Photo of the Week

My friend and co-author, Robert Clark, and I long planned to give readers a look at the Southland and its abundant beauty, unusual charms, and fascinating stories. We came up with “Closed Wednesdays” but never got it off the ground. Too much traveling, too many book-related events, and life’s way of throwing detours in our path got in the way. We stepped back and thought things over and decided to offer readers something a bit shorter. Seems today’s hectic pace discourages many from reading long pieces. Robert’s idea, “The Photo of the Week,” resulted and so far it is getting a good reception. Eye candy? Sure, but some meat too. Each POTW comes with a 205-word narrative.

Here’s the web address for the Photo of the Week. Bookmark it and pay it a visit each week from Tuesday on. We try to post a new one each Tuesday but sometimes it’s Thursday before life lets us get the new one up.

We cover nature, mysteries, man and his creations, and more. Here are several that have already run.

Jones Lake, A Carolina bay
Jones Lake, A Carolina bay

Aurora Rising

October dawn. A place that seems like a dream. Jones Lake State Park. Near Elizabethtown, North Carolina. This Carolina bay, gouged from the earth by a meteorite, thought some, lies upon the land, a forgotten pendant. Set amid a rim of green bay forest it is tranquil and shimmering, a jewel of a natural area. No stream, creek, or spring feeds this lake. It relies on rainfall … as do you.

The night before, the chilled air, heavy with dew, coated the land with silver lacquer. A million stars salted the night and come dawn a royal spectacle arrived. Aurora, goddess of Dawn, rose to spread her gown of gray over coral waters.

Perhaps Welch, a songwriter, passed through here. “I remember a talk about North Carolina and a strange, strange pond. You see the sides were like glass in the thick of a forest without a road. And if any man’s hand ever made that land, then I think it would’ve showed. Seems like a dream.”

Yes a dream … Perhaps you’ve never been to a Carolina bay. Perhaps you should. Put it on your list. Go early on a cold autumn dawn and see Aurora rising over one of Earth’s true mysteries.

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Starry, Starry Night
Starry, Starry Night

Turn, Turn, Turn

Beyond the crystalline Nevada desert air, stars streak over the Rocky Mountains. How easy to look at this picture and think, “Neat. A time exposure shot of stars,” but it’s much more than that. The stars streak over rocky times too. With your feet stuck to the ground and your mind chained to worries, nights and days fade into mere spots on the calendar. You overlook the beauty that surrounds you.

Worries, trivial matters, and negative people bog you down … The hour hand creeps … time stands still. “Another slow day,” you sigh. No, not really. You’re spinning about 800 miles per hour as you read my words. Let Robert’s 30-minute exposure remind you that Earth literally spins us past the heavens. The late Pete Seeger understood this. When he penned, “To everything—turn, turn, turn—There is a season—turn, turn, turn,” he lamented life’s split personality of good and bad. Seasons come and go, bringing their assorted ills and joys.

Look at the streaking stars again. You are seeing concrete proof that time does indeed fly. Let this season be one of joy. Let it turn you into a star. Fly high over all things that would bring you down.

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Pineville Chapel
Pineville Chapel

Pineville Chapel, Untorched

Around 1810. That’s when men set Pineville Episcopal Chapel on coastal plain sands. Come the 1860s, over 100 buildings had joined it, luring well-heeled plantation folk seeking refuge from Lowcountry heat and fevers. In its heyday, Pineville could boast of an academy, racetrack, library, and churches. And then the winds of war howled. The red, white, & blue U.S. flag marched through hell bent on catching Johnny Reb’s stars and bars.

Rural renovation, courtesy of Union blue shirts, converted Pineville to ashes in early 1865. Pineville Episcopal Chapel, however, survived to bless us with a more peaceful red, blue, and white on a crisp November day some 150 years later.

Pineville today? It’s a hamlet set in farm and hunting land. Back then? It was a pineland village, Americana destined to feel Tecumseh’s wrath. Born February 8, 1820, William Tecumseh Sherman fell under the zodiac sign Aquarius. Aquarians are noted for being humanitarians. Well, so much for astrology. This Aquarian’s scorched earth strategy cut the Confederacy in half and inflicted $1.4 billion in modern-day destruction on Georgia and South Carolina. To this day his name evokes rancor across the South, Pineville included.

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Gray Lady Of The Lowcountry
Gray Lady Of The Lowcountry

Gray Lady Of The Lowcountry

Spanish moss and the Lowcountry go together like William Faulkner and Mississippi, like Sidney Lanier and the Marshes of Glynn. Moss-draped oaks like these in Beaufort County, South Carolina will forever frame the Lowcountry’s image.

Along with afternoon thunderstorms, sweet tea, frog song after rain, and choruses of katydids, the South would not be the South without the gray lady of the Lowcountry.

The Cherokee had a legend once upon a time. A traveler and his raven-haired bride-to-be desired a plantation near Charleston. As they surveyed a resplendent site, a band of Cherokee attacked. They cut the woman’s long dark hair and draped it across a live oak’s limbs. The hair shriveled, turned grey, and spread from tree to tree—a warning to stay away from Cherokee land.

We call it Spanish moss. Of course the plant is neither Spanish nor moss. I think of this air plant as a “Weeping Widow” for when the wind picks up trees seem to moan and weep. Given the South’s romantic image and Civil War collapse that figure of speech seems not just right but just.

Gothic, beautiful, and feminine. Ghostly, surreal, haunting, and emblematic. No matter how many times you see oaks dripping Spanish moss, the scene never proves tiresome. Perhaps you feel the same …

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Images: All the photos shown here are copyrighted by the photographers, Tom Poland and Robert Clark.

Tom Poland

Tom Poland, A Southern Writer – Tom Poland is the author of twelve books and more than 1,000 magazine features. A Southern writer, his work has appeared in magazines throughout the South. Tom grew up in Lincoln County, Georgia, where four wonderful English teachers gave him a love for language. People first came to know Tom’s work in South Carolina Wildlife magazine, where he wrote features and served as managing editor.Tom’s written over 1,000 columns and features and seven traditionally published books. Among his recent books are Classic Carolina Road Trips From Columbia, Georgialina, A Southland, As We Knew It, and his and Robert Clark’s latest volume of Reflections of South Carolina. Swamp Gravy, Georgia’s Official Folk Life Drama, staged his play, Solid Ground in 2011 and 2012.He writes a weekly column for newspapers and journals in Georgia and South Carolina about the South, its people, traditions, lifestyle, and changing culture and speaks often to groups across South Carolina and Georgia.Tom earned a BA in Journalism and a Masters in Media at the University of Georgia. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina where he writes about Georgialina—his name for eastern Georgia and South Carolina. Visit my website at www.tompoland.net Email me at [email protected]