Category Archives: Nature

Summertime Woes

Going to the beach requires a lot of work.

Before you start throwing things at me through your computer screen, let me explain.

See, I live 45 minutes from the actual ocean. Yes, I’m luckier than most because I can still make it a day trip, whenever I want. But still….a lot of planning goes into a trip to the beach for me. There’s the weather watching, and the guesswork that goes into whether it’ll be worth an hour long car ride, only to get to the beach and be rained out. There’s the logistics of the thing: will I also have time to stop for groceries on the way home? Can I make it to the post office before it closes, or should I leave early and go first? I wonder if I can eat at that little cafe nearby in a swimsuit and cover-up?

Then comes the packing. Beach towels for me, an extra for a friend, and another extra because you can never have too many towels. Sunscreen: SPF 50 spray for my body, special baby formula lotion for my face, SPF 15 chapstick. Can’t forget my hat, my sunglasses (because I have to wear my real glasses while I’m driving), headphones, a book or two, maybe a magazine if I’m feeling so inclined. Oh…and the cooler. I’ve got to fill it with ice and add healthy snacks, tons of water, and a trash bag for use at the actual beach.

I load it all into my car as the sweat drips down my brow because HOLY CRAP it’s A HUNDRED FLIPPIN’ DEGREES OUT HERE.

I’m all loaded up, all the i’s have been dotted and the t’s crossed. I kiss my husband goodbye, grab my keys and my wallet, and hit the pavement. Twenty minutes into my drive, I’m ignoring the giant black thunderhead that decided to pop up in the direction I’m heading. It’s July in Charleston…if there’s a thunderstorm this early in the day, it’ll be a quick one. I forge ahead, determined to get my time in the sunshine.

There’s traffic; so much traffic my nerves begin to fray. A dude driving a giant blue pickup cuts me off (because it’s always a dude in a pickup), and those nerves snap. My “Yay For Me, I’m Going To The Beach” mood begins to turn into my “If This Poo Face Doesn’t Start Driving The Speed Limit I’m Going To Scream” mood.

And then, finally, my car crests the bridge over to the Isle of Palms, and I see palm trees, and wide expanse of sand, and an even wider expanse of blue, all the way out to the horizon. My heart releases in my chest, and the smile creeps onto my face without my realizing it. I grin at the giant pelican as he flies lazily over the bridge into the marsh below. I stop at a red light, gladly waiting for a few minutes because I know I’ve almost reached my destination. I allow a tourist, then another, to merge before I cross the street, since I know they’ve probably never been here before, and I want to share this little section of my world with everyone and anyone. I greet the volunteer at the gate and happily hand him my parking fee, and we chat, momentarily, about the weather and the tides.

Parking achieved, I unload the bounty that needs to make the trek across the sand with me: my beach bag, my cooler, my lounge chair. I strap it all around my chest, all twenty pounds of it, sweat dripping down my back, but I do it all with a song in my heart. I nod and smile and speak to all I pass: people are just happier at the beach. And so am I.

And finally, I choose my spot and set up camp. There’s no better moment than this. I whip off my cover-up, douse myself in sunscreen, don my hat and sunglasses, and take a seat.

It is always worth it, in the end.

Beach 3Beach 1 Beach 2

Between you and me, friend, I probably won’t think about how much work it takes to get to the beach when I go again next week. These are the kinds of summertime woes I can deal with. And happily.

Abby Is Not Impressed

For the last few days, my various social media sites have been filling up with posts about snow. So many of those posts are photos of families happily playing in giant piles of the fluffy white stuff: sledding, making snow cream, building giant snowmen, warming up with hot chocolate and homemade cookies.

You know the photos, they’re in your timelines too (unless you live in San Diego, and if that’s the case, you suck and I want to live in your guest room.)

I’m talking about photos like this one:

Source

Source

You guys, with your adorable mittens and your matching scarves, make winter look like SO MUCH FUN!

Well, winter has come to South Carolina. And can I just say? Winter is NOT fun.

Not. At. All.

Specifically, winter sucks when it only entails of freezing rain, sleet, and ice. And with those things comes no power, downed power lines, and falling trees.

When it comes to winter, I’m not impressed.

Snow me

(Look at me, being all relevant to current events while still making jokes. Go me.)

