October 20, 2021

Hilton Head: A Love Story (aka Triplog)


So Sunday, a day later than scheduled, we began our sixth annual trip with the dogs to Hilton Head and we stopped along the way for a brief visit to a West Virginia state park. 

Camp Creek was fresh as an Irish spring with a quiet unreproducible in my home town. And visually astonishing with that carpet of living water over the striated rocks.  Very Zoder’s Inn-ish of Gatlinburg, the creek bed laden with dark gray rocks and fringed by rhododendron. 

So three senses were simultaneously affected: sight, smell and hearing. A tonic.

The needful event was Harris Teeter groceries followed by a jog in the sun-filled heat and it always makes me smile when people think they’re funny with an obvious line. Old gentleman says, “you need to go a little faster!” That’s a familiar bit and I replied, “I wish I could!” Similarly, everyone gets a kick out of saying, after hearing my common name, “oh, is that the name you’re using today?” 

Jogged past a enclave supposedly open only to guests and saw the magnificent swimming pool with a huge water fountain frothing water up 20 feet. Who doesn’t like a fountain? 

Also something I can’t recall seeing before - a real, live ruin in Hilton Head! An old hotel closed up and going to seed. Called “Beachwalk”, it’s less than a half-mile from our place. 

From an Island Packet piece:

Hilton Head's abandoned real estate buildings attract  vagrants Apr 21, 2018 — Beachwalk Hotel is one of at least a dozen commercial buildings that are vacant eyesores, say Hilton Head residents. These unkempt buildings not ...

Turns out there was a fire there back in ’17 and they’ve never been able to reopen.


I retired to the small but comfy front porch. Quiet and serene there and nice temperature. Stayed till after 6p reading some of new book “Travels with George” which is a travelogue by a guy who followed the trip of the country that Washington took shortly after inauguration trying to unite a country that wasn’t fond of the idea of a strong central government. 


In addition to the political divide separating the American people, there were long-standing regional differences. When the governor of Virginia said “my country,” he didn’t mean the United States, he meant Virginia.

Shades of how we think of “my country” as patriotic red staters or woke blue ones?  


By the time he returned to New York, a new sense of nationhood had begun to infuse the American people. As a newspaper in Salem, Massachusetts, reported, the appearance of the president had “unite[d] all hearts and all voices in his favor.”

Sounds like we need a leader like Washington again. 


Via Jim Curley’s recommendation I’m reading the book by Philip Lawler “Courageous Faith” about what the author sees as the overreaction to Covid (lockdowns and church closings). It dovetails perfectly with what Thomas Sowell said was a weak link of contemporary society: the failure to even consider the consider costs of a given economic or other strategy, let alone do any kind of cost/benefit analysis.  It’s the mindset of our liberal leaders that actions don't have consequences and don’t result in reactions.

You can see it everywhere now once you see it - Covid, economic policies that have helped choke the supply line, service industries. You can even see it with the election of Bush in 2000 when because of “hanging chads” in a county in Florida, our whole voting system was completely upended, which introduced great distrust beginning with Bush in ‘04 with Diebold machines and continuing to this day in part due to foreseeable consequences to switching to opaque voting systems outsourced to 2-3 large companies with unclear ownership and under indifferent security. 

We just lurch from problem to solution without any intervening thought. 

Another example of how the system wouldn’t work without a people of virtue:
"Though Sacco and Vanzetti are no longer house­hold names, their fate de­serves to be re­mem­bered. “Every­thing should be done to keep alive the tragic af­fair of Sacco and Vanzetti in the con­science of mankind,” Al­bert Ein­stein wrote in 1947. “They re­mind us of the fact that even the most per­fectly planned de­mo­c­ra­tic in­sti­tu­tions are no bet­ter than the peo­ple whose in­stru­ments they are.”


Interesting lines from latest Chesterton magazine:

The promising young scholar deftly illustrated how Chesterton’s optimism is not mere ‘positive thinking’ or a Pollyanna determination to maintain a sunny disposition. Rather, it is founded upon the sense of freeing resignation that comes with the acceptance that this world is not our final home, and a living out of the virtues of faith, hope, and love. Echoing Dale Alquist’s quotation about society being ‘on the wrong road,’ Lydia quoted to great effect a marvelous passage from Chesterton’s ‘The Ballade of a Strange Town,’ in *Tremendous Trifles*: 

“That is what makes life at once so splendid and so strange. We are in the wrong world. When I thought that was the right town, it bored me; when I knew it was wrong, I was happy. So the false optimism, the modern happiness, tires us because it tells us that we fit into this world. The true happiness is that we don’t fit. We come from somewhere else. We have lost our way.” 


Enjoyed a soporific period on the sands of Iwo Hilton Head before going back and collecting the dogs for their afternoon beach romp.  Ended up doing an additional mile jog down past the pretty tree-lined street of Aveco. There’s an area completely undeveloped, a wild jungle that eyes can penetrate maybe only the first dozen feet. Maybe that’s Hilton Head was like in, say, 1600. 


