Plant-life in the Lowcountry

Live Oaks: Unlike regular oaks, live oaks are (mostly) evergreen, meaning, they drop their leaves all year long instead of just in the Fall. They can live more than 200 years. Although the Angel Oak, which is a tourist attraction on James Island, is thought to be more than 400 years old!

Spanish Moss: (above and below) is not really moss, and certainly not Spanish! It is really an epiphyte, kind of like orchids, and lives on the moisture in the air and the minerals in the bark of the tree, usually a live oak tree, and usually in the south. It is not harmful to the trees and has been known to make pretty good nests for local birds. This “moss” was called Spanish because the Native Americans or the English, or maybe the French who laid claim to the area were reminded of the long scraggly beards of the Spanish conquistadors. This is according to two different tour guides. Besides, it sounds better than epiphyte.

And that brown/green fern-like plant on the branches? Well, that’s called Resurrection Fern because it turns brown and crunchy when it has no moisture for several days, then miraculously turns bright green again once it rains. Isn’t nature amazing? (See top and bottom left photos above.)

Oleander: (Below) I call this the South Carolina highway plant because it divides the highways. Mile after mile. It must be pretty hardy because it seems to be everywhere. And Oleander is poison to small children and pets. It comes in all shades of pink and red, sometimes short bushes and sometimes as tall as trees. All the nurseries around here sell them as potted plants.

Palmettos: The South Carolina state tree, and prominent symbol on the state flag. They grow wild here and you can see them on the beach, in the forest, in people’s yards, and randomly on the side of the road. I remember collecting the palms for Easter and Palm Sunday and making little crosses out of them.

Magnolias: (Below) I know. Magnolias (and most of the plants I’m highlighting here) grow in other places besides the south. But they are all so prolific here! Tall and stately, large, thick leaves, the Magnolias almost compete with the live oaks. But Magnolias have those amazing flowers. Not even a 300 year old oak tree can top that!

Azaleas: (below) Either they had already bloomed or were waiting for warmer weather. We didn’t see too many flowers showing off, but thought this one (top, left) was a nice color. The one in the middle I borrowed from Google. I do remember riding my bike through town when I was young and seeing huge rows of azaleas growing into each other, competing for space but somehow managing to do so gracefully. We don’t bother with azaleas in our yard now because the deer will devour them as a single early morning breakfast.

Jasmine: (below, with another southern favorite—a rose.) For the majority of our visit the scent of jasmine lingered in the air…everywhere. The yellow jasmine is the SC state flower, but we mostly saw the white ones. If you’re ever down south and you wonder why the air smells so sweet, it’s probably the jasmine. How delightful!

SC's State Flower Yellow Jessamine

SC State Flower – Yellow Jasmine
Photo by James Baker ©

One more little group.

These were at the nursery in Magnolia Gardens displayed as shade plants. Hydrangeas, Coleus and Hostas. They look good together, but, once again….deer food in our neck of the woods. We keep a few in pots on the deck, but it sure would be nice to have them lined up underneath some Magnolia tree along with a few more azaleas!

In my next post we will go to Magnolia Gardens, which is the oldest public gardens in SC. This was definitely a highlight of our trip for me. The internet connection has been sketchy as usual, so sometimes I have to post these little adventures piece-meal. And we are heading back north tomorrow with a couple more stops. I miss my yoga practice and my yoga students! And I miss my own garden. But these trips invigorate my imagination and give me a lot to wonder about. I hope you are enjoying coming along with us.

Boone Hall Plantation: Really just a working Farm

This is a long one…maybe a full chapter….

Boone Hall was not quite a botanical garden, but it gave me a lot to think about. This plantation was like many others in SC, large, pretentious main house with several “servants’ quarters,” which, according to the tour guide, were quite nice…other than the fact that they were the size of a modern mobile home and housed at least 10 people in each one. No matter how beautiful the landscape is, or how grand and stately the main house is, this is always a sad story in the end.

We rode on a large wagon with other curious tourists of all races and skin tones, and it seemed like everyone felt the weight of the history.

