Hammocks Beach/Swansboro

It’s been a while since I’ve written about an excursion. Things have been complicated lately, and other thoughts and concerns have presented distractions. That’s ok. Life happens. But this morning when I got up and saw the sun shining on a beautiful day,  I decided that it was time to go exploring. I called one of my favorite sidekicks, and started the conversation like I often do, “I know it’s late notice, and it’s fine if you’re not interested but…” About two hours later, we were on our way to Hammocks Beach State Park near Swansboro, NC.

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Hammocks Beach consists of 1520 acres. It includes a mainland area that offers a visitors center, lookouts, a launch site for canoes, kayaks and ferries and a hiking trail. It also consists of four barrier islands: Bear Island, Huggins Island, Dudley Island and Jones Island which are accessible by ferry or private boat. Bear Island is the biggest attraction of the four. It is 4 miles long, has a south facing beach and contains hiking trails, as well.

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The history of Hammocks Beach is an interesting one. Originally, it was inhabited by Native Americans. Once the Native Americans migrated northward, pirates moved in and roamed the waters and the islands around the park. During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers used Bear and Huggins Islands to defend the mainland and during WWII, the Coast Guard used the area to monitor for German U-boats. In the early 20th century, the island was acquired by a neurosurgeon from New York named Dr. William Sharpe who willed it to the NC Teachers Association, an organization of African American Teachers. In 1961, they donated the park to the state of North Carolina. Originally intended as a park for minorities, the park was opened to everyone after the Civil Rights Act in 1964. 

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammocks_Beach_State_Park)

Since we were at Hammocks Beach Park during the off-season, my friend and I were unable to take the ferry over to Bear Island. We stayed on the mainland, strolled around the museum in the visitors center and went to the lookouts on the grounds. We found the hiking trail but a controlled burn prevented us from walking the entire length of the trail.

We turned our sights to downtown Swansboro which was only about 8 minutes away, and found a restaurant close to the water named Boro. I had delicious Brazilian chicken in a tomato basil wrap with sweet potato fries and slaw. My friend had a burger and fries. The price was pretty affordable as we both paid about $11 and some change for lunch.

Afterwards, we walked the length of Front St where the restaurant was located. Quaint shops lined the street along the water. We found a candy shop called Candy Edventure and I bought some peanut butter chocolate fudge.

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They also sold scorpion suckers…

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and ant suckers…

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but I opted not to try those. (I can’t think why) (Eww).

With fudge in hand, we strolled back up the street and slipped into a coffee shop/bar named Bake, Bottle & Brew.  I figured that a cup of coffee would go really well with my dessert. It ended up being my favorite place on that little strip.

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With our bellies full and our sense of adventure satisfied, we headed home. I’m thinking that I may go back during the summer to see what those places are like during the busy season, but I really enjoyed hanging out there today while everything was kind of quiet, too.

Until next time..:)

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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Ann Street Methodist Church and Old Burying Ground

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My introduction to the Ann Street Methodist Church occurred when I visited the Old Burying Ground in Beaufort, NC. Beaufort, founded in 1709, is the third-oldest city in North Carolina. It is a town rich in history with stories from the civil war, pre-civil war and even Blackbeard the pirate who ran his ship ashore in 1719. The Old Burying Ground, the town’s oldest cemetery,  is located between two churches on Ann St: First Baptist Church and Ann Street Methodist Church which was established in 1778.

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(Photo credit: Ann Street United Methodist Church)

Ann Street Methodist Church has its own stories. During the civil war, Union soldiers moved into the church. The sanctuary was used as a field hospital then later it was also used as a hospital during the yellow fever. The cemetery entrance is to the side of the church with the grounds stretching behind the church.

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Upon entering the burying grounds, one can take a brochure which highlights the graves in the cemetery. I, myself, am a fan of cemeteries, not because of some morbid curiosity, but rather because of the stories that they tell. Each grave is a snapshot both into someone’s life and into the times in which they lived. Here are a few interesting snapshots taken directly from the brochure:

 

Pierre Henry (1812-1877) — and Annie Henry (1816-1904) African Americans who were leaders in the education of emancipated slaves and their children at the Washburn Seminary. He was born free during the period of slavery. The school was one of many established in the South by the Congregational Churches of the North following the Civil War.

 

Captain John Sabiston (1800’s) — Died near Charleston, S.C. and was brought home by his crew. People gathered by the wharf at the foot of Turner Street as his body was taken off his ship. They followed as it was taken on a bier through the dark streets of town to the graveyard and lowered into the readied grave by torch light.

 

Sarah Gibbs (d.1792) & Jacob Shepard (d.1773) — Sarah was married to Jacob Shepard, a seaman. Jacob’s ship went to sea, but never returned. He was presumed to be dead. Later, Sarah married Nathaniel Gibbs and had a child with him. After an absence of several years, the shipwrecked Jacob Shepard unexpectedly returned to Beaufort to find his wife married to another man. The two men agreed that Sarah would remain with Gibbs as long as she lived, but must spend eternity at the side of Jacob Shepard.

 

“Crissie Wright” Common Grave — “Cold as the night the ‘Crissie Wright’ went ashore” is still heard around Beaufort. The sailors who froze to death after the wreck of that ship in January, 1886 are buried together in this grave. It is said this tragedy led to the establishment of the Cape Lookout Lifesaving Station in 1887.