Pondered  how another way to view the story of the finding of Jesus in the Temple is that Jesus was re-enacting the book of Genesis after the creation of Eve: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” 

He had left his earthly mother and father to hold fast to his wife, that is the Church, represented by these scholars of the law. And I couldn’t help but smile at an artwork depicting the scene, because you see these befuddled old men disarmed by this child -- and then you remember he was trading Mary and Joseph (!), for these far more earthbound sinners. As always, Jesus doesn’t get the best end of the deal...


Randomly I thought about how teachers like my mother and friend Nina have a keen awareness of the difference between first graders and third graders. To me they’re all “little kids”.   

But even my own experience should tell me that there’s a difference in that I can remember third grade and I can barely remember first at all.  That suggests a kind of self-forgetfulness in first grade versus a self-awareness in third. 

My outsider’s view that first graders and third are the same is true from the perspective of both being “little kids” but that’s also how we get heresies in the Church. 

St. Thomas Aquinas had an adage: “Seldom affirm, never deny, always distinguish.” The mind is made for truth, it can’t believe pure falsehood. Every false idea has some foundation in truth – otherwise, the mind would find it laughable.  All heresies are half-truths with a kernel of truth in them. 


Surprisingly crowded 11am beach for an overcast day in October.  Very Hilton-Head-in-August feel.  It may not be high season but around near Coligny square it’s a totally different look and feel from October Seapines beaches. Didn’t anticipate that for sure. 


Kind of wish I hadn’t learned about the large number of copperhead snakes in Hilton Head because now I’m paranoid when I take the dogs a walk they snout in the surrounding vegetation which now I’ve got to try and prevent.  We saw one in the brush just a dozen or two steps from our condo and the condo people next to us report they saw a black snake swim past our door last night. 


St Jane Frances de Chantal:

"Our Lord doesn’t take the trouble to make martyrs of feeble hearts and people who have little love and not much constancy; he just lets them jog along in their own little way in case they give up and slip from his hands altogether; he never forces our free will.”


It strikes me that angels are a higher form of life than us, just as we are with animals. And so I am to Max and Maris what my guardian angel is to me.


On an overcast morning I hit church and the ever faithful Fr. Farrell was presiding. The gospel was about Jesus overcoming the demonic and Fr. said in his homily that there was not the shadow of a doubt in his mind about the existence of demons, and relayed two acquaintances who had these sorts of experiences. 

Mother Angelica quote of the day: “We all have a totally different degree of holiness, and if the enemy suspects that your degree of holiness is high, he will do all in his power to lower it. Remember, he is satisfied with you gaining half the glory."- Mother Angelica


Today is weather-shot too. Torrential downfalls today till 2pm at least.  But I make the rain a companion, smoking a cigar on the second story balcony.  Max joined me until he headed in after about ten minutes, scared off by thunder. 


Finally a Saturday on vacation that’s not a travel day! Woohoo!  Headed to pool for morning sun. Mused that one key difference between children and adults is that children will close pool gates with as much force as is humanly possible while adults will go out with the opposite intention. 


Then we watched three quarters of the enjoyable Buckeye blowout of Maryland. Their offense is certainly fun to watch.  The shock of shocks was Alabama somehow lost, which is one of the signs of the Second Coming so we best all pray.  An old dude wearing Bama stuff at beach this week and another old guy, a stranger on bike, happened across him, stopped riding, to talk Georgia / Alabama football. A scene in the South that is probably recreated many times. College football knows no strangers. 


Fr. Farrell’s organist was out sick so absolutely no singing or music. This meant he processed up the aisle silently which you don’t see too often. Feels like we could’ve all sang a hymn a capella, or “Acapulco” as I liked to call it as a kid.  In theory, this should shorten the Mass dramatically. No psalm singing, Gloria singing, no entrance, offertory or closing hymns. But Fr. F is nothing if not an opportunist and he gave a longer homily and added a mini-homily in front of the “Our Father” and the mass ended up being a little over an hour.  

Beautiful afternoon so ‘round 2:30 we loaded up the wagon-type conveyance: water, beer, two chairs, sun-umbrellas, dog water bowl, kindle and long leashes. Four hours we were back home after some reading, running, and dog ocean time. 

It was great running down the beach barefoot and then returning into the sun and the gilt-coast. For the whole day six miles.  Enjoyed the pleasures of a pre-beach cigar on the balcony and a couple beers on the beach.  Simple-ish pleasures. 


So today we’re breaking ground never seen before in vacational experiences. Well at least since Ireland trip (which was a different epoch).  I’ve blasted through the one-week barrier, the rock-hard cambium layer that never gets disturbed due to the sacrosanct “one week off” routine. Our normal Hilton Head week would’ve ended yesterday since we left on a Sunday. 


