2016 U.S. MASTERS SWIMMING SPRING NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

I knew my body would take a beating at the two-day Georgia Tech Spring Splash meet (written about in my last post), so when I signed up for the U.S. Masters Swimming Spring National Championship meet, I didn’t have high expectations.  After all, the meet was scheduled for less than three weeks after I would be racing an incredibly grueling event line-up in my first meet back with my newly repaired hip.  If it hadn’t been for Nationals taking place just a six-hour drive away in Greensboro, North Carolina, I would have given it a miss.  (Please note:  The deadline for registration was long BEFORE HB 2 was signed into law!)

Since I didn’t make National Qualifying Times for this meet, I would be limited to racing three individual events, so I decided to race during just two of the four-day meet and enter races I knew my hip could handle after the Spring Splash.  That eliminated sprints, and all breaststroke races which were my best events, but stressful on the hips.  Since I love racing distance freestyle, I entered the 1650 Yard Freestyle (just short of one mile) on Day 1, and the 500 Yard Freestyle on Day 2.  For my third event, I chose 200 Yard Butterfly, one of my favorite events, but also one I “race” slowly.  In addition, I was placed in two freestyle relays on Day 2.

The Good:

Racing the mile was more enjoyable (and faster!) than at the Spring Splash meet, because it was my first race, and I felt strong.  It also helped having a cheering squad pulling for me.  At the far end of the pool was my buddy Michael who yelled for me while Bruce kept busy displaying my lap count, and next to the starting block was Michelle, a USMS Discussion Forums “Forumite” who I hadn’t yet met in person.  I couldn’t figure out who the heck that was bending down to yell at me when I hit the wall for a few of my turns!  Although I do open turns due to having Meniere’s, an inner ear disorder that makes doing forward flip turns difficult without getting motion sickness, I try to do them as fast as possible.  Still, I caught just a glimpse of Michelle a couple of times and thought to myself, “Cool!  Somebody is cheering me on!”

At the finish, I looked up at the electronic board and saw I had beaten my Spring Splash time by 32 seconds!  I also beat all of my practice race times since before my surgery.  Medals are awarded for 1st – 10th places, so I was tickled to place 10th and bring home a nice souvenir from the meet.

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The Bad:

Racing that mile must have worn me down, because I just didn’t have what I needed for a fast 500 Yard Freestyle race the following morning.  I enjoyed the race, but my fatigued body was sluggish in the water, and I ended up with a time that was ten seconds slower than my race time at Spring Splash.

Later in the day, I (figuratively) hit a wall.  One flight up the stairs to the bleachers where I met up with Bruce, and I knew my strength was zapped for the day.  Racing the 200 Yard Butterfly that afternoon?  No way, no how, no can do.  That race requires all of my strength, and when I feel good, I love to race it, but when I feel bad, it is a living HELL.  Instead, I gave it a miss and saved myself for the two relays at the end of the day.

The Good (again!):

Although our team’s relay coach, Donna, was aware I wouldn’t be able to sprint in the relays, there wasn’t another swimmer available to complete the two relay squads I was placed in.  It was either take me as a slow fourth swimmer, or the relays would have to scratch.  There was no way I would risk my hip by sprinting, and my body was fatigued anyway, so I did what I could do.

Although I was unable to give my swims 100% effort, I had a lot of fun with my teammates, and I left the meet happy.

Here is a link to a video Bruce shot of the 400 Yard Mixed Freestyle Relay.  I swam the third leg, so look for me in the blue cap and flag-print suit:

https://youtu.be/M8X9YpIeKRc

The Ugly:

Greensboro won the bid for the USMS Spring National Championship meet long before North Carolina enacted HB 2, the extremely hateful and discriminating bill that was signed recently by their Republican governor, Pat McCrory.  How unfortunate, because U.S. Masters Swimming is an inclusive organization with many LGBT swimmers, including an entire team (Atlanta Rainbow Trout) here in Georgia.

Many of us who are against the bill felt conflicted about visiting a state governed by such hateful politicians, and from what I was told, there were about ten swimmers (of nearly 1,800) who canceled out because of it.

