“Are you a writer?”
The question caught me off guard. Carol, the innkeeper, had been explaining the ins and outs of The Crooked Tree Cottage (where everything was, what was in the mini fridge, etc) and, during a lull in the conversation, I was trying to think of anything I should ask. Being asked my occupation threw me for a second.
“I am,” I replied, wondering if I looked the stereotype or something.
Carol’s smile broadened. “I looked you up on Facebook and thought, ‘That has to be her!’ Are you writing a book right now?”
“I’m editing one.” My smile was probably small and as crooked as the tree for which the place was named. “I came here to help me focus.”
And that line of questioning came to a halt as we went on to discuss other things. I tend to be shy around strangers, especially when I’m in a new situation (it was my first time staying alone at a bed and breakfast), so if she had persisted it probably would have been a rather awkward conversation.
My decision to go on a trip was impulsive and impromptu. Not only that, but I wanted to go soon. As in, within days. I didn’t care where. I just needed to go somewhere. I emailed several bed and breakfast inns all over the state of South Carolina to see if anyone could accommodate me.
The Crooked Tree Cottage, located in the Pawleys Island Community, was one of two that had vacancies and I chose it because of its proximity to the ocean. And it’s not far from my own house, so it wasn’t like I needed to spend half a day traveling.
What made me decide to do this? Well, every now and again, I feel trapped in my own life. I feel as if there is no room for me or as if I am allowed only a small corner in which to exist. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and decided I needed some time alone, some space. A retreat but not in the sense of a religious drawing inward but in the sense of backing away from the field of battle for a time. My destination hardly mattered as long as I went somewhere. I was tempted to get a hotel room in my own city but decided against it in favor of a bed and breakfast.
There is Pawleys Island, separated from the mainland by marsh and creek, and then there’s the Pawleys Island Community.
The Island itself is dominated by beach homes towering on stilts (to avoid those pesky storm surges caused by hurricanes). Most of those homes are only used during certain seasons as getaways but I’m sure there are those that live there all year.
One building, the Pelican Inn, was once the summer of Plowden Weston of Hagley Plantation (whose land is now part of Brookgreen Gardens). The Pelican Inn is not only notable for its history but also for the fact that it managed to survive Hurricanes Hazel and Hugo, owing in part to its placement behind dunes and among oak trees. The inn is also associated with the infamous Grey Man, a ghost that appears on the shore of Pawleys Island when its inhabitants are threatened by storms.
The community on the other side of the bridge is where The Crooked Tree Cottage is located. The community has all of the stores, restaurants, and bustle you would expect of a beach town.
When I settled on The Crooked Tree Cottage, I did some research on things to do around Pawleys Island (other than go to the beach). I had in mind doing something artistic and quiet, something that would stir the writer within. Until it popped on my screen, I had forgotten how close Brookgreen Gardens is to the Island.
Brookgreen has so much, there’s no way to see it all in one day. There are expansive gardens full of sculptures and poetry. There are three galleries, the Lowcountry Center with presentations on history, historical sites, a butterfly house, and a zoo.
There are several tours on the property. One of them will take visitors to the northern end of the property while another will take visitors to the southern end, allowing people to learn the history of the plantations that make up Brookgreen and see the sites of the old plantation houses, cemeteries (one of which is still in use), and the star-shaped chimney that once served a rice mill. Another tour will take visitors down the creeks that cross the property, allowing them to see the abandoned rice fields. These tours have to be paid for but there’s a fourth, free tour through the sculpture gardens.
The first time I saw Brookgreen was in college. My technical writing class was going to design new brochures for the gardens and we were granted free admission. I fell in love and have wanted to go back for years.
Of my three and a half days away, I spent two afternoons at Brookgreen. And, no, I didn’t see everything. I’m sure there are sculptures in the gardens that I missed and there was one gallery I didn’t visit. I didn’t walk the Trail Outside the Wall. But every time I turned a corner and saw a beautiful piece of art framed by flowers or hedges, my writer’s soul leaped.
Now that I’m Back
I’m happy to be home now. It was a great few days away. The Crooked Tree is a warm, inviting place. Carol is a sweet lady who sees to your every need. And the bed in the Sand Dollar Suite was more comfortable than my own! Pawleys Island is a beautiful place to explore and is rich in history. But I was happy to get back to my husband and my pets. (According to The Husband, all the animals are out of sorts when I’m away.)
I feel as if I have a fresher perspective on things and more energy to tackle problems. I no longer feel so hemmed in. Every now and again, it’s good to step away and I’m blessed to live so near a place like Pawleys Island.