Have the pool to myself from 8am till now past 11, no small feet given the sunny 74 degree weather and that the pool is perhaps shared by 48 families if everything was rented out. 

Impressive variety of trees and shrubs in the acre courtyard: a live oak with Spanish moss and at least four other varieties of tree: fir, palm, tulip, and one I can’t identify. Also an 8ft shrub with bright red flowers attracting bright yellow butterflies...It’s always summer somewhere. 

Headed to beach, glorious beach, around noon. Hung out next to the dunes in the soft sand as it was high tide and watched the slanty water angle to shore in their big gallops. I love the smell of Coppertone in the morning.

Listened to the Davids: Cassidy and Sherman, for my 70s nostalgia fix. (“Happy Days” premiered in ‘74, so that nostalgia was only 20 yrs old...meaning that 1995-2005 is nostalgic now! I feel old.)

Don Williams refrain heard today on the radio, from “I’m Just a Country Boy”:

“I’m just a country boy /

Money have I none /

But I’ve got silver in the stars /

And gold in the morning sun.”


Beer o’clock at 4:30, after dog walk to sea.  “Maris” means sea so it’s appropriate for her to be here although she’s been less giddy about going in the water than Max.  So much for her being a “water dog”. Maybe if it was really hot, like 87+ degrees, she’d go in deeper.  But the waves are turning her off.  


Beautiful morning and nice to have had an “easy day” yesterday of only three miles walking yesterday with no run. 

Deep thrombosis-blue skies, sunlit from heaven.  Light paints the tree trunks and latticed balconies and stripes the sides of the stucco buildings.  Remarkably quiet here despite the nearness of Coligny square.  A bit of Spanish moss hangs in the trees, aspirational of its neighbor Savannah.

We hit the beach at noon-thirty and the sand is soft as our mattress topper.  The water is translucent with a touch of green, like those glassine envelopes stamps used to come in back when I was into stamp collecting. 

I remember the thrill of getting those in the mail after a wait of months, or so it seemed. Similarly I recall ordering paperback books through our school (via Weekly Reader) and waiting a millennium for them to arrive. 

Would be fun to find those stamps now, assuming they aren’t long gone after so many moves since I’ve lived in a dozen places and nine of them with (or without) my stamp collection.

I wonder why I always can recapture my distant past more easily when on a beach vacation? Why it comes to me unbidden? It’s like the sun and water unlocks skin memories. 


The morning routine is to read the “Wide World of News” newsletter from political guru Mark Halperin, who serves all your “doom and gloom” news. Cheery, in some ways, to hear of Biden’s troubles. Cheery not so much given he’s the president and I should want him to succeed, although now that we’re in this cold civil war, it’s like rooting for President Jefferson Davis to succeed. I understand now, unlike in 2008 after Obama's win, that we're at war. 

I’m not sure which is the bigger presidential surprise of the past decade: that Trump would be so good or that Biden would be so bad. Expectations don't count for much, turns out.  Like trying to predict how the Bengals will do.


I muse/wonder if the USSR break up because of assassination attempt on Pope JP 2, a hit man hired by the Soviets? Did God have enough? Brezhnev was the leader when the assassination attempt occurred and then in the short span of 3.5 years three Soviet leaders die and Chernobyl happens a year after that. Three years after Chernobyl comes the end of Communism in East Germany and fall of Berlin Wall. 

So in just an 8 yr span from the near death of the Pope you have four Soviet leaders, a nuclear disaster and the fall of the Berlin Wall. 


Took a pleasant 6-7 mile noon bike ride, taking lightly-traveled Dune Road as far as it would take me which was ten minutes by bike. Picturesque houses with visions of infinity in between, that is views of sandy paths to sudden sea. 

Makes me want to live on a houseboat like author John MacDonald or Sen. Joe Manchin. 

The Victorian mansions seem no more real than sea castles, as if inside were portholes and pirate warrens. This island has so many little jungles, acreages held natural, rife with life, flush with gush. 

I ride back to Coligny past oddly named stores like “Quiet Storm for Her” (apparently a surf shop with clothing line). “Jamaican Me Crazy” is the more obvious one. 

The trick, as always, is to revel in the material without forgetting from whence it came. The beauty of this earth is a symbol, not a destination in itself. There is no “there” there other than pointing at the Creator. 

It’s like sex, which is God-required to be a kinetic symbol of marital love rather that an end in itself, i.e. not pleasure as its own destination. 

From today’s reading of Wordsworth:

Sweet coverts did we cross of pastoral life, 

Enticing vallies — greeted them, and left 

Too soon, while yet the very flash and gleam 

Of salutation were not passed away. 


Of awful promise, when the light of sense 

Goes out in flashes that have shown to us 

The invisible world, doth greatness make abode...              

Our destiny, our nature, and our home, 

Is with infinitude — and only there;


Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light,  

Were all like workings of one mind, the features 

Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree, 

Characters of the great apocalypse, 

The types and symbols of eternity. 

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