a nice day in Charleston, would you rather be inside or outside? But while I was careful to not trip any more than necessary on the brick sidewalks, I admired some of the decor outside of the gallery. And you can see how high up we are, on the roof of our parking garage, judging by how far below us the Art Gallery is.DSC_0650

DSC_0660Yes, I know it took me a long time to go through one whole day in Charleston. Usually, I don’t take quite so many pictures, because I’m trying to keep up with my friends, and some of them are fast and determined walkers (Dave! Tom! Slow down!). DSC_0670

DSC_0668But my mom was very understanding, and let me take as many pictures as I wanted to. You’ll have to wait until May, for my next trip down there. I’ll have fewer pics, probably, but maybe we’ll go see something new, or something I haven’t seen in a while!DSC_0671DSC_0674