Evanescent

There is something magical about wandering into a scene when the light is just so. It is one of the greatest rewards of walking outside. A fleeting moment can merge the senses into an imprint that sits on your soul for hours, maybe longer. And it can be a simple view in a place that you visit frequently. Below are a few pictures of those evanescent moments from one of my afternoon walks in a park that I visit often.

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Exploring the Wrightsville Beach Loop, Unmoored

via Daily Prompt: Unmoored

I don’t enjoy housework. I don’t live in filth and I enjoy the finished product of a clean house, I just don’t like the process of getting it that way. It’s overwhelming to me. After working full-time, attempting to stay in shape, keeping up a yard and trying to find time to write, the last thing I want to do is clean house-which is ironic because I have many ideas about things I want to do with my home. I dream of a life where I am unmoored from housework, where I have lots of time to explore and write, to be active and creative. Lately, I’ve started putting some thought into what I can do to solve this problem. How can I have it all? In my own small and humble way, I have found some avenues for “outsourcing” some of my housework. Today, I benefited from taking those avenues and was able to tend to both my domestic duties and my need to get outside and poke around. I did two things: I ordered my groceries online and I offered to pay my cousin to come over for three hours to help me clean.

Did you know that for $5, you can order your groceries online and someone will do your shopping for you? All you have to do, at least for Harris Teeter, is set up an account online, select your groceries and select a time that you would like to pick them up. I ordered my groceries last night and opted to pick them up this afternoon. Earlier this week, I set up a time for my cousin to come over today and help me clean. By doing those two things, I freed up my morning to go for the 2.45 mile walk around  Wrightsville Beach Loop  and to explore Lee’s Nature Park along the way.

Parking for the Loop is located at Wrightsville Beach Park. WB allows two hours of free parking for anyone using the park or the loop. I parked my car, got my parking ticket and set off on my walk. Lee’s Nature Park is located along the Loop. I have walked the Loop many times and just recently noticed the nature park. Today, I detoured off the Loop to slip down the path into the park for a few minutes. It was small but quaint. I could see myself reading a book or eating lunch there. A sign at the entrance of the park states that it was created as a bird sanctuary and is home to egrets, brown pelicans and many types of butterflies. I did not see any of those creatures today. I guess they were either off hunting for food or quietly observing me from the trees. The park overlooks the marsh and is quite peaceful.

After I examined the park, I got back onto the loop. Today was overcast, but there were still plenty of walkers and runners out. When I crossed the bridge over Banks Channel, I saw boats, paddle-boarders and canoes dotting the waterway. I made my way along the back of the loop until I traveled to the opposite side. I looked over and spotted a path leading down to the marsh. I glanced at my phone and confirmed that I had enough time to check it out. Like the park, it was also a quiet excursion from the primary loop. I looked across the marsh and saw a row of canoes which presumably belonged to a business that rented them out. Good to know. Standing on the edge of the marsh, I remembered the Fort Fisher Hermit who lived in the marsh at Fort Fisher. I headed back to the loop but instead of walking on the sidewalk, I took the beaten path which runs parallel to the loop through a row of large swooping trees.

 

After the loop I collected my groceries and came home to meet my cousin. She was an ENORMOUS help to me. We listened to 80s music and chit-chatted while we worked which made the housework so much easier. Together, we thoroughly cleaned several key areas in my house and tonight I am breathing a sigh of relief to have gotten some of my housework done. Plus, I didn’t miss any fun 😉

 

 

The Fort Fisher Hermit

“Hermits are hermits at home before they hit the jungles. Everybody ought to be a hermit for a few minutes or so every twenty-four hours, to study, meditate and commune with their creator.” Robert E. Harrill (1893-1972)

Robert Harrill had some difficulties in life. He was born on February 2, 1893. His mother died of typhoid fever when he was 7-years-old and he was sent to live with his authoritarian grandfather and an abusive step-grandmother. As a child he learned to find solace in the woods, hiding among the trees and playing in the creeks, to escape his family.

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Originally, he wanted to be a Baptist minister. He didn’t have financial support from his family, though, so he worked on farms until he earned enough money to attend the Boiling Springs Baptist Boarding School. While in school, he acquired a “printing outfit” and worked for local newspapers as an apprentice. This lead to a newspaper career that lasted until he was 40-years-old when, according to The Reluctant Hermit of Fort Fisher, he began to have health problems from lead poisoning. After that, he worked an assortment of jobs in an effort to support his family. He and his wife, Katie, had five children total but lost two children, an infant daughter and a son, Alvin, who committed suicide as a young man.  

 

Robert battled what he called demons in his head for many years. On one occasion, his wife’s family had him committed to Broughton Mental Hospital in western NC, but the stay was brief and he left on his own. All of these factors produced stress on his marriage and eventually Katie left to accept a job as a housekeeper in Pennsylvania. She took the children.

