Hello Dear Reader,
I hope everyone had a chance to relax over the long weekend. I know for some, it’s a trigger holiday, but I hope you were able to take an extra nap or have some moments of peace.
It’s been a few weeks and I miss it so much, but I thought I would share some of my time in Charleston/Summerville, SC. This travelogue is in the tense it was written...in case you may feel a bit confused as you read along!
Day 1, Sunday, October 22
I started out early today. I left the house at 4:30 a.m. and my flight left at 7 a.m. I like to get to the airport with plenty of time. I had a connection in Detroit and then arrived in Charleston about noon. I rented a car and made my way to the Hampton Inn & Suites. The room was spacious and probably bigger than at least one apartment I've lived in. I loved living in my tiny apartment in Chicago - I really want to write a love poem to Chicago one of these days. Maybe I can give it a try here.
I went out to get myself some food and eventually took a nap and a shower. The entire day I spent how I wanted to spend it. A lady of leisure! Of course, I overpacked and probably didn’t bring enough warm weather clothes, but I will see about doing a little retail therapy. :)
Tomorrow, I’m going to sleep in, get some breakfast, get myself together and make my way to the South Porch Residency where my adventure awaits!
I’ve arrived at the South Porch Residency! Brad and Brian, owners and visionaries, welcomed me into their lovely, spacious home. I have a bedroom on the second floor with access to a shared bathroom. Rachel, a musician, is also on this floor. Kate will be the third person on this floor starting Thursday. She is also a writer. There is a carriage house that houses Melora, Lisa and William. William is a young painter from DC, Melora and Lisa are writers from the East Coast that became friends years ago and have traveled to be together here (also friends with Kate).
I was uncomfortable at first, as this is not my space and it’s something that will take getting used to. I realized that I’m a terrible packer, but also it’s fair to learn what I need for basic survival. I need to get used to this as I have 2 other residencies planned next year. Each will be unique.
We had roasted chicken with olives and polenta (and wine) for dinner. It was nice to talk with intellects. Will brought up a story about his grandmother and he said she survived the Holocaust and was 98. When I asked what country she was from, he told me Czechoslovakia, and from there we talked about the Kinder Transport by Sir Nicolas Winton. It’s so magical to connect with people unexpectedly. I sat on the porch at different times, facing the busy street, trying to get comfortable in my new surroundings.
I was able to sit with the carriage house group for a while as they sipped tea. We talked for a while and I read some poems from TEOTB. They loved “The Union Way”. I feel seen and validated.
I went to bed late, but it’s just getting used to being here.
I woke to the smell of coffee. About 8:30 a.m., I made my way downstairs, grabbed some coffee and went to sit on the porch. It’s chilly in the a.m., but I’m used to that. I wrote 2 poems - one about being at South Porch and one about the conversation I had with William about his grandmother and her sister. I was able to read both of them to the folks at the house and they loved them. Brad asked if he could post the poem about SP on their website. Flattering indeed!
I spent the afternoon with Margaret and her sister Lauren. Lauren lives in Charleston with her husband Steve. We went to shops in Summerville in addition to the bookstore where we we’ll be on Thursday night. I bought a necklace from a designer called beautiful chaos (of course!) and some wine for the house. We ate at a place called 5 Loaves - great place for lunch. We picked up a sweet treat and also saw the monument to the first sweet tea.
When I returned back at the house, I helped Brad make Pico de Gallo by chopping onions, peppers and tomatoes. He’s making pork tacos and black beans for dinner - yum! I learned about the previous owners - one was Glenn Allan – a writer who lived there until he was 55. In addition, there was a painter named Sammy who lived here after that. Brad is writing a play about meeting them and it’s pretty cool! I’d love to see it when it gets made!
I woke up around 8:30 a.m. and got my usual coffee and toast and sat on the porch. I wrote a poem called Kintsugi which is a Japanese art form that repairs broken pottery with gold - a metaphor for something broken being even more beautiful that it was originally. It’s a pretty raw poem so we’ll see if it makes it into the book. If I can write a poem or 2 a day while I’m here, I think that’ll be great and helpful for my book.
I had a conversation with Rachel this morning. She has her own consulting company that helps companies change their culture before the D&I stuff rolls in. She’s a teacher, that much I know. It’s one of her gifts. I am looking forward to hear her sing and see her show on Sunday. It’s at a small theater in downtown Charleston.
