Road Trip Edition #3

It’s Friday!  Again.  I keep hearing the phrase, “The days are long, but the years are short.”  I don’t know about any of you, but this doesn’t ring true to my life – at least not at the moment.  I find I start my days earlier and earlier just so I can have more time because they fly by!  And when you have a lot of stuff you want to do in a single day, it can become quite overwhelming.  As cliché as it is, I just want time to slow down.

As you’re all zipping to and fro during the week, I hope you’re at least setting aside some time to plan your weekend adventure.  It’s supposed to be a perfect 75 degrees over the weekend in this part of the South – just perfect for getting in the car and exploring.

This week’s road trip song may be a little obvious, since it’s well played on the radio, but I love Darius Rucker’s version of Wagon Wheel.  It came on the radio yesterday as I was leaving our local farmer’s market, and I realized I smiled “out loud” – a real visible smile, not just a happy little smile in my head!

(I also tend to hear this song at the very same point in my journey to and from my house – usually as I’m crossing a bridge over a great big river.  It’s happened at least four times.)

You may be familiar with the Old Crow Medicine Show’s version.  I also really enjoy the Grand Ole Opry performance where Old Crow Medicine Show and Darius Rucker play Wagon Wheel together.  How amazing would it have been to see that show live?

“I was born to be a fiddler in an old time string band
My baby plays a guitar, I pick a banjo now”

Here’s to this weekend’s adventures!

Darius Rucker – Wagon Wheel

States Rights Gist In Red Book Form

While poking around a local bookstore yesterday, I picked up a small, red, hardcover book with very distinct black writing on the front that read States Rights Gist.  In all my excitement at seeing that name again I completely overlooked who the book was written by or who the publisher was.  After some minor investigation, I can only assume it is this book (which upon first glance doesn’t quite stand out like the little red version I saw yesterday).

My first encounter with States Rights Gist was in 2010 when we stumbled upon this headstone in the Trinity Cathedral Cemetery in Columbia, South Carolina:

uniquely named - States Right Gist - Trinity Cathedral Cemetery - Columbia, SC - May 2010

The headstone itself is an eye-catcher, but as you round the corner, it’s the name on the headstone that really grabs your attention.

Aptly named, States Rights Gist served in the Civil War as a brigadier general for the Confederate Army (source).  It is said that his father gave States Rights this unique moniker in support of his own political beliefs.  With a distant relative serving in the American Revolution, and other relatives serving as governors for the state of South Carolina, politics seem to be a family affair.

(It must be noted that his name appears as States Right Gist on the headstone – with Right missing the ‘s’.  His headstone is the only place I could find this spelling.  Some believe that the ‘s’ was added to further the political association with his name.)

So, yes, States Rights Gist.  It’s a name that stands out and sticks with you.  It would appear that his name shaped his entire life – his career choice, and even possibly contributed to his early death at the age of 33 (he was killed in battle).

I’ve always been fascinated with names.  I can often be heard saying, “I would name him/her/it…”  I even have a handbag that I refer to as Marlena.  I think names are important, and that is true even more so here in the South.  It can define who we are as individuals.  When you think of all the choices we make in life, our name is usually not one of them.  That’s when you hope and pray your parents are of the sane sort!

Given my draw to names, it is natural that States Rights Gist would attract me in the middle of a small town cemetery, and then again on a little red book in the middle of a small town bookstore.  I have often thought of Mr. Gist over the years, but seeing his name on that book was like reuniting with someone I hadn’t seen for a long while.  It brought back a flood of memories from our wander through that cemetery on a sunny spring day, and also served as a reminder of the immense history this state has.  It was a special find, and I’m kicking myself for not bringing it home with me.

Speaking of interesting names, here is another one from the Trinity Cathedral Cemetery in Columbia:

a name for the story books - Trinity Cathedral Cemetery - Columbia, SC - May 2010 (2)

What do you think?  Would you give your son or daughter a name that reflected your political choices?

Road Trip Edition #2

It looks like the week got away from me!  Blogging is very new to me, so it may take some time to get used to posting on a more regular basis.  I have a lot of ideas and fun places I want to share with y’all, though.

This week’s road tune comes from a local band that I discovered late last year.   Shovels & Rope is a husband/wife duo that hails from Charleston, South Carolina.  Garden and Gun describes them as being “punkabilly June and Johnny Cash mixed with New Orleans horns, sixties-era harmonies, and honking organ solos.”  In other words, really cool!

They are completely different from anything I’ve heard in a good long time.  I particularly like “Birmingham”, which is posted below as this week’s road trip song.  Their music reminds me of the South in so many ways – organic, a little gritty, but with sweet undertones and a charm that keep you coming back for more.

I hope y’all like them as much as I do.   Happy weekending!

Shovels & Rope – Birmingham

Road Trip Edition #1

It’s Friday! And if you’re anything like me that means tomorrow is your day to go adventuring. It may be a stop at your local art market, a trip to check out the tabby ruins left behind at an old church, lunching at a new café two towns away, or simply just a couple of hours spent driving through the dappled light of these southern back roads.

Road trips don’t have to be extensive or take up the entire weekend (although, a whole weekend of adventuring truly is the best) to be full of fun. Sometimes the best adventures are right outside your door.

