SERIES: Part 17
I wander up and down the dock as Dad prepares the boat, footsteps sounded out in rich, wooden tones in the warm air, accented by the lap of water against mooring and shore. The tide has gone out, exposing an empty can and plastic lid stuck in the mud. I want to pick them up but there’s no way to walk down there. I’ve been told of the number of shoes sucked off the feet of tourists that are probably buried in the mud among the marsh grass.
When the boat is ready, we settle in. Dad is driving. Sarah and Dan sit on either side of him at the wheel. Laura and I are at the front, backs to the bow, with Bill facing us as he tells the history of the area. Before the Civil War, the river was lined with plantation homes but the Union Army burned them all. It’s not hard to imagine them. Their grand, ghostly facades stand imposing along the shore in my mind’s eye. The dark history of the Civil War is still strangely present here. An invisible, yet perceptible imprint.
The water is opaque, and I’m curious about the life beneath it. I’m told people swim here, so I ask about the alligators. Bill says “Oh, the alligators here are pretty gentle,” to which I think, there’s no way in hell you’re going to convince me of that. Especially since Dad told me his father in law’s dog was eaten by one, and also a nearby Bray’s Islander dog, whose large body they found only half of.
The river is a massive expanse, and I wonder how long it would take us to get to the ocean. It’s not far. There are no waves and the boat cuts through easily. Hefting us along past islands of marsh grass and the homes of lucky people who live here surrounded by live oak and deciduous forest. Laura tells me of a woman who makes purses from the marsh grass, and that it has a special name: Spartina. Her hood is pulled up against the wind at our backs. She has a gentle smile on her face and seems to be enjoying herself. I hope so.
For a while, no one speaks. The only sounds are the boat’s motor and the heavy gush of water pushed around the hull, left to roil behind us before reclaiming its placid dignity. Clouds, painted in billows and wisps across the blue sky, stretch over us to each shore and beyond. The day is warm but the air is crisp out on the water as we move through it. We are all bundled except for Dad, who always runs hot. Flannel unbuttoned, he is unaffected by the wind that blows through our hair and bites at our ears. He looks happy driving the boat. I snap a photo, and at the same time, this place, these colors, this air, these people, and this moment, are burning themselves into my mind forever.