I drove to Charleston to meet Lauren and Margaret. They took me around town on foot - we put on some miles. We went to a place for lunch - had blue crab dip and a Caesar salad with sautéed shrimp - yum. We went to the pineapple fountain, took a view of the water, went past a rainbow row of houses, there are a lot of art galleries down there, went through a couple of sheds of market - the usual stuff you’d fine plus a lot of woven things made from sweet grass. We went to the top of a hotel and had a drink at an open air deck. It even had a little pool that served as a bird bath.
Syd told me about a store called Sewing Down South that is featured in the show Southern Charm, so they took me there. It had a lot of throw pillows and t-shirts so I picked up a couple of things for Syd and then drove home an hour in traffic. Traffic is pretty bad here. Tomorrow I don’t have anything until the poetry reading at 6 p.m. so that’s really nice. I need to figure out what I want to do.
We had dinner and then went to see Will’s paintings. He has about 1/2 dozen paintings he’s been working on. Some are based on “the masters”, some are abstract, some are based on human figures. It’s interesting how much time he is taking to figure out his next steps in life. I wonder what my life would have been like if I had time like this to figure out my writing. I’d say a completely different life. He was telling us about how his grandpa chose the name “Masters” and it’s a lot to live up to. Will Masters - famous painter. I wonder what will become of him. He’s 23 so life is his oyster.
Maybe I’ll try to write a song tomorrow - just the lyrics. But I need to continue to write poems and figure out my “set list” for the reading.
I had the whole day to do what I wanted so I woke up, got my coffee and strawberry jam on toast and sat on the porch composing a poem. The landscapers were next door and super loud for hours, but I managed to write a poem about Glenn Allan, previous resident to the house. I didn’t share it with anyone until the reading that night. When I read it, I think everyone liked it which was important.
I went to town to get a bite to eat and shop a little more. I went into a jewelry store (danger!) and found some cute stuff that I ended up wearing to my reading. I wanted to find some nail polish, but the pharmacy in the small town is like stepping back in time and no dice on the nail polish. I wanted to wear sandals because its warm here and it would look a little classier than my tennis shoes.
We all went over to the bookstore about 5:30 p.m. and the 4 readers sat in big green chairs. Wine and snacks were in the back for visitors. They set up folding chairs for the rest of the attendees. There were about 10 people there. Sheri and Mikayla from the store, Brad and Brian, Rachel, Margaret, Amber (local book lover) and a local author and his wife. There were 2 walk-ins that left after I got done talking. I took between 10-15 minutes to read 15 poems and it went really well. The other 3 readers read excerpts from their book or something that had been published. Amber bought 2 books and I signed them for her.
After the reading, the readers and Margaret went to a wine and tapas restaurant and dined until about 9:30 p.m. We enjoyed each other’s company. I’m so grateful to Margaret for being with me every step of the way.
I got my coffee and toast and went onto the porch for a couple of hours. I wrote a short poem and then talked with Rachel who came out to write and bounce ideas off of me for her upcoming show on Sunday. It was very interesting and in-depth. I think my dad would love talking with her. I’m really looking forward to her show. I know I’m going to be blown away!
I need to get ready and head over to Lauren’s house this afternoon. We are going on a sunset tour on the water - Folly Island.
I drove to Lauren’s house and we met their dog Miller - cute German Shepherd lab mix. We went to a boutique that her friend just opened. Then we went to a beach bar at a hotel in town, had a fruity frozen drink and watched the waves. After that we went to a bar in town and had a drink and some appetizers before our sunset cruise.
At 4:45 p.m., we boarded the catamaran with the addition of Donnie, Steve’s bestie. Captain Johnny ushered us onto the boat and we headed out. I had worried that it would be choppier as it’s a sailboat, but it was super chill the entire time. The gals brought refreshments – they are always so prepared! There were bean bags in the front so you could chill and after a while I did try them out. They played Yacht Rock and it was perfect music for our trip. We saw a lot of dolphins in different groups and that was super cool. There was a little speed boat that passed us at one point - the people in the boat were all dressed as pirates!