With that in mind, I’m introducing what I hope becomes a weekly thing around The Gracious Plenty. I’m not one of those cool kids that can provide you with an entire playlist of good music, but I can share with you some tunes here and there. Plus, for those of you just popping across the state line to do a little shopping (and cupcake eating) an entire playlist would go to waste. All you need is one good song – rinse and repeat!

So, put the top down on that shiny convertible – or you know, roll down the windows in your cute little economy car – and let the fresh air and southern sights take away the worries of the week.

J.D. McPherson – “Fire Bug”

Flannery O’Connor: A Birthday Tribute

In my last post, I wrote about a gracious plenty of things the South has to offer, but in my list I forgot to mention one very important thing that the South has in abundance:  truly great literature.

Being an avid reader and writer, I started my southern literature kick several years ago, and truthfully, this is the only genre that draws my attention and makes me want to sit on the front porch and read until the sun sets.  There is great comfort in reading about the South, and even better if it is from the perspective of a Southerner!

That being said, I have also found myself a little obsessed with visiting the homes of Southern authors.  I find great pleasure in walking through their homes, taking in the view from their writing rooms, and imagining all the wonderful characters and places that have been immortalized on paper in those very spots.

My first Southern author home tour happened just a hop, skip, and a jump way in Savannah, Georgia at the childhood home of Miss Flannery O’Connor.  As I walked up the steps, I tried to imagine this small child running across the hardwood floors and beginning her love affair with words.  One of the things that stick out for me is that in the books she would read as a child, she would write a “review”, simply stating (paraphrased), “It was good, but could have been better.”  I fell in love with the simplicity of this act, and she is the reason I now write book reviews for all the books I read!

childhood home of Flannery O'Connor - Savannah, GA

When I visit these homes, I like to purchase a book from the gift store that is usually on site.  I know all the books come from the same place, but to me the book is more special if I buy it at the home where the author lived rather than getting it on Amazon.  It’s a souvenir, a way to remember my visit.

On my first visit to the Flannery O’Connor home, I did not have any cash with me and they did not take credit cards.  For the life of me, I could not find an ATM machine in the vicinity, and by the time I did, the home’s visiting hours were over.  Bummer!  Silly as it is, I went back the next Sunday (the opening hours were Sundays only at that time), and had to tell the guy, “No, I did the tour last week, but came back to buy a book.”  He gave me a bright-eyed look, chuckled, and tucked the receipt for The Complete Stories in the front cover.

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While that first visit happened almost five years ago, it is only in the last month that I’ve settled into Flannery O’Connor’s book of short stories.  About halfway through, I’m finding I look forward to the next story, and I’m completely fascinated by her characters.  I’ll have to write a review of them once I’m done!

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Incidentally, it was just a week ago today that I was in Milledgeville, Georgia where Flannery O’Connor’s 455-acre dairy farm, Andalusia, is located.  It is at Andalusia that she wrote her two novels and two collections of short stories.  Unfortunately, my travels began a bit late and I did not make it to Andalusia until it was almost closing time.  I was able to get out and walk around the grounds, but there just wasn’t the time for a tour of her home.  Next time!

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There were white irises popping up in spots all around the grounds.  Seeing the irises made me stop and think about how much she was able to create in her short life.  She died at the age of 39, and today marks what would have been her 88th birthday.  And, so, it is with both joy and sadness that we say “Happy Birthday” to one of America’s greatest fiction writers, Miss Flannery O’Connor.

A Gracious Plenty

The Gracious Plenty.  A true Southerner will know that this is technically incorrect.  The phrase is actually “a gracious plenty”, meaning an abundance or more than enough.

“Would you like more ham?”

“No, I have a gracious plenty on my plate, thank you.”

The South is full of fun phrases, but “a gracious plenty” has always stuck with me.  To me, it embodies the true essence of the South where everything seems to be in abundance:  food, family, tradition, manners, and of course, sweet tea!

the perfect Southern scene - Beaufort, SC - March 2013

I tend to be enamored by all things southern:  azaleas in February, giant live oak trees covered in resurrection fern and Spanish moss, gorgeous antebellum homes lining the common streets of modern day, the history of the Civil War a mere step out your backdoor, grits and collards and caramel cake, bowties and seersucker skirts, bourbon and moonshine (!!), yes ma’am and no sir, church on Sundays, and of course, sweet tea!

If I had one word to describe the South, it would be bountiful – plentiful.  There is “a gracious plenty” of history, culture, food, and tradition here, and everywhere you turn, there is natural beauty with centuries of stories to tell, and a people who seem to have a true grasp on what life is all about (think big ‘ol porches  and a tall glass of that aforementioned sweet tea).

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I have “a gracious plenty” of things in my own life to be grateful for, and my surroundings are high on the list.  I love where I live; I love the South.

And so, I present to you The Gracious Plenty – a documentation of a life lived in “a gracious plenty” state of mind.

Tap, Tap, Tap

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore. ” – William Faulkner

Is this thing on?  I suppose it is.  I suppose it always has been.  After years of thinking about building a blog and an online presence, I’m finally stepping out of my comfort zone and taking what seems like a very cold, deep, dark plunge. Starting a blog in the midst of so many other successful blogs can be a bit intimidating, but that’s okay.  I’m up for the challenge.  Finally.

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So, here’s to first posts.

Let’s see where this thing takes us!