"Roundheads and Ramblings"
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

nostalgia

The Most Famous Tree in South Carolina


Angel Oak on John’s Island is thought to be the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi River. It’s believed to be more than 1,500 years old. 

Where? John's Island lies just across the Stono River and west of James Island, the location of the battle of Secessionville, which plays an important part in both A Scratch with the Rebels and Beyond All Price .

I've visited the tree and marveled at its size.  I can't find a picture of it with a human being standing by its trunk, but if there were a figure beside it, the person would be about an eighth of an inch tall.


I first planned to post this picture  as just a space filler while I'm busy producing a few more chapters of "Yankee Reconstructed."  However, when I started to post it today, i saw something much more important in it.  I am a member of a small Facebook group of older women who refuse to act their age. All are active, thoughtful, funny, and creative. And this tree reminded me of them. In fact, I intend to publish this post on our group website in their honor.

So what's so special about this tree, and why does it deserve to be an honorary member of the group? Well, if you look closely, you'll see that some of the larger branches have sagged until they are flat on the ground. (I know the feeling well!). In one spot a taller branch has been propped up by an iron pole (which reminds me of a clothes pole that my mother used to hold up the clotheslines of laundry back in the day before dryers.) And don't we all need propping up now and then?

Look closer still and you'll see that the iron pole is bending under its weight. Metal is no match for the enormous mass of this tree, Right next to the pole, someone has shoved a block of wood to help hold this branch off the ground. Similar blocks of wood can be seen under other branches, lifting them only a few inches above the ground, but high enough to prevent ground rot from seeping into the branch. Help is welcome, and it does not distract from the tree's amazing strength. The blocks say someone cares.

The trunk is wrinkled. The branches are gnarled and twisted. Leaves grow only at the very ends of the branches, where they can catch a bit of sunshine, rather like the fringe around the bare crown of a bald man's head. Moss grows in the shadows. Few acorns litter the ground around the tree. It is well past the age of producing little oak trees. 

But still it stands. This oak tree and the rest of its woody friends in the surrounding area have been ravaged by more than one hurricane. The on-shore winds batter it, but they are never strong enough to cause this tree to bend and break.

I would not set foot on one of these branches for fear of damaging them -- or, more likely damaging me, since I'm well beyond the age of tree climbing. But the Angel Oak reaches out for me, beckoning, calling, offering its shelter and protection. It sets an example of strength and courage -- a reminder of the great dignity that can accompany old age.










Looking Backward

I'm experiencing a bit of a lull this week.  The new book -- Damned Yankee -- is getting a final few corrections made, and the printer now says the final proof copy will be ready by April 15 -- a week from tomorrow.  Then I'll be back into it again as we kick off a launch, order books for a small book tour in South Carolina, and start marketing full time.

But what to do in the meantime?  I already have plans for a new book, based on my mother's family of eight sisters.  I've always been fascinated by their lives, but have been hesitant to write something that would offend family members.  Now I've decided that a fictionalized version will work -- with enough details changed (and the names, of course ) so that folks won't be finding grandma's dirty laundry being hung about.

And with that thought in mind, I've been exploring old family photos and scanning them into my computer for guidance and inspiration.  Some were taken in my own lifetime, but most go back well over 100 years.  I'm amazed at how clear they still are. Here's one example:

It shows my grandmother on the left, with her sister, her second oldest daughter, and her first grandchild.  It was taken about 1898. And what a different world it reveals.

Then I can jump ahead to 1915 and see the whole lineup of grandmother and her eight daughters. They're still very old-fashioned, aren't they?






And for another change, I found this portrait of my mother  (the youngest of the girls) in 1935 -- looking quite modern. 

I'm going to enjoy exploring that time at the beginning of the 20th-century and its enormous changes.

It's now Tuesday morning, and I'm still wallowing in old family memories, some of which  only originated in listening to my mother tell stories of her girlhood.  She looks lovely here, but she wasn't always so happy.
I can' resist including this picture of her one-room schoolhouse.  Obviously she was not pleased with having a class picture taken! That's her in the middle of the front row, arms folded and a ferocious scowl on her face. The picture is even scratched, lokking as if she tried to cross herself out.



Oh, and by the way, I'm scowling, too.  The blog trolls have been at it again, leaving their ads in the comments section. I tried leaving comments open but requiring my approval before they appear.  However, there are so many of the annoying ones that I've closed comments.  You can always e-mail me, instead, if you want to comment.












The Internet as Time Machine

Some random bits of nostalgia are invading my desk this morning, when i should be working on my April NaNoWriMo totals. But hey, it's the weekend! So here's a little test for my friends, current, long-lost, and virtual. 

Someone just posted my third-grade and fourth-grade class pictures on a hometown website. The town was Massillon, Ohio.  the school was Whittier Elementary. The years were 1948 and 1949, so the pictures are 65 years old, and all of us in them are just older than dirt. 





In the top picture, I'm in the middle row, second from the left --with my sullen, pouty attitude hanging out.

Can you find me in the lower picture?  (Hint: I liked fourth grade better!)