Because they had nowhere else to go, the former slaves became sharecroppers who could only earn fake money (script) that could only be spent at the plantation store. Even after they were freed, they could not even physically go into the store, but had to stand at a window and tell the clerk what they wanted.

For a while the slaves and sharecroppers made bricks from the clay just beneath the marsh. In the winter time, when the fields were bare, adults went into the marsh and gathered the clay and dragged it up to the kilns in wagons. The actual bricks were formed by children because they were too young to work in the fields…and, God knows, every body had to work!

For all its beauty, this is still a very sad place, once you know the whole story.


I grew up about 80 miles south of Charleston in a small town named Beaufort. (It means “beautiful fort.”) I loved the giant moss covered oak trees along Bay Street which was lined with old civil war era mansions. I used to ride my bike down there and just sit on the ground, staring out at the Beaufort River. I loved the grand old homes and the gardens, and the grandmothers who tended them. Sometimes early on a Sunday, I’d ride my bike through town and hear the shouting and singing and “Praise Jesus” coming out of the windows of the small AME church in the poor part of town.

When I was in high school I started tutoring a little girl who lived on the island across the bridge. Her name was Lilly Mae. She needed help with her reading and spelling. Then, a little later in high school I got a paper route on those islands. That’s when I saw the shocking reality. Long, muddy, narrow roads lined with trash and wild birds and dogs picking through it. “Houses” made of plywood, barely standing up. In front of one shack was a nice new Cadillac and a guy sitting in the yard surrounded by beer cans.

Until recently I thought that everyone “got along in my town.” I never felt any racial tension or disconnection from my classmates in school or at my first few jobs. It was a “simply southern” existence. Now I know I was just blind to the inequalities.

This trip has helped me to see with new eyes. People are still friendly and “get along,” but for me there is a sense of regret that I did not understand sooner. And that is why traveling is so important. Like Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to bigotry, prejudice and narrow-mindedness.”

Amen, Brother!

New Bern, NC: In Recovery

sunset on the Neuse River, 2014

We stayed in New Bern several years ago when we were on our BIG ADVENTURE from California to the East Coast. We had storage sheds on both coasts, friends and family on both coasts and only a loose plan for the future. Now we know that we were in transition back then, and, honestly, that was one of the most significant and memorable times in our 30+ years together. We had just learned how to use a GPS, but GPS was not as sophisticated as it is now. When we arrived in New Bern, the main bridge was under construction, but the GPS didn’t know that and could not give us any other instructions other than, “continue straight….” Finally, we gave up and used a map.

Same place, 2022. One of the naked trees must have suffered at the hands of Ms. Florence.

The town was (still is) cute with all its Victorian mansions, wrought iron fences and oak lined streets. Downtown was charming, people were friendly and our three dogs enjoyed walking through their historic neighborhoods way back in 2014. This time the ambience was different.

New Bern was seriously affected by Hurricane Florence in 2018. In fact, the KOA campground we stayed at was under six feet of water during the hurricane. The actual downtown waterfront was flooded as well. What we saw this time was evidence of a very slow recovery. Some of the waterfront homes looked untouched by nature. Still grand and sophisticated with their pillars and storm shutters and manicured lawns. Others looked like they had given up their will to exist, as if that storm took the last bit of life right out of them.

Downtown New Bern is like many others with lots of tourist shops, some in need of repair after Hurricane Florence.

We ate at a very small, very noisy, very good seafood place on the Main Street. NO ONE was wearing a mask. Sigh. I’m glad we’ve had our 4 shots. I sure hope that’s enough.

Our first look at Spanish Moss. Somehow it seemed out of place in this Episcopalian church yard.

Here’s my artsy photo for the day:


Yet Another Heroic Journey

The Beach Buggy in her relaxed state.

Every time we decide to take the Beach Buggy out for a trip it’s all excitement and expectation. “Let’s spend time on the beach, and go see some botanical gardens, and eat seafood!” It all sounds good, and, in the end, it is usually, mostly good. But there is always, every single time, some situation that requires patience and deep level brain power. Here’s how it has gone so far on this latest “vacation.”

