It’s late on Friday night and I am preparing this blog entry while watching a baseball game in a motel in Luray, VA — just a few miles outside the Shenandoah National Park. Suddenly, the town’s civil defense sirens began wailing and kept up this action for several minutes. Several thoughts flashing in my head: tornado–nope it’s too cold and the skies are clear; not a nuclear attack as I am sure Washington, DC, the site of the baseball game, would surely have been vaporized on national television. Soon the sirens stopped and then I listened for some activity, perhaps more sirens or maybe I would look out my motel window and see dozens of disoriented people clamoring for an answer as to the what happening. Boy, what a disappointment–there was only silence.
This was very spooky since it is late in the evening and it was not as if the six o’clock all clear was being sounded. Wow, it’s funny what is dredged out of our memories — almost a Proustean moment if you will. (I am certain that Marcel Proust would agree if he were still alive!)
You see back in the 1950’s into the early 1960’s our community would routinely sound-off the civil defense siren each day at 6:00 pm. I know it may sound rather unusual, ok a lot unusual. But you have to understand that this seemed normal for the time. I do recall one time, and I really don’t know why, my parents and I had a discussion of rationale for setting off the siren. For my parents there was one simple answer — that it important to regularly test the siren. Performing this action at a set time everyday made it a ritual that we could all rely on. It sure sounded like a plausible explantation at the time so now we could move forward with our lives. Since it was common knowledge that we were all going to be “nuked” some day I casually accepted their explanation and moved on. Still, whenever I hear a civil defense siren I wonder if it is a signal that all is well or is it a signal of impending doom.
Plausibility is an interesting concept and traveling south of the Mason-Dixon line is a journey into contradictions that magnify plausibility . The Civil War (or as the South refers to it — the “War of Northern Aggression) has been over for 147 years. That conflict was fought to subjugate states rights to the Union and the greater good, to free the slaves and restore the Union. One can argue that victory by the Union forces accomplished those objectives–at least in a superficial sense. Being a “Yankee” does afford me a different perspective which I willingly admit may be as wrong as it may be right.
Terminology can unconsciously unleash perspectives that can illuminate one’s beliefs. Social and cultural status can dictate future success or failure. Although Jim Crow is dead and affirmative action has theoretically “evened the playing field” the chasm between the haves and have nots is still going strong. I am happy to report that in the 30 years I have traveled to the South the environment is better — change is encouraged by the attitudes and behavior of our younger citizens. As for my contemporaries, we still have a way to go!
Clearly travel broadens one’s perspective — seeing others as “real people” shreds barriers. This is true in foreign lands as well as in our own. Is this not the strength of who we are as Americans — that our naiveté tends to support the notion that good bedevils evil and that opportunity can equate to happiness.
On this journey we are experiencing the reality of a changing urban world and the natural world that seems fairly constant by appearance. Traveling from city to city expands the options to see the beauty of the sea, lakes, forests, etc. Fortunately on a longer trip the sense of amazement can be tempered by the grittiness of the manmade world. Still, there is much beauty to be found and nurtured.
Speaking of beauty, Charleston was a city that in many ways resembled Savannah. Even so it would not hold a candle to Savannah for Charleston does not share Savannah’s fondness for green areas (parks). And Charleston seems more commercialized than its southern cousin. The one superior attribute Charleston offered was its downtown market. For several blocks this institution snakes through the center of the historic Charleston. Local artisans, craftsmen, farmers and the like hawk their wares.
Across the river (looks more like a bay) from Charleston is Patriot’s Point which counts the aircraft carrier Yorktown, the destroyer Laffey and a submarine Clamagore as its primary tenants. For the uninitiated this is a great group of floating museums that are full of ghosts and glory: included on the Yorktown is a very moving Medal of Honor display that covers the history of the award which started with the Civil War.
While near Charlestown we resided on Pawleys Island–thanks to a generous friend–thanks again Dave. Everyday we walked the beach seeing birds, dolphins and even a few homo sapiens. However, one particular creature really stirred my interest:
The holes were made by the peckings of various birds and the small crabs inhabit these holes for shelter. The average hole in the photos is approximately a quarter of an inch in diameter. These are just off the amazing creatures found on the Island!
From Pawleys Island we moved on to Ft. Mill a suburb of Charlotte that is actually situated in South Carolina. While here we visited one of my wife’s life-long friend Karen and her hubby. It had been over 13 year since the two ladies had been physically together–I don’t count Facebook! We had a wonderful visit — did you now bamboo grows in and around Charlotte? We sure ate well, saw a movie — The Master and generally caught up on the family gossip. Karen has more grandkids than any one could possibly imagine–gives me “vapors” just thinking about managing such a brood.
It was back to nature again once on the road. For the past couple of days we have been traveling in the Blue Ridge Mountains driving on the Blue Ridge Skyway eventually moving further north to the Shenandoah National Park. The colors are just starting to pop.
We have had some great opportunities to see some animals in the wild on our drive today. First, a momma black bear with three cubs dashed across the road — we were unprepared and thus failed to photograph the bear. This was truly exciting as we have yet to see one bear in Yellowstone Park–not for a lack of trying I might add. Later we stumbled onto a group of deer and we also saw a vulture chowing down on a smallish carcass.
Due to the current drought the colors are more subdued–sure seems that everyone is experiencing drought conditions this year.
Shenandoah Park was one of the first national parks east of the Mississippi. Christened in 1936 after 10+ years of work. Its existence was assured by Hoover after it had been signed into law as by Coolidge it eventually became a park dedicated by FDR. Since the eastern US of A is more densely populated by private parties obtaining the land for the park was a challenge. Eventually the Park Service completed the purchase of the land that comprised the Park, however, 240 families were moved (transported) outside the confines of today’s park since National Park rules stipulated that no private party could live within its boundaries.
Was this the right action to implement or not? It was sad for the impacted families who made the ultimate sacrifice. That they were compensated does not undercut the fact that their homes had to be left behind.
Tomorrow we will be hiking fools as we re-enter the park. By end of day tomorrow we will be in Washington DC for a three day whirlwind tour. Looking forward to being a tour guide for Cherie.
Until we meet again!