The Center of the Universe

It's been a week of new experiences. On Tuesday, September 9th, the school year began here at Woodberry Forest School, and less than 36 hours later I was behind the wheel and heading south. That in itself wasn't a particularly new experience, but after spending the night at my parents' house in North Carolina, I got up on Thursday and drove through one of the relatively few parts of South Carolina I'd never seen. By 3:00 I was across the Savannah River and safely checked in at Statesboro's Holiday Inn, which provided a welcome, indeed necessary, place for me to shower. Why the necessity? Because the air conditioner in our Subaru was working only intermittently, and the weather in southwest SC had proven more than hot and humid enough to get me good and stinky.

Post-shower, I was happy to be picked up by my friend Debi, who gave me a brief tour of Georgia Southern's campus and then brought me to the Information Technology Building for the evening's festivities: a reading and talk by yours truly:

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(And no, I had not deliberately pandered to my audience by showing up in a dark blue shirt with yellow and white stripes. That was just serendipity--a word I would use more than once over the next few days.)

The reading went well, though I was unable to control my educator's instincts and spent part of the time drawing a diagram of the "ring species" phenomenon on the white board. I also signed a lot of books and shook a lot of hands. The crowd was a mix of GSU creative writing faculty and students, and after I finished, a few of the former took Debi and me across town for Thai food and lively conversation. As enjoyable as the evening had been, I was somewhat relieved to reach my hotel room, where for perhaps the second or third time in my life, I felt so tired that I actually turned off the lights without reading. And no, I didn't set an alarm.

The next day had very little on its schedule, so I took a leisurely breakfast at a nearby Panera, where I indulged in all the carbohydrates I'd denied myself all summer. Bloated by bagels and cream cheese, I decided to revisit one spot Debi had shown me the night before, the Georgia Southern Botanical Garden, which had been one of her daughter Brittany's favorite spots on campus.

DSC02210.JPGOnce a working farm on the outskirts of town, the gardens were now a mixture of forest, flower beds, and lawn, with several historic and renovated barns and other structures suitable for weddings and other functions.

DSC02218.JPGDSC02227.JPGI had logged the year's first Great Crested Flycatcher there the night before, and another turned up for me on Friday, along with an active and easily visible pair of Red-eyed Vireos, a sizable flock of Robins, and a few Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. The trees, shrubs, and flowers were varied and plentiful, and I greatly enjoyed looks at everything from peppers to pitcher plants to pinecones--big ones.

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DSC02219.JPGI also spent a bit of time wandering the downtown area, where I discovered two important things: first, a comic book shop, whose stock was impressively large and varied, almost as much so as its mascot's costume:

DSC02236.JPGAnd second, I discovered the center of the universe: where Main Street intersects with Main Street:

DSC02242.JPGAfter dinner with Debi at Chops--a verrrry nice helping of shrimp and grits--I went back to the IT building--sans camera, alas--for the main event of my trip: the presentation of the 2014 Brittany "Ally" Harbuck Memorial Scholarship in Creative Writing. I spoke a few words of introduction, but the bulk of the heavy work was done by Debi, who presented the scholarship and its accompanying basket of books to this year's winner, Sarah Fonseca, and by the nominated students, each of whom read a short piece of his/her own work. To say there was some talent on display is an understatement. I was delighted by the opportunity to meet with many of the readers after the presentation, discussing everything from coursework to pop music to graphic novels (Sarah seemed especially pleased at my fulsome praise for Alison Bechdel's Fun Home.), and I returned to my hotel with a feeling of general satisfaction--and a plan for Saturday.

The plan was nothing new. As I've done many times before, I set out to see a life bird in Georgia. More than any other place, the Peach State has been consistent in offering me opportunities to see birds, but only species that I've seen before. I've visited parks, beaches, and wildlife refuges all over its territory, and because I've had family living there most of my life, I've been able to spend time there for literally decades. This time, however, I had a specific bird in mind, and therefore a specific location: Sapelo Island, the only place outside of Texas where an American can log a Plain Chachalaca. Though the bird is common in Latin America, its range extends only slightly north of the Rio Grande--except on Sapelo, where it was introduced as a game bird some decades back, and where it has established a small breeding population. My hope, then, was to take the ferry to the island--there is no bridge--spend the morning hunting down a Chachalaca, and hit the road back to my parents' place once the ferry got back to the mainland just after lunch.

That's not quite how it worked out.

TO BE CONTINUED!

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on September 16, 2014 11:16 AM.

Georgia on My Mind was the previous entry in this blog.

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