We prepare for the trip two weeks ahead of time, making reservations, knowing that a trip which Google says takes 3 1/2 hours will end up being about 6 hours if we’re lucky. OK. We know that, so we plan for it. No big deal when you have two weeks to go 500 miles. Today it was sprinkling when we started the loading of stuff. But it was unseasonably cold and windy. OK. No big deal. We were ready, mostly, by 8:30 a.m., and that is unheard of in our travel history. Then I remembered that I hadn’t eaten. And Sam wanted to rest for a minute.

By 9:30 the time had come to face “The Hill.” (I wish I had taken a picture of this so you might understand the gravity of the situation.) We park the Beach Buggy on a pretty steep, gravelly hill next to the house. It’s Sam’s job to slowly inch it down the hill when we are ready to leave. It’s my job to guide him down the hill via his rearview mirror, making sure he doesn’t slide off into the ditch or hit one of the hundred trees on either side, or run into the shed, or run over me. It’s tense. But we’ve done it at least ten times by now and, once the Beast, I mean the Beach Buggy is on a flat road, we both start to breathe again. A few more steps and we’re on our way….

Rain. All the way to New Bern. Sometimes light and barely noticeable, other times enough to make us wonder if the roads might flood. But, as the passenger, I get to stare out the window, at whatever catches my eye. Today it was the distorted images of houses and barns through the rain-streaked windshield of the RV. Without the rain, they would be just plain old NC houses with all their history hidden inside. But captured by my iPhone while driving by at 45 MPH, they become art. I might frame them when I get home.

Anyway, it rained a lot, and it took us 5 1/2 hours to get to New Bern after being misled by our friend Ms. GPS. She always wants us to go through the middle of the smallest towns and neighborhoods. She doesn’t realize we are in a 35 foot bus pulling a large SUV behind us. But that’s not her fault. We really should just download one of those apps for RV’s. So, we end up in the middle of downtown Whaleyville, or Vanceboro, or driving down some farmer’s lane through fields of hay and scrub brush. Eventually, we find our way back to the main highway and vow never to listen to Ms. GPS again, at least until we get a proper app.

And the last challenge for our first day of vacation was when the tow car would not start. By then it was raining with some force. And the wind still howled. Sam and I both shook our heads. “No gas?” “Did someone steal our gas?” “I just filled it up the other day.” We detached the almost dead car, left it by the campground bathroom and parked the Beach Buggy so at least we could have a warm dry place to problem solve, again.

Good thing we have AAA. We have used them more times than I can remember. And the guy came within 30 minutes. As soon as Sam sat in the driver’s seat and turned the key, the damn car started! Sigh. The AAA guy smiled and said it happens a lot. Then he said it might be a fuel pump. Or it might not. Fuel pumps go out gradually, or sometimes suddenly. So, that gives us something to think about for the rest of our “vacation.”

On the bright side, here is our view from the RV…for now:

That is the Neuse River in New Bern, N C.

Tomorrow is another day. Yeehaw! Bring it on!

Simplicity: Revisited, and Revised?

Simple, East Coast sunrise. Nothing better.

Simplicity. In the ten years since I started this blog, I have concluded that:

1. Simplicity is not a place. It is a mindset.

2. Simplicity appears, then disappears.

3. It is worth finding again and again.

I’ve been missing this theme. We are no longer “on the road,” and because we are settled and grounded in a “real” house, with a “real” yard with “real” responsibilities, simplicity has eluded me. Eight years ago, I went to work, started making money, felt my ego grow, and allowed myself to become attached. While that was happening, the clutter grew, both in the physical world and in my head. One day I realized I had abandoned “the road to simplicity.”

After traveling around this country, living the free and easy vagabond life, I needed some grounding. It started off fine. Go to work, teach yoga and creativity, listen to life’s many complications and tragedies, empathize and process. Come home, work in the yard, cook food, eat and sleep. It started out simple. Then the road made a hard left turn and I lost my way.

