Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Afternoon

Standing on a boat landing, I am shading my eyes as I look across the Ashley River. The Ashley runs from Summerville to Charleston Harbor where it meets the Cooper River and flows into the Atlantic.
But from where I am standing in North Charleston, it is gently flowing west. The waves are small, but they gently rise and fall in unison, looking as if they have a purpose and are on their way somewhere. They stretch all the way across the river in slightly broken lines. The river itself is brown as It flows through the Marshlands. The grasses are bending as though paying homage to the river.
 I see a young man lay down flat on the boat  launch reaching into the river to see, if he can touch it’s bottom. He does. I see him pull something out of the river look at it and return it to its Home.
The silence of the river is serene, to the left of me I see I56, as cars hurry to and fro heading to places on the land, forgetting the river they are crossing has a destination as well.
Directly across from me, ¼ mile across this river I see trees and houses stately house mostly but every once in a while a modest brick house appears. All of the house, are protected though by the trees. Long dirt paths leading to neat  cut yards while the river flows gently by.
To the right, I see just the river, it is endless dotted with boats, water skiers enjoying its path.
Suddenly a boat breaks the silence and the rows of waves are disturbed for just a moment as the boat leaves a trail of broken waves in its wake. Gentle laughter takes to the breezes and float across to where I am standing. I watch the waves come together again as if they have not been interrupted and start flowing west again, up and down in rhythm.  

In the old days before boats, people would get in their boats, not powered because they didn’t have power boats back then. The idea was to flow as the river does. When it goes east, they would rid the rolling waves to downtown Charleston where they would take care of business, When it was low tide they would get wearily in their boats and the waves would bring thme home to west Ashley, named for the River or to North Charleston. Once there they would hitch there boats to to the docks and head in for dinner.
Barges used the river to float materials to Summer Ville or Downtown. The river back then meant life, it meant transportation it was the heart of this side of the city. It still is, as far as fun is. Most people have patoon boats for family trips.
I turn to leave,  the young man whom I saw earlier touch the river has pulled out a clipboard and is drawing the scene.  He sits huddled next to a supporting beam, his legs dangling over the side of the bridge, intently drawing the scene: but not the one of the river, the one leading to the river. The houses, the path the marsh as it tends to the river. I notice for the first time he is wearing a ski hat pulled over his head black shorts and a orange shirt.  But what is most noticeable is his intense appreciation for what is around him. Now his eyes look ahead as he studies the scene, and bends his head to return to his drawing. He is drawing something he cares about.

I am reminded of the ballad “Ole Man River” from the 1927 musical Showboat
Ol' man river, dat ol' man river
He mus' know sumpin', but don't say nuthin'
He jes' keeps rollin'
He keeps on rollin' along

The Ashley River continues to rolling on. It has been rolling since long before the Charleston was founded, the south fired on Fort Sumpter, The battle of Charleston, and all of the history of this great city.

Still it keeps it secrets, and keeps rollin’ along.

Moon River, wider than a mile, 
I'm crossing you in style some day. 
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker, 
wherever you're going I'm going your way. 
Two drifters off to see the world. 
There's such a lot of world to see. 
We're after the same rainbow's end-- 
waiting 'round the bend, 
my huckleberry friend, 
Moon River and me.

And so it goes……..

Picture by Joan Perry

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