Things I've Learned from Beaufort, S.C.
I relocated to Beaufort, SC in December 2014. My goal was to escape the cold winters of the Midwest and get closer to my beloved ocean. The plan was to stay there for a year, write a book and then start on my tour…
That is far from what happened.
I ended up moving closer to the ocean to St. Helena Island. I was surrounded by beautiful live oaks with their signature Spanish moss clinging to them for that familiar, haunting visual. Everywhere I went, I crossed water. Palm trees were plentiful. The smell of the ocean skimmed along the warm breezes….
It is such a beautiful place.
I published two books while there. Daddy’s Girl and Love Begins With You. My daughter and I opened and closed a business. I expanded my online community and made lots of new loving, supportive, lasting friendships. I loved living there, but…
My dreams still called to me.
It ended up being two years and four months until I was ready to chase down my dreams. I could see me landing at the island permanently, if such a thing were to happen. But for now, I have such a wanderlust that just can’t be ignored any longer.
That being said, here are some of the valuable memories that I take along with me…
,1. They are not swamps. They are marshes. Do not confuse the two, the locals do not like it.
This was my first experience with marshlands and I come away with a sort of awe at their entire existence. They are an eco-system all of their own. They fill and empty with the ebb and flow of the ocean. The tall grasses sway in the breeze at low tide and are swallowed up at high tide. The fish and dolphins all participate with the moon’s rotation, and came in closer when it was safe and headed to deeper waters when it was not. The crabs and oysters popped up to the surface when the water dissipated thinking that they would be safe in the thick, nutrient-rich “pluff mud”, but they were mistaken… (Blue Crab and Oysters are considered a mainstay for the residents!) Early in the morning as the sun comes up it lights up the scene of sea grass that looks like it goes on for miles and miles. In the dark of night, with the moon SO huge its light bounces off the water and you can hear the popping a gurgling of unseen crustacean life. The scenery literally changes before your eyes.
And one of my very favorite wastes of time was watching it happen…
2. And speaking of “locals”, you may be hard-pressed to find one!
It seemed like most everyone was from somewhere else! The magic of Beaufort has enchanted hundreds of thousands of visitors to become residents, much to the local’s dismay. Even the “tourists” that have called Beaufort home for decades still concede that they were transplanted from somewhere else. The Beaufort, SC birth certificate is a coveted thing…
3. The locals set the pace for the entire region. It ain’t called the “Slow Country” for nothin’!
When you get to the Low Country of Beaufort, better be prepared to drop it down a gear. No one is in a hurry to go anywhere or do anything. “They’ll get there, when they get there.” It’s felt in every area of the town. The restaurants, the retail establishments, hospitals, and the driving… oh, don’t even get me started on the driving!! You can spot a “Yankee” a mile away because they have a faster pace. They move with a sense of urgency. Low Country folk just don’t see a reason for wasting all that extra energy.
But if you give in to it, and slow down to their pace, even for just a moment, you’ll always find a ready smile and an open willingness to share a story or two about the rich history of the area. Southern hospitality is alive and well… as long as you don’t mind waiting for it.
4. Sand gnats don’t sound to ferocious, but their bite is mighty!!
These tiny little bugs are the undoing of the entire Low Country. They are sometimes called No-See-Ums because the only way you know they are around is 1) You hear people slapping themselves in terror. 2) You feel chunks of skin being ripped. Or 3) You are suddenly blinded by a swarm of tiny black dots going straight for the eye-balls or up the nose while the others attack your flesh. No joke. These are some serious little devils. And it seems that they can withstand almost every form of defense with the exception of a breeze! I have the battle wounds to prove it! Oh, and not only do they itch… they itch for WEEKS!! I don’t know how much toxic venom they inject but it sure is potent…
5. You’d better like seafood and be able to live without proper Chinese food or BBQ.
I was raised in the Midwest. Our idea of fish was Mrs. Paul’s. It came from a box, battered and in rectangular stick shapes. But in Beaufort, they catch it and throw it on a plate! I was able to find a few things that I could palate, but… not the oysters. Which, along with shrimp and crab, is a mainstay there. They have festivals dedicated to the smoking, steaming, searing, basting, boiling, frying, sautéing, and raw dining of as many pounds as possible. Right out of a Forest Gump scene. What’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner? Seafood. Me? I’m missing a steak…
6. The United States Marine Corp has a boot camp and base in Beaufort.
I am always in support of our military personnel, and it was an absolute honor to be able to work so close with and become a part of some of the finest Marines and Navy men and women to be found anywhere! You can’t live there for any length of time and not feel pride and presence of our military! (And just a short distance away, in GA, I was able to work with the Army and Air Force personnel as well!) I am so grateful to those who are willing to sacrifice their lives for my freedom. I will never not be thankful to them.
Many of the permanent residents, had actually served in the Marine Corp and were stationed in Beaufort. Again, the magic worked on them and when it was time, they returned to the Low Country to make it their home.
7. Hurricanes… Not a fan.
Well, I can scratch “Surviving a Hurricane” off my bucket list. Hurricane Matthew blew through Beaufort and my little island and all along the coast with vigor! Yes, I did evacuate- they didn’t have to tell me twice! But I saw the massive amount of damage that it left behind. Homes torn in two. Docks ripped from their moorings. Cars completely flooded out. Boats sent miles and miles away, torn to pieces. Businesses lost. Beautiful live oaks that had survived for hundreds of years finally met their undoing.
It was tragedy after tragedy. But what could have easily caused the entire area to fold and give in, I also saw communities come together. Workers putting in long hours to get the electric on, clean water flowing, and debris removed from the streets. Many selfless hours of neighbor helping neighbor; residents feeding and serving each other. Getting people back into their homes as quickly as possible.
Tragedy can sometimes bring out the beauty in people.
It can also bring out the bad in some and, many were surprised by the selfless neighborhood watch of our men and women in blue (not to mention a few gun toting stubborn folk who “were not about to be chased off by no rain storm!”) Also a nod to the military, the hospital doctors and nurses and EMT who stayed behind to take care of business.
I’ve lived through a hurricane. My appreciation for the power of the ocean in a bad mood, will not soon be forgotten.
8. History. Beautifully Preserved History.
If you are a fan of history, real-live history that you can witness for yourself, this place is chock-full of just such a thing! There are forts still standing. The beautiful antebellum homes still preserved and lived in! (Ghosts and all!) Everywhere you look, the old and the new are mushed together in some kind of alternate time warp. Just when you are caught up in the majesty of yesterday, you practically run smack into a Walgreens or a McDonalds. Can’t stop progress, I suppose. Every square inch of this precious landscape is kept preserved while still making room for the ever-spreading expansion of “tourists” that head to this beautiful corner of the world.
I have been away from this amazing collection of islands, history and an eye on tomorrow for just a few days and my heart tugs me back to it. It’s magic has enchanted me too… I miss the ocean breeze, and the scenery. The stars that were so bright and low it looked like you could reach up and pluck them from the sky. I miss the Southern drawl that is unique to the Gullah culture. I miss the great relationships that I formed while I was there. But again, the open road calls to me as well and begs me to see the rest of these beautiful states before I “settle” in one place… if ever.
So, I let go of Beaufort, SC in search of new adventures but a piece of my heart remains to help me find my way back… just in case.