Some years ago, I was being interviewed by a news reporter for some reason of which I can no longer remember. The young lady asked to elicit the personal philosophy of myself. I responded with some stolen lines that seemed to become my persona over the years. I said, “my life is not a linear line of pursuit, but a horizontal exploration from one area of interest to another.” That may seem right-brained or flighty, random and abstract in not seeking an ultimate goal, totally the antithesis of the American work ethic. But nevertheless, that pretty much sums up who I am.
Emerson said, “Who so would be a man, must be a nonconformist.” I might have adopted that as my mantra, perhaps to a foolish extent. My life is hardly one of the extremes, yet , I hold in high regard the idea of taking the road less traveled, and I occasionally even travel it. A therapist would likely attribute this to some unresolved issues with a lack of self confidence as a child, being somewhat of a chubby frog. But when I delve into my attitudes in search of what moves me, my conclusion is simply that many of my choices stem from an occasionally fanatical fear of being just one of the herd.
Today, I ventured into the low country in search of of an era gone by. My desire was to visit Beaufort. I’ve became enamored with this place through the written word. I believe I have read everything ever published by author Pat Conroy since my introduction to “The River is Wide”, later made into the movie Conrack, starring a young Jon Voight. But my mode of getting to my point of destination has changed recently. I’m not in the same hurry I once was. Retirement, age, becoming more learned, has had its positive influences.
While traveling, I thought about a poem I read back in college that rings true. Yes, I can remember prose from some forty years ago, I just can’t remember where I put my reading glasses several times a day. It’s called Ithaka and its from a famous Greek poet. You can replace Ithaka with any one of your destinations…..it works. It reads like this:
“Always keep Ithaka in your mind. Arriving there is your destination. But don’t hurry the journey at all. Better if it last many years, and you moor on the island when you are old, rich with all you have gained along the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.”
So along the ride my first stop was unexpected, a roadside haunt called the Carolina Cider Co. and advertising my weakness for pie. Yes, ahh, my penchant for pecan. I had to have some. I did end up purchasing some pepper jelly along with mustard sauce.
As for the pecan pie, I can give it no better than a disappointingly D+. Further along the journey I cruised upon the Ease Chapel, a black church burnt almost beyond recognition, just down the road from my stop at Penn Center.
Penn Center is the spiritual home of Gullah culture and history. It was here, in the early 60’s that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used this place as a his major retreat and planning sites during the civil rights era. I stopped and sat among the live oaks and humble but well-preserved buildings, transcending time and remembering my high school days and how my thoughts and ideas of the civil rights movement have matured over the years. I was sitting among history and I allowed it to sink in for some lengthy moments. I was both awed and inspired walking the hallowed grounds of history, so much to the point that the afternoon shadows had lengthened beyond my time limit. It would be dark if I didn’t leave soon. I had no desire to be lost in the low country after twilight. Beaufort would have to wait another day. But today, this Penn Center, this Ithaka, has made me richer.