Here’s the truth of it: yesterday, we got almost an entire inch of ice here in the land of severe humidity and tropical weather. And it was over 60 degrees in Sochi. At the WINTER Olympics. Freezing temps, for the gold.

While we only lost power for four hours yesterday, my family was electricity-less for nearly 12 hours. I have friends who live out in the country who are STILL without power. And the tree limbs just keep on fallin’.

So, Mother Nature, I’d like you to take this whole winter thing and shove it. I’ll take my 85 degrees and the sand between my toes any day.

*For those of my Northern friends dealing with feet of snow as opposed to inches, I realize you’ll read this and think, “She doesn’t know the meaning of winter.” Truth is—this is as scary as cold weather gets for us near the SC coast. So while we may not be buried beneath Mother Nature’s snowy bosom, we are frantically trying to cope after being hit with a second severe ice storm in three weeks. When you don’t have salt trucks, or winter coats, or strong and manly trees, it gets sorta hectic. So sympathize with us, even if it’s just a little. And maybe send us a snow plow, just in case.*

Snowmageddon 2014

For Southerners like me, winter typically just means we can’t wear our flip flops again till March. But this year…this year, Mother Nature seems to have a different path for those of us residing south of the Mason Dixon line.

About a week ago, meteorologists far and wide started talking about the “perfect storm” of 2014. Lots of scientific facts involving lower temperatures, cold fronts, and precipitation were tossed in our direction, and those of us who have been living in the South for most (if not all) of our lives shook it off as typical winter weather banter.

But unlike years past, those meteorologists kept talking about that perfect storm. They got all excited and animated, and whipped up new graphics of a giant angry monster storm bearing down on us with a vengeance.

Weather map courtesy of Live 5 News, Charleston.

Weather map courtesy of Live 5 News, Charleston.
I added the angry monster face, for flair.

Now listen, after living in the mountains of North Carolina for 4 years, and experiencing the real meaning behind the word “blizzard,” I tend to balk at stories like this one. A little sleet doesn’t scare me. Snow seems like such a foreign concept that I often roll my eyes when people mention it. Temperatures dipping below 30 degrees doesn’t seem like such a huge deal to me.

That is not the case for lifelong Low Country folks. They hear the words “ice” and “snow,” and they do the “OMG BUY ALL THE BREAD AND BATTERIES WITHIN A TWENTY MILE RADIUS STAT” dance.

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There hasn’t been a single flurry, drop, or tinkle yet, and schools are already announcing closures. Businesses are sending out FB messages and tweets to let everyone know they won’t be open after 2 pm today, and probably won’t be open tomorrow, either, due to “inclement weather.” People flocked to grocery stores yesterday, stripping their shelves of bread, milk, and batteries. (Funnily enough, we didn’t have a problem finding everything on our grocery list. In fact, they had black beans on sale, buy one get one free. SCORE!)

Graphic provided by Live 5 News, Charleston.

Graphic provided by Live 5 News, Charleston.

While I understand the need to have milk and bread in the case of a storm, all I could see while looking at that photo was the one thing that patrons of the grocery stores were FAILING to buy.

Seriously, Charleston??? Wine is WAY more important during a crisis than water.

Seriously, Charleston??? Booze is WAY more important during a crisis than water.

At any rate, things are quiet around here today. The phone isn’t ringing, there aren’t many cars on the highway, and folks seem to be waiting at home, battening down the hatches, in preparation for Snowmageddon 2014.

And I have to admit–while I’m skeptical that we will actually get the 3 inches of snow predicted, I’m all set to sit back and watch the weather roll in. I’ve got everything I need…

image (1)

…a warm hat, a fuzzy scarf, and booze.

If you don’t hear from me for a few days, readers, one of three things has happened: we’ve succumbed to Snowmageddon and are currently buried in snow up to our ankles; we’ve lost power thanks to ice and are currently huddled around a kerosene heater wishing our iPhones were charged; nothing really important has happened, I’m just ensconced in another project right now. Happy Snow Day!

Our New Neighbors

One morning about two weeks ago, I was knee-deep in my daily morning routine: coffee in hand, I take my handy dandy little golfcart for a spin around the grounds to check all the units. (For those who might not remember, I work–and live–at a storage facility.) So there I was…minding my own business, when out of the corner of my eye, I notice the sun glinting ever-so-gently on something hanging from the building.

