A man with an umbrella is king in a downpour

May in the low country of South Carolina is subject to rapid changes in weather.  On this particular Saturday, I was attending the morning Commencement Ceremonies at the College of Charleston.  With scattered heavy showers in the morning, the event was moved inside to protect student, faculty, family, and friends from the potential of severe weather.  After the event, we were off to the condo on Kiawah Island for lunch and gifts for the graduate, the daughter of my dear friend.

After lunch, I was heading to the elevator with a full trash bag and my umbrella.  As the door opened to the elevator, a gentleman and two women were already aboard heading down.  They were impeccably dressed.  The gentleman was admiring my big, ratty umbrella. He jokingly offered to buy it from me.   I let him know the trash bag was negotiable, but the umbrella was going to stay with me.  I would, however, be happy to walk everyone in his party to their vehicle under cover of my ancient canopy.  He smiled and thanked me and said they were going to wait for a shuttle to take them to the location of a late afternoon wedding nearby.  I hopped off the elevator to head to the dumpster to relieve myself of the trash bag.  When I came back to the front of the building, there were about a dozen people standing under cover in semi-formal attire.

Their shuttle arrived in front of the building.  I started ferrying people down the steps and around the ponding water on the sidewalk that led to the shuttle.  I started with an elderly woman with a great sense of humor and her daughter. She asked me for my name and thanked me for assisting her.  I then followed with some of the other women in the party and a final walk through the downpour with two younger men.

I was soaked by the time I was done, and the shuttle pulled away to the wedding.   I thought it was pretty funny that these folks, none of whom I had met before, were so appreciative of the simple kind gesture of providing cover to keep them dry so they would be comfortable at the ceremony about to take place.  It cost me nothing but damp clothes to keep them mostly dry.

A casualty of all the divisiveness and tension in the country over the past year is civility.  My parents and my grandmother taught me manners as a child in the 1960’s. In today’s world, I think we would all be better off if we offered a kindness to someone who could really use it.  I know that ferrying people under my bumpershoot will not end the unpleasantness that is running rampant.  It is not going to solve climate change or bring world peace.  But maybe it will improve someone’s day or experience, and perhaps that spirit of kindness will manifest itself in a kind act paid forward by one of the passengers under my umbrella.

It can’t hurt.


The Angel Oak

DSCN2304Sometimes you just have to see something with your own eyes from different angles before to you understand how amazing it is. If you live along or visit the southern coast of the United States you will see Southern Live Oaks (Quercus Virginiana).  These are venerable icons of the old south, lining roads and driveways often providing complete canopies that filter sunlight like massive green stain glass windows.   On Johns Island, outside of Charleston,  there is a Live Oak that is thought to be between 300-400 years old. Named “The Angel Oak” because it was on property once owned by Martha and Justin Angel, the tree is thought to be the largest example of the species east of the Mississippi River.

The Angel Oak is over 65 feet tall, 25 feet in diameter, with its longest branch running over 90 feet away from the trunk. That limb has a circumference of over 11 feet.  It is rigged with cables and metal rods to support some of the heavier branches.  It has a shade area that covers over 17,000 square feet.

I had the chance to visit it in July while vacationing in the low country of South Carolina. You really don’t get an idea of the immense size of the tree until you walk around and under it.  The branches run from the main trunk in all directions with several of the lower branches actually going underground for several feet before emerging above the surface.  Sunlight filtered through the canopy throws light and shadow along the branches revealing Spanish moss, ferns and other plant life living off this ancient tree. It is really an amazing thing to explore and behold.

If you are in the Low Country of South Carolina, this is worth an hour or two of your time.