Bloom Where You Are Planted
The outlines of Weehaw Plantation date back to the Lords Proprietors, English nobles who were granted the land “Carolina” by King Charles II. No one knows who settled the site, who drew the diagrams of rice fields along the marshy coastline, who oversaw the work of slaves to dig pluff mud trenches in the blistering heat, who reshaped part of our entire landscape into a haunting web of creeks and marsh grass that can still be seen today.
Since the 1600′s, both Europeans and Africans have weaved in and out of the place. Plowed the sandy soil. Built structures out of clay bricks that have been carbon dated from sites all over the Lowcountry. Planted a Victorian garden of camellias under the shade of swirling live oak trees. People touched the land for a season, or they expired in a soggy field under the baking sun.
When Alice took me to Weehaw, the site of one of her last firm design projects, nothing proved more mysterious than one tree. Amidst the gnarled live oaks and Southern pines, a behemoth shot up from the ground, its wispy green tendrils casually scraping the sky. Its reddish bark reminded me of the towering redwood trees of Northern California. Surely our hellish climate could not support such a tender planting and nurture it to gigantic proportions in over three hundred years?
We made up stories for the origin of that tree, resting like sissies in its sprawling shadow before heading out for a walk around the sunken rice enclosure. Fish jumped at the sun as we passed along a narrow strip of land between pond and creek. At a rickety dock, we stopped and photographed the cloud-strung blue sky reflected in the waters of the creek and stepped over a disturbed patch of dirt in our path. Alligator tracks. From the width of its sliding belly, it would be a scary one to meet.
When we dragged our sweaty, sunburned selves back to contiguous earth, we happened upon Tom, the handyman. Come on in here and I’ll show you some of the latest stuff we’ve found. He dragged out shards of broken pottery and regaled us with the stories embedded in the bricks he dug up around the property. This one came from way up the Wando. This one from Beaufort. See the thumbprint, right there? Somebody long gone made that.
Clearing his desk, he opened a black ringed binder and pointed out a faded article. I always wondered about that tree. Says here its a Chinese fir tree, and over here in this one, a Lebanese cedar. Who in the world came all the way over here and planted that thing in the 1600′s? I’d sure like to know his story, divine what he was doing here.
On our way out, we stopped along the washboard dirt road. A couple of new outbuildings broke the skyline, their clean lines imprinting another story on the spellbinding landscape. The story of a woman with thick hair and weird glasses, who juxtaposed her modern aesthetic upon eons of history.
And it worked.
This post is part of a series that celebrates my friendship with Alice Guess as she moves to Baton Rouge, LA. If this is your first visit, please click here and read forward. Thank you for reading and sharing your stories here.