I slowed the cart, and my heart started racing before my brain even registered what it was that I was looking at.

There, spanning almost the entire width of unit 503’s door, was the biggest spider web I’ve ever seen in my life. And attached to it was, you guessed it, the “Big Foot” of the spider world.

I tried, for the sake of blog fodder, to take a picture with my cell phone. I really really did. And I’ve tried every single day since then, so I could prove to you that I’m not crazy and that Spiderman’s cousin, Merve, lives at my job now. But I just couldn’t do it. So, here’s a bad drawing instead.

Spider1

Damn. I couldn’t even bring myself to draw it. Forgive me, readers. Blame my raging case of arachnophobia.

Anyway, after this first Spider Sighting, I spent a lot of time thinking about just how to handle the situation. I was too chicken to deal with it myself, so I had two options: Tell my husband and make him go kill it, or leave it alone and hope it would get bored and move somewhere with a more swinging night life.

Brian didn’t go kill it. And it didn’t move to Vegas.

So for two weeks, I drove ever-so-slowly past the giant sleeping spider, hoping beyond hope that it wouldn’t leap from its perch and eat my face.

LET THE RECORD REFLECT THAT I HAVE NOT KILLED IT, ATTEMPTED TO KILL IT, OR REPORTED SAID SPIDER TO THE AUTHORITIES SO THAT THEY’D COME KILL IT!

It was with pride that the spider had lasted for so long that I mentioned it to longtime family friend and spider advocate, Charlene, on her recent visit. Interested, she asked to be escorted to see the eight-legged fiend. Ever the hostess, I took her back on the golf cart.

“Oh, that’s a writer spider,” she said with glee. “You know, like Charlotte’s Web!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her my true opinion of the children’s opus…

Web copy

…and so I nodded politely instead.

“Oh, Abby, did you notice?” Charlene said with enthusiasm. “It looks like your spider friend has also laid her eggs! See the sack hanging there?”

It was at this point that the mild panic attack started: ears ringing, throat closing, skin itching. I allowed my gaze to follow Charlene’s pointing finger and saw, with horror, the tiny little egg sack hanging from the rain gutter above the web. “Oh, that’s nice,” I said, feigning normalcy.

“The cool thing is that when it hatches, the little babies will make little web parachutes and fly away on the breeze.”

Thanks for the science lesson, Charlene. Now, every day, when I drive my golf cart by the unit hosting the little Eight Legged Family, it goes a little something like this:

 

But at least I haven’t committed mass murder yet. That’s the definition of progress. Right?

A Beetle Encounter

After a delicious Cinco de Mayo feast with my family last night, Brian and I made our way to our vehicle to head home. I was only slightly bleary from beer-ritas, but enough alcohol had been consumed that it was a no-brainer for me to take the passenger seat. Brian climbed behind the wheel, winced when his knees hit the steering wheel (my legs are really short, y’all), adjusted the seat so he could actually drive the car, and put the key in the ignition. He reached over his shoulder to pull his seat belt across…

…and yelped like a large-breasted blonde in a horror flick.

“OMG WHAT?” I shout, thinking he’s gotten his hands on a tarantula/live grenade/baby rattlesnake.

“There’s a BUG on the DOOR!” he gasped.

I’m immediately on alert mode. You guys know how much I hate spiders, and although the perpetrator hadn’t been identified as such, I was still ready to administer all evacuation protocols.

But it wasn’t a spider. It wasn’t a stinging wasp or a praying mantis or any other large, scary bug. In fact, it wasn’t even a BIG bug. It was a small, unassuming beetle.

Untitled-1

However, Brian didn’t see cute little bug guy. “Blerg,” he shuddered. “It looks like a COCKROACH.”

So I’m assuming he saw something more akin to this guy:

Untitled-2

Either way, Mr. McCartney had fluttered into our car as we’d climbed in. And now he was hanging out on the door, banging his head gently against the window in an attempt to escape.

Brian did what any logical person would do. He pushed the button to lower the window, thinking the beetle would gracefully take his leave. However, like Buttercup in the Fire Swamp quicksand, the little beetle was sucked down into the pits of despair. And Brian wasn’t pulling a Westley, either.

(*Author’s note: I’ve been waiting over 2 years to reference The Princess Bride on this blog. Thank you, Brian and Beetle, for making it possible.)