 

Girl in Barrel of Rum — Here is the grave of a girl buried in a barrel of rum. In the 1700s an English family, including an infant daughter, came to Beaufort. The girl grew up with a desire to see her homeland, and finally persuaded her mother to allow her to make the voyage. Her father promised his wife he would return the girl safely. The girl enjoyed her visit to London, but died on the voyage home. She would have been buried at sea, but her father could not bear to break his promise. He purchased a barrel of rum from the captain, placed her body in it, and brought it to Beaufort for burial.

 

Can you imagine the reaction to a story like the Girl in Barrel of Rum if it were to happen today?

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(Photo Credit: Old Burying Ground)

If you ever get the chance to visit Beaufort, I encourage you to stop by the Old Burying Ground behind Ann St Methodist Church. Afterwards, there are several quaint restaurants and coffee houses in case you are hungry or just need a little pick me up. I’m particularly fond of the Chai Latte at the Beaufort Coffee shop on Turner St.

Have a great weekend, all!

Sunday Visits

via Daily Prompt: Vivid

Earlier this week, I wrote a little bit about the season of Lent and referenced a Wikipedia article. After my post, I decided to read back over that article. I noticed a sentence that intrigued me: In some Christian countries…the faithful attempt to visit seven churches during Holy Week in honor of Jesus Christ heading to Mount Calvary.

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It gave me an idea. I’m not going to visit seven churches during Holy Week, but it occurred to me that I can find seven churches to highlight during this season, whether they be churches that I have attended or saw on vacation or noticed as I was passing by. Armed with my next idea, I decided to head to downtown Wilmington to take some pictures. I already had a church in mind and I also wanted to visit a bookstore at the Cotton Exchange for a separate mission. While I was at it, I figured I would grab a coffee. 

 

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I recently bought a new camera and figured it would give me an opportunity to break it in. Unfortunately, since I did not plan the adventure ahead of time, the camera was not charged. I read the instructions and realized it would take 310 minutes or something like that to fully charge the camera. I did not have time to wait so I decided to go forward and put my best effort into taking the most vivid pictures possible with my phone camera.

My first stop was a small local bookstore, Two Sisters Bookery, where I bought a book about a character who used to live by the salt marsh at Carolina Beach. I will discuss him more at a later date.

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Next, I headed to Java Dog Coffee House, where I purchased a chai latte and some fruit. I ate the fruit in the cafe then strolled the riverfront for a few minutes while I sipped the latte.

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Finally, I headed to St. Mary’s Church, where I attended school in 7th and 8th grades. I parked on the street by the church. As I approached the church, I noticed the beauty of the architecture, a Spanish Baroque style, in a way that I didn’t really appreciate as a kid. It really was a beautiful building. I did a little research beforehand and apparently, St. Mary’s was designed by the same architect who worked on the Biltmore Estate and Duke Chapel. I walked around the block, circling the church and the school. Memories flooded back to me.

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St. Mary’s was the place where I met my friend, Mary, when I was twelve. We used to walk around the schoolyard on our breaks and talk about the things that fascinated us most: Duran Duran, makeup, Tiger Beat magazine and even books. We are still friends today.

St. Mary’s was the place that introduced me to the nuns: Sister Lillian, a large woman who was also a softie; Sister Patricia, a tomboy who used to play dodgeball with the boys; Sister Josephine who didn’t seem to have any sense of humor at all and Sister Mary John, a tiny little bulldog of a woman. 

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St. Mary’s was the place where I experienced my first real crush. The first time I met someone and actually felt like I was in love. Of course, I wasn’t; I was twelve, but I thought I was.  Unfortunately, it ended very badly. I didn’t belong to the right clique. Friends of the boy poked fun of the situation, and in an effort to diffuse the attention from himself, he turned on me one day and chased me off the playground, calling me the worst name I’ve ever been called in my life. It was a pivotal experience for me. 

St. Mary’s was the church where I first attended a funeral for a classmate. When I was thirteen and in 8th grade, one of my classmates, Martha, along with her mother and a sibling, was killed in a car accident. I remember the parade of caskets at the funeral. It was pitiful.

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As I walked around the building, I saw the courtyard where we played as children. The gate was open.

After a few moments of reflection, I decided to leave. On the way back to the car, I saw my shadow on the sidewalk. It reminded me of something. I belong to a little meditation group and I remembered our instructor talking a while back about something called shadow work. Without getting too deep, the idea is that everyone has a shadow self, a part of himself or herself that doesn’t always feel, do or react the way that we want. The idea is to get to know that part of yourself instead of avoiding it like we all do; and then eventually make friends with it, if possible, since it is part of who you are and there for a reason.

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It occurred to me that maybe I had kind of done that by visiting St. Mary’s. I had added St. Mary’s to my list of churches partly because it was local, and I did have a history with the church. I knew it was a beautiful building; I knew that the architecture was impressive; but I also had a wide range of experiences there-good, bad and ugly, as they say- during some very formative years. My little field trip made me ponder many things beyond architecture. It helped me to look at my complex relationship with St. Mary’s church.