Thursday, September 2, 2010

wind in the trees

Last week Dora and I went camping with friends Mandy, David, and Isaac at the beautiful and wild Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina. It still amazes me that I now live just a short and easy half days' drive from the ocean, one of my favorite places on earth. More amazing still is to go from our rainforest-like mountainous habitat to this tropical, coastal, exotic place in a mere 5 hours. In the morning I was packing our car and running last minute errands and in the late afternoon we were climbing around on the trunks of lumbering, dead Live Oak Trees, waves splashing against decaying stumps and fallen Palm fronds, like characters in Robinson Crusoe, or Lost, or Lord of the Flies. 

Dora had an absolute blast exploring this natural playground with her favorite little boy, Isaac, and canine friend Joey. I just tried to take some deep breaths and let the peacefulness instilled by the ocean sink deeply into me. I hope to carry back to Asheville with me some shred of that solitude, so difficult to hold onto amongst the stress and deadlines and constant interruptions of normal life. I took advantage of the spotty cell phone service and (essentially) refrained from keeping up with emails and checking the dreaded FB account. 

The first night, I slept restlessly. There is something so vulnerable about sleeping with nothing but a thin mesh zippered screen between you and the rest of the world. I haven't done that much camping, although I do enjoy it, but I always feel that slight sense of edginess, wonder how quickly I'd wake up if someone else started to slowly unzip my tent. Dora was restless at first, too, but the ocean breeze and promise of a day full of exploring and beach time lulled her to sleep. I lay awake looking up at the moon through the trees, worrying about having left home, worrying about our future, worrying about worrying.

The next morning dawned incredibly windy. We were in campsite 2, right behind the dunes, the ocean only steps away at high tide. Our site, vulnerable as it was to the elements, was surrounded by tall pine trees. I looked up in the gusting wind wondering how they continued to stand against such a force. Down on the ground, clothes fell off the line, chairs toppled over, our tents wobbled and rain flies snapped. Up above, though, the trees barely moved, swaying gently, a united force expertly designed to withstand natures' coastal chaos. I pointed the trees out to my friend, noting that they seemed to be helping each other. The gusts of wind seemed to be instantly dissipated by the trees' foliage, each absorbing a bit of the impact so that no one tree was required to bear the brunt alone. 

That night, though the gusty wind worried me, I slept better. I hoped that a limb wouldn't break lose and crush our tent, comforted myself with the remembrance of how the trees seemed to be helping each other. I thought about those trees like the people in my life, standing all around me in the wind and all of us helping each other. As I often do, I wished that my mom was here still, to stand amongst those trees by my side. I feel her absence every day, but most of all at times of stress and uncertainty, and I always miss her when I'm near the ocean, a place she so dearly loved. I tried to really think about what it means to have all those supports nearby - whether in body or in spirit - all steeled around me in solidarity, and I fell asleep. 

The next day, the wind had died down. We drove home through hot South Carolina, back to work and stress and all of the messes our lives include that are waiting for attention. Later in the week, Dora and I drove to the park for a quick bout of running through a field blowing bubbles, me somehow remembering to squeeze in a few moments of unplanned and silly fun in our week. The windows were down, music playing, both of us with whisps of hair flying around our faces. I remembered the trees, and my sadness that my mom is not among them, and realized there is a new little tree there now - growing tall beside me, both of us steeled against the wind together, helping each other every day in ways we may not even fully understand yet. I smiled thinking of my little tree, her glowing presence in my life easing the pain of the other absence just a bit. 

That night, we booked campsite 2 for October. I think of that wind, and how much stronger it might be in October, and I worry a bit about us in our little tent, steps away from the waves. The trees will be there, though, standing all around us, helping each other, making sure that we can rest easy - all three of us. 


  1. Gorgeous prose and pictures, Carrie!! I hope we can catch up soon!

  2. Your photos are so striking. I'm glad your going back in October.

  3. Just beautiful! It makes me want to drive there right away and explore. You are such an artist, both through the photos and the prose.