Ponderings From the Edge: Winter’s Quiet

Botany at Rest

I don’t think I’ve published a blog since 2020 and I have a lot to say. Today I am thinking about how cold it is. It is winter after all, so it should be, right? Here in rural South Carolina, it is a time to think, to plan, to rest and to prepare for the craziness that will explode in the spring. It is quiet here now. So quiet that there is space to notice the white light of the sun as it moves up the South Edisto River. So quiet that I notice that the dormant marsh grass is a warmer gray on one side of the bridge and cooler gray on the other. If I use the binoculars, I can see the near shore where at low tide, a colony of white pelicans sits in the sun. A few feet down but on the same side, a flock of ibis sit, soaking it in like solar panels until the tide turns them out to wherever they go next. The mergansers float in the creek, safe from hunters for now. The occasional eagle cruises overhead. He missed the great migration. He’s not sure where everyone has gone but he’s not going hungry here so I suppose he sees no reason to leave. I’m good with that.

I pack up my rolling cart and walk to the swamp on the other side of the pond. The trees have shed their leaves and everything is still. The occasional woodpecker provides the only noise. The white light of the setting sun makes the duckweed look like snow. This place is timeless, but in no time, it’ll be spring and I won’t be able to see the trees for the forest.

The Show Goes On

Most of us would agree that the spring of 2020 started off bad and then got worse. Eternally optimistic, I’m choosing to be hopeful that out of so much anguish can come something positive. I have to believe that no matter how bleak, there is still beauty and kindness in the world. Anyone crossing the bridge onto Edisto Island will recognize this scene. It is the north side of the bridge that faces Charleston. It is still a vista that inspires. There is so much change that I’d like to see, change that is so necessary. But where there is beauty, I hope it will remain. Thank you to Bruce Hornsby for the title idea.


I am not a writer so bear with me here.  I need to share a story with you. A true story.  It happened this week. And spoiler alert: it does not end well for the raccoon.  Steve and I sat on the North Porch for happy hour and activity in the live oak that caught my eye.  A very large raccoon sat on a limb and groomed herself like a cat does. I was taught that raccoons wash their food but this was the first time I’ve seen one wash herself.  Raccoons, and other wildlife, predominate on this island paradise where we live. Red raccoons are often seen here. Did you know they came in colors? We’ve had several generations of red and gray raccoons to watch over the years.  Sometimes we see them swimming across creeks. Last spring I watched a mom carry her kits from one tree to another to keep them safe. She pulled them out of the marsh in her mouth and climbed a large live oak, deposited her kit and then climbed back down, over the marsh to retrieve the next.  And the next. This year I have a couple of hollow trees and because of the habitat that remains on my ⅓ acre plot (I don’t know how because we’ve lost so many trees to hurricanes) the birds and raccoons love it here. I have every kind of woodpecker you can think of, except, the pileated one, but I’m hopeful that they will find us in the next couple of years.  Anyway, I digress. Our little lot is also a deer path but that’s a whole ‘nother story.  

Now since the raccoons lived here first, we’ve established a pattern.  They hide when we are out with the dog (leashed) and the dog’s owner (Steve)  tries to manage the dog when the raccoons are spotted by the dog. It’s a mutually agreed upon territorial thing.

Now there’s a saying at Edisto.  “Either you get it, or you don’t.”  This means different things to different people, but one of the things I “get” is that there is a relationship between humans and wildlife that can be a peaceful coexistence, mostly.  It does NOT mean, I’m here so you have to go. It’s an impossible balance between birds, raccoons, deer, alligators, snakes, lizards, and homes, traffic, golfcarts and tourists. This place totally keeps you on your toes because you never know…..

But on Thursday, the sheriff’s deputy had to go get his 22  and shoot my raccoon. Instead of moving about her normal routine, back and forth across the road, across the marsh, she deviated.  She curled up with her nose in the ground. She tried to stand but flopped over. Is this rabies? Who do we call? Animal control? Terminix?  There is no animal control out here. The pest control company wanted no part of this. I have total respect for the deputy who came and did what needed to be done.  Can’t let an animal suffer. Ever.

So when we arrived here in early March, we noted a number of raccoon skeletons in the roads, next to the roads, over in the brush, you get it.  I thought that someone might have put out poison, because this is South Carolina and people can be unpredictable. And yes, I’d heard that a former resident was known to do that.  But no. I was too quick to judge. I called my friend who knows everything there is to know about anything wild. She said right away, “It sounds like distemper.” The sheriff assessed it as distemper as well.  You know the shot your dog has to have? It’s a vaccination for a virus that runs through a population and kills off the old and the weak. And there is nothing that can be done to prevent it or cure it in wild animals.  Our domesticated pets, because the law requires it, are vaccinated for it. But nature takes her course where the wild things are.   

I’m going to leave this here.  Think what you will. But never name your raccoon. 

Strada Easel Challenge #1

This year, one of the things I’ve learned about myself is that for me, goal setting is essential. “I don’t need to sign up with anyone to paint daily” is nothing more than leaving open the door to quit. By Day 6 of this challenge, that’s exactly what I was considering and I know myself well enough that I would have quit if I had not committed to the challenge. The idea is to commit to something larger than myself and post daily for 31 days. The paintings can be any medium, or even a drawing, or parts of a larger work but posting has to happen daily and the work must be done daily. No cheating by posting something that was painted a month or two ago. This photo collage is my effort halfway through. https://stradaeasel.com

Very Low Tide

8×16 Oil on Canvas, Unframed

There is always something remarkable to see in the Yacht Basin at Edisto Beach. I have to remember to walk softly so I won’t frighten away the heron, storks and egrets that are often feasting in the plough mud at low tide. I stand on the dock to paint and because I’m pretty slow at it, the tide goes out and I find myself standing at a slant because the dock has dropped to ground level. One of these days, my easel is going in, and I’ll have to go after it. The bottom of the creek bed reveals the Edisto Oysters.

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Twilight at Edisto from Sue’s Dock

18×24 Oil on Canvas, Framed

A plein air painter often needs permission to be on private property to paint. I’m grateful to Sue for so many reasons, but one of them is her insistence that I use her dock to paint from whenever I wish and this is why so many of my paintings come from the Yacht Basin area between Edisto Beach and the state park. Time and tide work together, creating something new to paint with each visit.