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At the age of 62, Robert hitchhiked to Fort Fisher, NC where he set up residence in an abandoned WWII bunker and eventually became the Fort Fisher Hermit. Robert was a curious “hermit”, though. Initially, he retreated to the marshes of Fort Fisher to escape the demands of the modern world and even judgement from other people, but he was a likeable man, well-spoken and described as a “gentle” spirit, and people were drawn to him. Whenever someone crossed his path in the marsh, he generally welcomed the company and before long, he was receiving many visitors. During his stay at the bunker, he received about 100,000 visitors and eventually he became the second largest tourist attraction in North Carolina behind the USS Battleship North Carolina. Had he been a blogger, I think he would have had a heck of a following.

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Unfortunately, not all of his visitors came with the best of intentions. He was beat up and robbed on several occasions and on June 3, 1972, he died under suspicious circumstances. The only consolation those close to him could take from his death was that he died on his own terms and he died free.

 

“Millions of people, at some time or another, want to do just what I am doing, but since it is so much easier thought than done, they subconsciously elect me to represent them.”

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For more information on Robert check out the following links to the book and film which are the sources for my blog:

 

The Reluctant Hermit 

 

THE FORT FISHER HERMIT | FilmBuff

 

Meandering along the Basin Trail

In case you haven’t noticed, I quite enjoy walks and hikes. My latest excursion, last weekend, was The Basin Trail at Fort Fisher. The Basin Trail (difficulty: easy) is 1.10 miles one way-so a little over 2 miles there and back.  It begins at the Fort Fisher Visitor Center and winds along the sound side of Fort Fisher across straw, wooded walkways and sand. It travels down a path surrounded by trees, shrubbery, the marsh, a World War II bunker and it ends at an observation deck overlooking the Basin.

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Along the way, you can expect to see Spartina salt marsh, hermit crabs and an assortment of seabirds, including but not limited to, plovers and oystercatchers. There is also an abundance of fish, shrimp, clams and oysters. Depending on the time of year, you may also see loggerhead turtles, hawks, ducks and many more species.

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You will pass a WWII bunker that was originally built by the Army Service Forces in 1942 when Fort Fisher was part of a training and support facility for Camp Davis, located in Holly Ridge. Fort Fisher closed as a training facility in 1944 and the bunker was abandoned; but from 1956-1972, Robert Harrill, a hermit who lived on the salt marsh, found and occupied the bunker. Mr. Harrill fascinates me and I intend to talk about him further in a separate post. 

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Once you reach the observation deck, you will see Zeke’s Island across the water. You may also see Brown pelicans fishing, kayakers or even an occasional wind skier.  

After you walk the trail, you can do like I did and enjoy the beach. The parking at the visitor center is free and provides access to the beach. The visitor center also provides restrooms, tables and an area to rinse off when you exit the beach.

Not a bad afternoon for free fun.

Wanderlust

I just wish the world was twice as big and half of it was still unexplored.
-David Attenborough

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When I was a kid, there were two ways that I could explore: in my head or by going outside. A little patch of land like this one, nestled between homes in a busy housing development, could have represented a number of things to me. It could have been a forest in medieval Europe or a haunted patch of land in my hometown. It could have been the home of faeries, ghosts or a haven for talking animals whose voices came alive at night after humans went to sleep. In my mind, I could have used this spot to travel anywhere. I just needed it to set the atmosphere.

In reality, this patch of land is located in a lovely middle-class neighborhood, not a new cookie-cutter community, but one of the older ones where people have bigger yards, the trees are established, and each home is unique. This neighborhood is in a prime location that is currently under heavy development. In a way that is understandable, but it is also rather sad. I worry for the character of the neighborhood. I worry about the animals that live in these little patches of land. And I worry about our collective imaginations as we lose so much green space.

I came across this spot this afternoon when I was walking with a friend and her dog. When I saw it, my imagination was immediately piqued. I knew that I had to take a picture and I felt the same twinge of excitement that I did when I encountered such scenes as a kid. That heartens me. It shows me that I haven’t completely lost the curiosity and sense of adventure that I had as a kid, even if it has been tamed by the demands of “adulting”. I hope I never do.

This world is but a canvas for our imagination.

-Henry David Thoreau

Brookgreen Gardens

A few days ago, I wrote my Haiku of the Spectacular Pig whom I met recently when I visited Brookgreen Gardens. I actually saw several beautiful sculptures that day and thought I would share a few more with you.

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Brookgreen Gardens was founded in Myrtle Beach, SC in 1931 by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. Their intent was to display American sculpture, develop gardens using plants from the South Carolina Low Country, and educate others about art, conservation and the history of the region.