I enjoyed my work, mostly. I was told repeatedly that I brought unique skills to the therapy groups. I was allowed a broad range of possibilities. My creative mind was always busy concocting new experiences for my patients. Yet, in the milieu, there was constant congestion, and confusion, and conflict. Some days I felt as if I was dragging a boat through an endless field of sticky mud. And the demons hovered in the corners with their sarcastic grins, waiting for me to give up. My work world had become extremely complicated, and emotionally draining.

In October of 2019 I did finally give up. The balance had changed. I no longer felt satisfied or appreciated. Simplicity was only a distant memory and I felt its absence. I knew I did not “have to work,” and decided I’d rather do what Voltaire said and “tend my garden.” So, with grace and sadness, I gathered my therapeutic toys and went home. That opened up so many doors! I continued to teach yoga here and there, and wrote a lot, and made stuff and, of course, I worked in the garden. Then there was Covid.

And that was the golden opportunity I had been looking for. Thankfully no one in my immediate circle got “the virus.” Staying home was good for me. I could still teach yoga online. I could still write and grow flowers and vegetables. I could start quilting again. With some lingering sadness over not working, I soon realized that I was actually thriving. My body and mind loved this lifestyle. My soul came alive again. I had found simplicity, or it found me.

That was two years ago and finally the masks are off, people are smiling and making eye contact, and it seems like the world has released a long, soothing collective sigh of relief. For the moment, all is well. Or, well enough to carry on. We found the courage to travel last Fall up to New England, which was fun and interesting and challenging. Now it’s time to go the other way–south, down the coast, through the charming coastal towns where time seems to slow down in rhythm with the tides.

I look forward to sitting by the ocean, listening to the waves and the seagulls and the deep southern accents, while consciously breathing in the salty air and slow paced ambience. Mostly I look forward to feeling my feet in the sand again and remembering to notice those precious moments of simplicity.


Kennebunkport, ME and the Bush compound

Salisbury Beach and Newburyport, MA

Gloucester and Rockport, MA

Beach Buggy Trial Run

July 16-19, 2021, first “vacation” in over a year.

Freshly Groomed and Ready for Action

I’ve been trying to get this out for over a week now. It’s too long, I know. And for anyone who has already heard the details, it’s old news. But it’s a record of yet another Beach Buggy Adventure. Simplicity? There were moments….

Day 1: The Plan: It’s been way too long since I’ve put my 63 year old feet into the ocean. They hurt again. Plantar Fasciitis? Or just 63 year old bones and muscles? Either way, they need the ocean just as much as my soul needs it. We’ll be going there in the morning, catching the sunrises if we can, but also catching the morning quiet. We will probably see dolphins, and seagulls and sand crabs. I’ll come back with yet another bag of shells “to make something with.” At least, that’s the plan, once we actually get there. 

Day 2: Getting There: Hmmm. How does driving 60 miles end up taking 3 hours? Not to mention the lack of air conditioning with outside temperatures over 100. Traffic. I forgot that little detail. Construction on the one major tunnel between Colonial Williamsburg and “the beach.” I could go on with my whining, but it’s not worth the energy. Especially since I used up all my energy sweating, and worrying that some little buzz car might try to cut us off and we’d just run over them like little bugs on the road. 

And that’s how the next 3 hours went, hot, sweaty, slow, irritating, bumpy, never-ending buzz cars and ridiculously little motorcycles zipping by as if they had to get somewhere important.

I guess building a new tunnel is a pretty big deal since there were about 50 barges with various gargantuan sized pieces of tunnel-building equipment looming overhead and enough pilings to create a modern day cathedral on the water. It was all so big and overstated that my eyes could hardly take it all in.  And, for some reason, all this activity on the water, beside the current tunnel, created a bottleneck 15 miles away so that every single one of us,  all the moms and dads and college students, and eighteen-wheeler truckers, even the buzz cars and little motorcycles had to creep along at 5 miles per hour. 

But eventually we made it to the other side safely and even though the road was way more bumpy and narrow and unpredictable, miraculously the a/c started working again. Sigh. We made it to the campground just as a thunderstorm was beginning to brew. So, no beach, at least not tonight.