So, for the next ten minutes, we sat in my parents’ driveway, waiting for the bug to reemerge. When his little antennae would appear above the rubber seal between the door panel and the window, Brian would lower the window again, attempting to shoo him out, to no avail.

Finally, frustrated and sleepy, I convinced Brian to take me home. “The bug will come out on his own eventually, and then you can open the door and swat him out.” It sounded logical to me.

The hubs wasn’t too happy about this decree, but he also wasn’t willing to argue. And so, for the next 4 miles, I sat in my seat chuckling as quietly as tequila would allow me to chuckle, while the bug worked his way out of the chasm and Brian did the gangster lean over into my seat.

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About halfway home, we stopped at a 4-way intersection, and Brian leaped into action. He whipped the door open with one hand, grabbed a stray notepad from the depths of the car with the other, and finally, successfully, shuffled our friend, the beetle, out into the night.

The damage, however, was done. Because the only thing that broke the silence for the rest of the car ride home was the occasional sound of Brian blanching with bug-disgust.

The Tree

There’s just something about trees.

Here in the South, we have live oak trees. They are huge, and leafy, and they drip with silvery Spanish moss.

But there’s one Tree in particular that is more than just another tree. There are few words in the English language that can truly explain this Tree. “Majestic” comes to mind. It’s the Angel Oak Tree on John’s Island. And it is a sight to behold.

We have tried to explain The Tree to our friends and family. We allow our eyes to grow wide and our voices to lower to a reverent whisper when we speak of its beauty. But its not until we take them to stand beneath her boughs that it truly makes sense. We tell them what to expect, and how they will react. We tell them “you will marvel at its girth, its grandeur, its grace. And you will be awed.”

People pilgrimage to The Tree. They come to sit at the base of her massive trunk. They come to place their hands upon the bark. They come to breathe in the smell of earth and fallen leaves. They come to listen to the music of the wind as it sings through the limbs. Conversations stop as they first encounter her, and voices are immediately hushed to a whisper. There’s a reverence here, a sense of awe and wonder, of piety. With faces lifted to heaven, a deep spirituality washes over all who enter here.

Pictured: Brian’s Aunt Tina–rock star, true friend, and fellow tree enthusiast.

After a few moments, murmured questions arise. “How old is it?” you will ask. And we will respond, “They estimate over 1500 years old.” You’ll cross your arms, close your eyes, and think back to your high school world history class. You’ll think of all the life that was lived beneath the boughs of The Tree. The wars that were fought, the homes that were built and destroyed, the people in bonnets and hoop skirts or feathered headdresses and deerskin leggings who must have journeyed here as well. You think of the hands that have tended The Tree. The people who have dedicated their lives to keeping it healthy. The men or women who have weeded around its base, propped up the limbs that were beginning to crack, and carefully removed those damaged by wind and storm. And you’ll place your hands on the rough bark, run your fingers over the lichen and the moss and the knots. And you’ll place yourself in The Tree’s history, too.

And when the time comes to leave, you’ll find it hard to pull away. You’ll look back over your shoulder, taking in Mother Nature’s imposing work of art, and you will sigh. And as your car bumps down the dirt path of Bohicket Road, you will try to put your adoration into words. And you know, deep in your heart, that The Angel Oak will call to you until you meet again.

Winter Daydream

I pull my car into the parking lot, anticipation already buzzing under my skin. Easing into a vacant spot (though all of them are vacant, at this hour), I turn off the ignition and allow myself a moment of sheer joy at the prospect of my next few hours alone. As I open the door of my car and climb out, the saltwater air fills my nostrils and the wind runs its fingers through my hair.

Quickly, quickly now, I grab my belongings–bag and towel and chair and umbrella–and lock my car up tight. Minutes later, my feet are in the sand, and I’m in heaven.

I kick off my shoes. The sand, still slightly chilled from the night before, feels good between my toes. The sun is barely risen–it’s just past seven a.m.–and the beach is deliciously deserted. I stake my claim on a small plot of sand, plop down my chair, and decide to leave the umbrella for later. I want nothing to separate me from the sky, the clouds, the sun. I want to revel in the warm air. Let Mother Nature embrace me today.