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Archer Huntington wrote that Brookgreen was “a quiet joining of hand between science and art”.  Today, among other things, it contains several plant and sculpture gardens, a zoo that houses animals which are native to the region and an old rice plantation. Brookgreen offers exhibits, classes, pontoon rides, nature excursions and much more.

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I spent several hours at Brookgreen and only saw a small portion of what it has to offer. My first trip focused mostly on the sculpture gardens. I have yet to see the zoo or experience the excursions. 

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But Brookgreen is not a place that you want to rush. I enjoyed savoring the trip. I will go back later to see more. 

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On a practical note, Brookgreen contains two restaurants which are affordably priced so you can stay all day. And if that isn’t long enough, tickets, which are $16 for adults, are good for seven days so you can go back later if you are still in the area!

 

 

Greensboro Writer’s Conference

This weekend, I did something very writery and attended the NC Writer’s Spring Conference. Located at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the conference offered exhibits and book sales, a choice of one morning and one afternoon workshop, faculty readings, open Mike readings and more.

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It was actually a busy weekend in Greensboro as an annual Furniture Market was also taking place. After driving over three hours to Greensboro on Friday afternoon, I was glad to have secured a room early at the local Hyatt as rooms were scarce and overpriced in response to the crowds.  While I sat at the hotel bar sipping a rum and coke and dining on chili and spinach salad, I overheard a few people at the front desk trying to get a room, only to be told that there were no rooms available. I felt very fortunate for mine.

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I slept well on Friday and arrived at the conference on Saturday morning early enough to peruse the exhibit tables. Small publishers and independent bookstores filled their tables with books from NC authors that they had published or were affiliated. A few of them offered information on writing contests. I met a woman who offered to put my name on an email list for an online critique group for people who write children’s books.

 

Next, I attended my first workshop at the conference. The topic was building poems that editors will publish. In the workshop, we discussed lyricism in poetry and finding one’s unique voice as a poet. The author and editor leading the workshop gave us some insight on what she looks for when she screens poems for her press.

 

Afterwards, we broke for lunch. I had never been to the UNCG campus so I googled restaurants close by. There were two within walking distance. As I stood inside the Old Town Draught House, a fellow workshopper from Charlotte, Reita, offered me a look at her menu. A gentleman behind us told us that in order to be served we simply needed to sit down at the bar. We decided to sit together and order. I dined on the Turkey melt with veggies and sweet tea and conversed with Reita over lunch. By the time we finished eating, we had exchanged contact information. We walked back to the workshop and parted ways. I went on to listen to a few faculty readings.

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My afternoon workshop, geared towards children’s authors, was titled “Exercising the Imagination”.  We discussed ways to tap into our personal passions and take our stories in new directions. The author leading the workshop gave us some ideas for exercises that we could use to access our imaginations. He was also a good source of information regarding future conferences.

 

Before I left for the day, I decided to pick up a book from both of my workshop presenters. They were on sale at the exhibit tables and were reasonably priced. Running Music  by Crystal Simone Smith is a book of poems and The Nine Pound Hammer  by John Claude Bemis is a YA fantasy book that explores American mythology. I look forward to reading them both.

 

Before I hit the road, I googled the closest Starbuck’s and picked up a Starbuck’s Mocha and a cookie. Probably not so wise as I’m trying to lose a little weight, but I’ll start over tomorrow. I had a long ride ahead of me and kind of wanted something special to take the edge off the commute.

I’m really glad I went to the conference this weekend. It was a great source of instruction and information, and I met a lot of pleasant people. Plus it was empowering. I don’t often travel alone overnight and it was kind of nice to go on my own. It was also nice to take another step towards fulfilling my desire to be a writer.   

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Brunswick Nature Park

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I encountered Brunswick Nature Park a while back when I passed it leaving Brunswick Town. I had heard about the park in the past, but I had never explored it. As I hadn’t intended upon exploring it when I did, I wasn’t wearing the best walking shoes; but they were good enough for a quick look around so I decided to check it out.

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Brunswick Nature Park is located in Winnabow NC, along Town Creek, on 911 acres of land. It includes three hiking trails (my biggest interest): The Long Leaf Trail (beginner level), the Live Oak Trail (beginner) and the Dogwood Trail (intermediate) and four bike trails, including an advanced obstacle course. Hikers are allowed on the bike trails, but I am sure you would want to be mindful of bikers and exercise both caution and courtesy when walking on those trails. In addition, the park offers picnic shelters, kayak launches and scenic overlooks.

