Sunday, December 10, 2006

On the Road

Hi folks. No blog posts for the past two days – we were moving all day. We woke up in Charleston and said adios to the sailboats (wish I knew someone who had a sailboat and how to sail it. I’ve been on one sailboat before and pert-near drowned my husband, but that’s a story for another day).

From the hotel we drove out to a huge plantation which is now, of course, a tourist attraction. I shouldn’t say “drove.” What we did was more like go hither and yon. I’ve decided that South Carolina does not like to tell you what street you’re on. They may give you a sign that indicates a particular road will lead you to the major highway you’re looking for, but once you’re on that road, there won’t be a street sign or directional sign for miles, no matter how many times that street forks, splits or turns. Sometimes you luck out and get where you want to go. Sometimes you find yourself re-crossing the same river you traversed twenty minutes before.

Once at the plantation, we had the choice of either walking only the formal gardens or adding on the main house. We did just the gardens, although there was no “just” about it. There were dozens of gardens, some highly manicured, some with lakes and rivers, some row after row after row of flowering shrubs and trees. I would love to go back in March or April when everything’s in bloom. It would be breath-taking, for sure. Since it was December, very little was in bloom; it was freezing cold and the wind was blowing. We had coats, but no gloves or hats. We relished spots of sunlight or big shrubs to block the wind. I took pictures, but I’m not sure how they’ll turn out since my hands were shaking.

Besides the gardens, we visited the slave church, part of the slave cemetery, the freehouse and the stables and work demonstration area. Very few tourists were there so we got one-on-one with the knitter/weaver, the wood worker and the metal worker. Excellent opportunity for anyone doing research for a period piece.

As we headed back to the car, we walked by the reflection pond where there were lots of geese and two swans. The swans were rather timid, swimming away from our approach. Not like the two swans I used to swim with when I was a mermaid. Those two were mean. Actually, the term we used then was “vicious.”

During one part of the show, the mermaids have an underwater picnic. We raise the lily pads so they’re upright. Next, we sit on the lily pad, sliding our mermaid tails under a metal bar, like a lap bar on a ride. This keeps us from floating up. Once settled, we take off our masks (so the audience in the submarine can see our lovely faces, donchaknow). Once the mask is off, though, we can’t see squat. It’s all a blur. First, before we feed ourselves, we feed the fish. Waving and crumbling a ball of fish food lures in hundreds of small fish. Once they’re fed, we open our picnic bags and pull out our celery (or banana, occasionally), salt it and eat it bite by bite. Smiling, waving, and putting the end away with a flourish of the stalk leaves. Next comes our drink, opened with the can opener tied to our bag. Then we drink it down swallow by swallow, except sometimes when we feel silly and down it all in one long gulp. Then we twirl the empty bottle upside down, watch it float upright, fill with water, then we catch it with our bag. We wave goodbye, release the air valve on the lily pad and swim away.

Now, at some point during all that, while we’re blind as moles in sunlight, the swans swim overhead and dip their long necks down. And they yank on our hair. We don’t know when it’s coming and we can’t stop them. Our hair, floating in the current probably looks like something good to eat. But day after day after day, it’s not. And they never figure that out. Or maybe they like to watch us jump. I think the tourists get a kick out of us screaming.

Eventually, they moved the swans, or maybe the swans got tired of their shenanigans and flew the show area in favor of the open river.

Before I end this post, go back and look at my swan story. I wrote it as if it were a flashback. I’d been writing in the past tense, set up the trigger, went into the flashback and you can see that it’s different because I switched tenses, then signaled I was out of the flashback by moving back into the past tense. Okay, not a great flashback – I would have made it more immediate than that -- but the technique is the same.

Well, since this post is getting pretty long, I’ll save the story of going back to my childhood home for next time.

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