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Hidden from View

Sometimes, but rarely, I find a place that is hidden from view.

These places are harder and harder to find today.

I have a few that I keep to myself. Selfishly and out of preservation for those who protect them.

Years ago, I lived with my folks at Rose Hill Plantation near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. During that time, it was a wild and mysterious place. A development with very few homes and acres upon acres of woods and marshlands. In the spring, wooded trails covered with yellow jasmine blossoms led to the remains of old mansions. The marsh shorelines seemed to shift and move with armies of hermit crabs. Large, ancient oaks with limbs that sprawled the ground acted as welcoming arms to those walking by. There was a magical spirit there.

I remember thinking to myself, how lucky I am to be in this place at this time. To see it before it changes. And it is gone today. Golf courses, swimming pools, and perfectly manicured centipede lawns make up the once wild perfection that previously existed.

I don’t go back there anymore. It makes me very sad and is essentially dead in my eyes. Homogenized for the masses and just like any other place along a busy highway.

So, you can imagine if I find a place that has not been found by the masses or is hidden from view, I cherish it and keep it tucked away as a retreat when I need an escape.

I can’t imagine life without these places. Although they are disappearing fast.

And I think how lucky I am to be here at this place and time, to see it before it changes and is absorbed into convenience and commercialism.

Recently, on a hot summer morning, I took a drive into the past. Leaving as the sun was just rising and the birds were singing their morning chorus, I loaded up the camera gear and drove to my destination. This time it would be an old hotel that had been built at the turn of the 20th century and had not been used for decades. In the Southeast, far away from the masses and down rough, red clay roads in the depth of a deciduous forest, the old structure was worn and gray. The wood exterior had held up well to years upon years of weather. Hot and relentless summer sun and cold icy rains of winter. The windows had ripples and were the originals, slowly seeping towards the earth and pull of gravity.

Years ago, this place was a resort. A place where weary travelers could bathe in a cool, spring-fed pond and later in the day, catch fish and have them prepared for dinner. Those who live nearby and are of a certain age told me of going to this wonderful place on Sunday after church during their youth. Fried chicken, potato salad, biscuits, butter beans, and of course, banana pudding would be served up to hungry swimmers trying to get relief from the Georgia sun.

The dam that held the pond in place broke years ago and eventually, a green meadow replaced the water. The spring-fed stream still flows around the meadow. It is still ice cold and glows with a tan, sandy bottom that speckles with tiny minerals. The water gurgles over fallen trees which change the direction but cannot stop the flow.

Some of those people who told me about this place are gone now. Like the old hotel, those memories are fading fast. And it makes me sad to think of them being gone and this place drifting away. But, as I explored the property with snake boots and a bulky camera on my shoulder, I could envision those children of the past playing in the water. Splashing and laughing. A watermelon sitting in a deep spot, rocking slowly with the current and chilling for a refreshing snack later. I can picture those older adults being young again. Healthy and strong without a care in the world. I can see the hotel, active with guests inside, travelers resting in rocking chairs, fanning themselves while drinking sweet tea or lemonade. Creaky screen doors opening and closing. Music playing from an old Victrola.

For me, that is half the journey. The beauty of the land and the environs are wonderful, but I truly love imagining in my mind a world of long ago. For it is not just about the trip to another place, it is about letting your mind wander from the present day.


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