Armchair Peregrinations

November 15, 1998

What a chore and obligation to get up at 5 am yesterday, eat a quick bowl of cereal, and head out in the cloudy darkness for my all-day onsite class in Columbia. On these occasions, I delay getting my coffee until I reach the town of Holly Hill about midway there, and always have hash rounds, a sausage and egg biscuit and then my coffee and orange juice. I was so tired until I got there, and then that food and coffee really picked me up. The sky was lighter by that time, although still cloudy, but there were light blue striations in the far distance beyond the spent cotton fields with their puny yields this season. Most of it pretty much lost, as far as I could tell.

The road trip, although just 110 miles, was relaxing and therapeutic, as it always is. I love it when I come to the first swales in the high hills of the Congaree. Such a wonderful contrast to the flatlands. There is one favorite place where the road dips around a curve and really heads downhill. At the base of the hill, I always look to the side to see a small a pond that seems natural and not manmade, like it was stream or spring-fed. The grasses along the edge and the trees nearby are always reflected in its waters, and it looks like a little pocket of wilderness in this part of the countryside. I've sought a glimpse of this little setting in the woods for as many years as I've been driving the old Charleston highway from Columbia, never taking the Interstate which parallels the highway its whole length. Because of this, I usually have the whole 90-mile stetech pretty much to myself. Just a peaceful and lonely old road. I never tire of it, as you know if you've been reading this journal and recall other entries about this route.

After class in Columbia, I drove to Five Points, up the Harden Street hill and took my usual left at Wheat Street, the street of memories for me in that fair city. I rented my first furnished room in a great big, two-story house on that street back in 1973, right after I had moved to South Carolina following graduation from college in New Orleans the previous spring. It had great, huge oak trees all over the yard, including one right outside my upstairs window. That was where my South Carolina experiences of the next decade were launched, in that rooming house. I treasure the memory of the elderly lady who lived there. What a great spirit. She loved people and looked after her boarders as if they were her own children. There were two others in the large upstair bedrooms: a graduate student from Chile and a social work graduate student. I can't remember where she was from. I remember that the cook, who I became very fond of, always left some of her famous fried corn fritters on the stove for me to snack on when I came in.

I loved that old house and hated to leave it after a year and a half, but knew I had to get my own apartment, eventually. Saturday, the house and the street looked the same as when I lived there those 25 years ago. Absolutely nothing looked any different. My visit was timed perfectly to coincide with the annual mid-November display of hickory trees turned to golden-yellow hues, beautiful to behold even on this cloudy day. I felt transported back in time as I drove down Wheat Street, turning this way and that to see all the leaf color I could. Then I turned on Woodrow Street and headed toward Rosewood and a visit to the Happy Bookseller. From there, it was on to Sumter to visit my aunt and the conclusion of a very nostalgia-filled weekend.

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