Day 3: Beware of Expectations

We did what we said we’d do. We got up early, ate a light breakfast, took some pictures of the amazing lotus garden and headed to the beach. We were the first ones in the parking lot. The ladies who were in charge were already sweating in their uniforms and fanny packs, but they were friendly and told us we could come and go all day for $5 but only if there was an empty space when we came back. There were about 10 empty places at the crack of dawn, so we decided it wasn’t worth the stress to even try to come back.

So, across the parking lot, up the soft sandy hill and down the 14 miles of sand to the water’s edge. All we had was our chairs and some sunscreen. It was hot and no breeze, and, since it was so early, the sun was making itself known in a big way. We stayed for about 30 minutes until more people started coming, lighting up cigarettes and ignoring their screaming children. Not exactly what we were dreaming of, so we left saying we’d come back later in another part of the beach.

First look at the ocean in 465 days. Deceptively simple, but extremely HOT!

Day 4: Finally, The vacation part

Today’s agenda: Shuck 15 ears of corn, get the oversized “Lowcountry Boil” pot and its companion oversized portable grill, and head to the rented beach house to spend the day with brothers, sisters in law, nieces and nephews and all their little ones. Lots of Crosby Stills and Nash music, smoked pork, Sonya’s famous potato salad and more desserts than any of us could manage. It was a feast, and a great reconnect face to face. But I left with a lot of unfinished conversations rolling in my head. Still, the beach was waiting.

After a long day with family members and still no real beach sand in my shoes, I was determined to go back. This time there was a nice breeze. People were packing up and taking their cigarettes and grumpy kids home and we were delighted to sit under the pier and watch the waves and the clouds and the sand crabs and birds. That’s it. That’s the simplicity we were waiting for.

I noticed more clouds moving in from behind us. When I turned to take a picture, this is what I found:

We waited, enjoyed the breeze and the relative peace for another 30 minutes, then decided the thunder was heading our way. We got back to the RV in time to realize that we were in the middle of a flood zone and it was going to rain a lot during the night. Here’s the road in its “normal” state:

Day 5: Rained Out, Almost Flooded In

As we’ve done in the past, we decided there was no more fun to be had on this trip. It looked like we might be trapped for several says if we didn’t get out the next morning. Luckily, my phone got enough connection for five minutes so I could check the tide schedule, and sure enough, it was going to be low tide at 9 a.m. which meant the flooded road might not be so bad after all. No more convincing needed. We got out of there early, drove back through that very same tunnel with NO traffic, and soon we were sitting on the couch with our feet up and favorite beverages by our sides.

Adventure over. If I was going to give it a grade, well, it wouldn’t really matter, because even when you get rained out or it’s just too hot to go to the beach, or even when the family stuff gets a little predictable, you know you’re gonna try again and have the same old expectations and disappointments and life will go on.

So, Ms. Beach Buggy waits patiently for her next little trip. And so do we.

The River Can Wait

ontheroadtosimplicityUncategorized  February 20, 2020 1 Minute

And the solid, straight path eventually led to a small boat on a calm river. But, what lies beyond that cloud in the distance?

Solid ground. That’s my thing. Hands, and feet, in and on the earth. Rivers, lakes, streams, waterfalls, and the ocean are treasures for my imagination. But, when I’m actually IN the water, something significant changes. It’s like that dream of driving a car, from the backseat, with no brakes or steering wheel, and you’ve got kids depending on you. Usually I get through it, or the dream ends. 

But, this, well this is something else. Rowing a boat down a river would be heaven compared to the uncertainty we are facing now. Regardless of the challenges ahead, I know there is always a winged creature watching over me. An angel? Maybe. A fairy? Perhaps. A bird? Most likely. Somehow I think I would be more brave and comfortable flying through the air than floating on the water. Strange, huh? 

One day I will get in that boat and calmly start rowing toward the horizon. But, for now, the earth is my sanctuary, my sister, my reliable friend. She calls me when I don’t feel like working. She whispers in my ear, “You know you will feel better if you come outside and connect with me again.” The river can wait.