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I parked my car near one of the overlooks and decided to venture just a little ways onto the Live Oak hiking trail which is 1.44 miles long. The scenic dirt trail, marked by red dots on the trees, is not too difficult but you do want to watch your step. The terrain is a little more hilly than we locals generally encounter in our flat beach communities-which I love- and is strewn with branches, roots and all kinds of vegetation. I’m sure there are plenty of critters out there, as well. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw a gator sign on the way into the park (although he probably hangs out near the creek) and if I was a snake I would certainly choose to live there. Despite that, as I walked along the trail I found myself wanting to go deeper and deeper into the woods, there was so much to see and explore. Had I been wearing the proper shoes, and maybe had a buddy with me, I could have turned it into a very good hike. I’m certain that it is also a great place to watch for birds and other animals. I was fortunate enough to have my camera with me so I took advantage of that and snapped some pictures. At some point, because of my shoes, I cut the hike short and turned around. I walked back to the overlook, where a family sat by the water, and looked at the creek for a while.

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My trip to the park was brief, but it was long enough for me to soak up some of the magic of the outdoors. I left feeling more relaxed than when I came and with a greater sense of well-being (that tends to happen to me outside) and it was also long enough for me to establish that I will go back to visit again when I’m better prepared, perhaps take a pair of binoculars and a picnic lunch. You might want to check it out, too, if you are in the area!

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Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Saints Peter and Paul Russian and Greek Orthodox Church resides in St. Helena, NC about 26 miles outside of Wilmington. I was introduced to the church by my parents a while back when they found out that I was writing and taking pictures of churches.

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Called The Disappearing Church, there are currently only three members: Ann Debaylo Mizerak, her son, David and her sister, Mary. When Ann and Mary are no longer able to help care for the church, David will care for it along with some cousins. They have not had a full-time priest since 1998, but they meet loyally every Sunday at 10am.  *Check out the short video documentary at the link above for more details. I personally found it rather haunting in a good way.*

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According to an article in Our State Magazine Sts Peter and Paul church is the oldest Russian Orthodox Church in North Carolina. In 1905, a developer from Wilmington, Hugh McRae, purchased land in Pender County, NC for the purpose of creating small, European-style farms. He hired immigrants from various ethnic groups to do the farming and between 1923-1932, several Ukrainian and Russian families made their way to St. Helena. In 1932, McRae gave them a deed for land so they could build a church. The church was once thriving, but throughout the years, as families moved away or children assimilated and moved on, attendance began to wane.

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Some unique features of the church, at least for this area, are the gold dome architecture associated with Byzantine churches and the triple-barred cross. The triple-barred cross has three cross-beams: the top one is a title bar where “Jesus, King of Jews” was written, there is the center beam standard to Christian crosses and the bottom beam which is a foot rest.

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Currently, Sts Peter and Paul Church is in the process of being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. I would like to see that happen as this church contributes a unique and fascinating story. It would be a shame to forget it.

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St. Philip’s Church at Brunswick Town

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I first started writing about churches at the beginning of Lent. In some countries, it is customary to visit seven churches during Holy Week. I knew that I could not visit seven churches in one week, but felt like I could talk about seven different churches over the season of Lent. So far, we have talked about:

St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Wilmington, NC; Santo Thomas Catholic Church in Chichicastenango, Guatemala; Chapel of the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Sedona, AZ, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Episcopalian Church in Savannah, GA and Ann Street Methodist Church in Beaufort, NC. 

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The sixth church on my list is St. Phillip’s Anglican Church. St. Philip’s is not an active church anymore, but rather ruins of a previous church. It was occupied for only 8 years, from 1768-1776, when the British set it on fire during an attack. The walls of the church are the only thing that remain. The church is located in Brunswick town, a “colonial ghost town” along the Cape Fear River in an area that was originally inhabited by Native Americans who were defeated in the Tuscarora War in 1715.  

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In 1862, during the Civil War, Confederate Army soldiers built trenches and a fort in Brunswick Town. It was eventually named Fort Anderson.  In 1865, when Union soldiers attacked and defeated Confederate soldiers at Fort Anderson, some of the graves at St. Philip’s church were desecrated and Confederate bodies were left inside the church.

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In the 1950’s, archaeologists began excavating the area around St. Philip’s and Ft. Anderson. They were able to find many historical artifacts, including the foundations of various structures, old bullets and “bombproofs” which were shelters used during enemy bombardment. Excavations are still ongoing and archaeologists continue to find artifacts.

In 1978, the area was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and more recently the television show, “Sleepy Hollow”, used the site as a set location for some of its episodes.

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(Yikes)

I visited the site in the 1980’s as a teenager and did not return again until recently, when I decided to write about it. I walked around inside the shell of the church and toured the grounds. Due to the multitude of historical tragedies that occurred in the area, an air of creepiness hovers about the site. Honestly, that is probably what drew me there as a teenager. However, and on the other hand, it is genuinely fascinating and quite lovely, as well. There is ample space for walking, a trail that extends along the river and lush, old trees all around the property.

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