I walk down to the surf, and let the waves break around my ankles. It is unusually chilly for this time of year. I wonder if there’s a storm brewing beyond the horizon, but I clear my head of those thoughts, wanting to enjoy this moment without worry of rain clouds. A solitary paddle surfer inches by slowly, no doubt enjoying this beautiful summer sunrise as much as me. I stand and watch him, until he is under the sun. My chair beckons me, and so, I take a seat and stare at the sky for awhile instead.

The week’s worth of stresses slowly melt away. There is no paperwork, no phone calls, no rush and bustle here. There is only the wind. The sky. The water. The smells I love permeate my senses: salt. Fresh air. The sweet smell of sunscreen, like so much coconut. I close my eyes and drift, letting the magic of the sea envelop me. After a moment (an hour?) the caw! caw! of seagulls wake me from my reverie. They take flight, the black tips of their wings shiny from the morning dew.

The sun rises higher in the blue sky, and my worries about a summer squall completely disappear. The day grows warmer still, and I know my few hours of solitude will soon come to an end. Still-sleepy children will race with delight to the surf, while parents smile and take pictures and set up camp amidst the dunes. Joggers will begin to parade by, sweat glistening on their tanned skin, arms pumping to the music in their ears that I cannot hear. Dogs of all ages and shapes and sizes will join the children in the water. And my quiet moment with nature will be over.

But that’s ok. I’ve come prepared for the beach invasion. As I hear a child’s squeal of glee over my shoulder, I slide my paperback out of my bag. The page is still folded down, and slightly damp, from last week’s beach trip. I settle back in the chair, burying my feet in the sand as I stretch out, and dive into a book I’ve already read three times. The sun warms my shoulders, the sounds of people playing drift away, and I let the sea soothe my frayed nerves. I might take a nap later. Or a quick dip in the ocean. My schedule is wide open. The only plans for the day are to relax. Enjoy. Indulge.

The Mystery of the Corn Maze Murder

It’s a crystal clear, slightly chilly autumn day. The corn has been harvested, and the children play about in the remaining stalks. A scream issues from deep within the empty corn field. And Farmer Joe is missing.

In a case like this, when foul play happens on the farm, there’s only one thing to do. Call in the big guns.

(Note: This would be the perfect time to cue up “Who Are You?” on your iPod. You know…for ambiance.)

 

It became clear to the veteran gum shoes right away that the clues to this grisly crime would be found deep within the maze of the waving corn stalks. And so they set off, looking for proof in the produce.

Suspects were few and far between. It wasn’t the farmer’s wife, because she was the one who called the police. And the children were far too small to best the strapping Farmer Joe. It became evident early on in the investigation that one of the farm animals must be to blame for the missing horticulturist. “The question,” Detective Brian muttered, “is which one.”

If she’d learned anything in her years of Farm Scene Investigating, it was to reserve judgement until all the pieces of the puzzle came together. And that usually happened in the last 10 minutes of the episode. “We have to follow the evidence,” CSI Abby said. “And the evidence suggests we should go THIS way, Detective.”

The dynamic duo trudged through the corn, looking for any clues to the whereabouts of the wayward farmer. No hoof prints, stray feathers, or animal droppings were anywhere to be found. (Just lots and lots of corn.) Finally, Detective Brian stumbled upon a check point amidst the towering stalks. “NOW we’re getting somewhere!” the handsome Detective exclaimed.

CSI Abby looked high and low for any evidence that would lead them to the perp.  “Is that a fiber caught in the tassels of this corn stalk?” she asked her attractive and somewhat taller counterpart.

As the sun began to set on the crime fighting pair, it seemed that this homicide might go unsolved. The temperature began to drop, and there were still no clues to be found. It was beginning to look like Detective Brian and CSI Abby were lost in a maze of corn.

After hours of searching, CSI Abby finally made a break in the case. As it turns out, they should’ve turned LEFT instead of RIGHT at that intersection back there. And with the right coordinates plugged into their internal GPS units, the team was back on the hunt for the killer again.

Detective Brian and CSI Abby turned the corner, and there, in a clearing in the middle of the dense corn field, they found the very scene they’d hoped they would never find.

As Frank the Pig was taken into custody and carted off by the police, the Detective and CSI Abby were left to ponder the untimely death of Farmer Joe.

“You were right all along, Brian,” Abby said. “It’s always the pig.”

Detective Brian sighed, donned his sunglasses, and said dramatically, “Just where is an Angry Bird when you need one?”

Case Closed.