We saw a beach where Lauren has collected shark teeth for her crafts. She also showed me her megalodon tooth which was fascinating. At one point, we saw waves because of so many sandbars creating a really interesting water view. I wonder what it would look like at low tide. Captain Johnny said that he and his wife were English teachers so I gave him a pen, a bookmark and a sticker. He was barefoot and eventually so were we. It was a full moon and so extra special to do this. I want to write a poem about it, but as always I think about what I would say that would be meaningful to others, not just me.
Today I woke up and had coffee, wrote a poem and showered. At 2:30 p.m., I went with Brad and Brian to a music festival at Edisto Beach State Park - Blackwater Boogie Festival. It’s a really cute park with a small beach on a nice river. There were two stages (one main stage that is a permanent fixture) and various vendors. We had a drink and a bite to eat and then headed to Food Lion to get nibbles and wine for our trip to the next door neighbor’s porch at 6 p.m. - Miss Janie.
Miss Janie is 86. We went next door and I gave her a set of my books. We sat in rocking chairs and a swing and talked and drank wine for 2 hours.
I took notes surreptitiously while I was there so that I could write a poem.
After drinks on the porch, we went to a restaurant to have dinner at The Ice House. It was good. I especially liked the spicy fried shrimp.
After dinner we came back and because it was a full moon (with Jupiter nearby) we sat in chairs in a semi-circle facing the full moon. I grabbed a big candle from inside and Kate brought sparklers (I guess she carries them wherever she goes, except planes). We took turns telling each other of 3 things we were releasing, 2 things we were keeping and one blocker. Mine were: let go of fear, self-doubt, work meaning too much, keep courage and openness, blocking was me not being authentic because I was behaving how others would prefer. I also shared my song, “Meet You at the Sun” which prompted Lisa to sing a song she’s only kept in her head. It was beautiful and I hope she writes it down someday.
I woke up later - was just tired. Put myself together and went to meet Margaret for brunch at Sweetwater in Summerville. It was a nice place. Southern charm is real and it seems everyone has very good manners. On the way to breakfast, I passed a Baptist church that had A LOT of cars for days. I am wondering if they are having a festival? I also passed a Presbyterian church that had bagpipes playing outside and women dressed in tan robes walking into the church. Sunday church is serious in the south!
I edited my poems a bit and then got ready to go see Rachel’s one-woman performance. It was an amazing one-woman show on a stage in the Pure theater with a piano and a couple of microphones. She’s a beautiful woman and she was in her glory on that stage. Her mother came down from Charlotte. She is a queen too. I loved the mix of conversation, poetry and music. She wrote the lyrics and the music and sang beautifully. It was mesmerizing. I really want to do something like this someday - poetry and music I wrote. After the performance, I went back to the house and the other gals went to the beach. I wrote the poem about Miss Janie and felt good about getting that out.
Later, we enjoyed a chili dinner and our final meal as a residency. I’m extremely grateful for all that it was.
I got myself together this morning (Lord I need to pack better!) and said my goodbyes. Brad and Brian were wondering when I will come back, which is very sweet.
I went to the local coffee shop - Cuppa - and had a latte and blueberry muffin while doing some writing. I then picked up a sammie to go and headed to the hotel. I sat in the room for a while and then went outside to write which was a great idea. I put my Air Pods in and finished the Janie poem, emailed folks and texted.
I received two emails from elementary schools that would like me to stop by to talk about poetry. One is in Madison and one is at Steffen Middle School in Thiensville, where my dad taught for 35 years.
I also received an email from my website from Kim, a woman that I met on the plane on the way here. I’d given her a copy of The Liminal Space at the last moments of our flight. I saw she was reading an eBook and I thought maybe she would like a book. She was kind of hesitant at first to take the book. But in her email she said that she laughed and was teary and read it in one sitting. Then she shared it with friends! I wrote her back today.
If I needed a sign that I was on the right path, I think I have several!!!
I’m heading home tomorrow. The only thing that’s tough is it’s going to snow. Ugh.
I’m very thankful to Brad, Brian, Rachel, Melora, Lisa, Kate and William – you are all amazing and inspiring people and I’m so glad I was able to spend time with each and every one of you.
To Margaret and Lauren – you are the dream team and you make my life easier in so many ways – much love.
If you’ve made it this far, dear reader, thank you for sticking with me.
Just a reminder that there’s a Ladies Rock Camp performance on Sunday, December 3 at 7 p.m. at the High Noon Saloon. It’s open to the public, so come check it out! I’m going to sign up for the April camp!
Let’s chat soon.