Fall has arrived in my Carolina foothills. Of course this is what they tell me as I stare down a succulent piece of crispy fried chicken while listening to my friends discuss Football. College football of course, one of the deeply held traditions in this part of the world I call home. Now inasmuch as I would like to think we were gathered around comfortably in our tweed jackets, well-worn jeans and soft leather boots, all this conjuring a picture of a colorful wood Smokey Fall afternoon. One must remember that this is the South and such visions are not to be, or least not to be for several more weeks. The heat is still on, and although the nights are cooler or seem so because the water in the pool is rather chilling to a late season swimmer. We are still in cut offs, T-shirts and the ever present flip flops. Yes, although long nights of barbequing a pig to crispy perfection are on everyone’s mind, the fact remains that it is hot and that’s a festivity to be enjoyed on the chillier afternoons. I guess for now we are simply satisfied a month has arrived with an “R” in the name allowing us the freedom to roast oysters and gather round the shucking table without guilt. Now I understand that in today’s world with commercial farms of everything edible this rule does not stand, but some of the best joys in life are the ceremony to which an event takes place. So if an oyster roast is to happen in my neck of the woods, rest assured that the oysters have been freshly picked out of the Carolina tidal waters, so thus we must have the “R”. No Risk. That is just how it’s done. Our feast of oysters is usually picked by whichever pair of golfing buddies plays a course in the low country and knows darn well they better bring back a few bushels as justification for such an outing. It’s simply tradition and we hold it close. As a matter of fact we hold a lot of things close, Traditions, Wives Tales, and Celebrations in general. Some may think foolishness, but myself, I consider it the art of life.
Life in this time has become mechanical, electronic, digital and fast. This I considered today as I burned a leech off my foot after an impromptu horseback swim in the pond below the stables. Yes, sometimes the horse likes a roll in the cooling water and when one slides off, well, leeches. Nothing a cigarette lighter won’t solve and Mister Leech curls up and releases. Not sophisticated, faux intellectual or worldly enough for you? How about passionate? Because as with all art, and that of living being one, passion is the key. These are my Carolina foothills and this is my life. It ebbs and flows without predictability. No I won’t be sauntering to the market for my raw honey, but I’ll be whipping it into Old Jim’s driveway. He’s been a beekeeper for nigh on 50 years and his clover honey is the best. As tradition lays out, the fall months are the best times to get honey, so I do. Yes, my compatriots will discuss College football and of course I will follow along decked in the colors of my Alma Mater. But it goes so much deeper than that. Long held traditions that are constants in the life I’ve been raised with and continue to carry on. I know the two old veterans that have the best boiled peanuts in the land will be parked on the highway to the Blue Ridge in the fall and the apple harvest is coming in. So all this heartfelt thought from a run in with a leech you think? The answer is simply yes. I must say, we have learned to imbue our traditions with the cadence of nature. I know soon my pasture ponds will be cold, my summer swims will be a memory, and yes the leech will have been bothersome. Yes rest assured laughing about him on the cold winter days will bring memories of a hot summer sun, golden horses sparkling in emerald fields and wide open gallops as storms build in the distance on a summers evening.
So it is the art of living that I embrace here on this hot September day. I cannot pull back from the passion and the life I live, these are my Carolina foothills, and this is the life I know. As the cold months roll in across our verdant lands, we shall do our best to hold on to it all. And as my people before me we shall embrace the memories, uphold the traditions, weather the storms and pass the torch on to our progeny so no matter where this wild life takes them they will always know the lands and the people that are their home.