For those if you who think the bill is just about who is allowed to use which bathrooms, you might want to read this article:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/04/north-carolina%E2%80%99s-terrible-anti-lgbt-law-even-worse-we-thought

If nothing else, at least read this:

The legislation doesn’t stop there, however. Tucked inside is language that strips North Carolina workers of the ability to sue under a state anti-discrimination law, a right that has been upheld in court since 1985. “If you were fired because of your race, fired because of your gender, fired because of your religion,” said Allan Freyer, head of the Workers’ Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center in Raleigh, “you no longer have a basic remedy.”

 Ugly?  Definitely.  In protest, one of the swim teams at Nationals wore these shirts:

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This will be one  memorable takeaway  from the 2016 U.S. Masters Swimming Spring National Championship meet.

I will also remember the fun I had with my teammates:

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Relay Coach, Donna Hooe, Graham Fuller, Dan Beatty, and Me!

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Stan Delair, Carrie Hughes, Pam McClure, Ian King, Lesley Landey, Marianne Countryman, and Linda Zollweg

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Relay teammate, Ian King after beating his seed time in the 100 Freestyle.

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USMS Discussion Forums “Forumite” Michelle Toner (m2tall2)

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Marianne Countryman and Ed Saltzman, teammate and official

 

IT FEELS GREAT TO BE BACK!

The following is something I recently read that may seem quite basic, but it really hit home as I soaked in the atmosphere of the Georgia Tech competition pool this past weekend:

“Make a list of the things that make you happy.

Make a list of the things you do every day.

Compare the lists.

Adjust accordingly.”

It had been since September, 2014 since I had last competed in a U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) meet due to my hip injury and surgery.  Although I was able to compete in the Georgia Games Open Water Meet last July, I popped the scar tissue in my hip the following month which set me back from race-pace training and competition for the rest of the year.

Over the past few months, I have been joyfully working my way back, savoring every day I’m in the pool.  Swimming is definitely on my lists of what makes me happy and what I do every day (well, six days per week, to be more accurate).

Adding yoga to the physical therapy and stretching exercises I do on deck following my swims, I’ve been improving my flexibility, strength, and balance.  As I see improvement and my ability to master more difficult poses, the resulting satisfaction I feel has convinced me that yoga is up on those lists right after swimming.  The two go hand-in-hand as part of my regular routine.

Returning to competition, though, was something I was itching to add back to my “to do” list, even though it’s not something that can be done daily.

This past weekend, I was able to “adjust accordingly” and compete at the USMS Dixie Zone Championships at Georgia Tech, home of the 1996 Olympic swimming competition.

As my husband, Bruce and I entered the swim deck, butterflies returned to my stomach, something I hadn’t felt in a too-long period of time.  I smiled to myself, remembering how it used to feel, and how I had to learn to embrace rather than fight it.

For this two-day meet, I decided I would go all in and sign up for the maximum events (ten) figuring I could always scratch races if my hip wasn’t up to the task.  Practicing my chosen events in order over two days in March, I knew I could do it.  The difference, however, was not having to swim the extra warm-up and cool-down yardage in between events that weren’t scheduled back-to-back.  In practice, I had done all five events sequentially each day with only a couple minutes of rest in between each one.  Although it definitely gave me the confidence I needed for the meet, I wasn’t sure how my hip would respond with the additional yardage, starting blocks, and cooler water temperature—all important factors.

In addition to signing up for the maximum events, I entered what is considered some of the most difficult events, because those are the races I enjoy competing in the most.  I also threw in a couple of sprints for variety, even though I knew I would have to protect my hip by not going all-out in my kicking.

Saturday’s line-up:  400 Yard Individual Medley, 50 Yard Breaststroke back-to-back with 100 Yard Butterfly, 200 Yard Breaststroke, and 500 Yard Freestyle.

Sunday’s line-up:  1650 Yard (the “mile”) Freestyle, 200 Yard Butterfly, and 100 Yard Breaststroke back-to-back-to-back with 200 Yard Backstroke and 50 Yard Butterfly.  The day concluded with me swimming freestyle on the Women’s 400 Yard Medley Relay.

Although my race times were (much!) slower than before my hip surgery, I enjoyed every stroke that I swam in that pool, and I was thrilled to end the meet in second place in my age group.  (Ok, I’ll ‘fess up.  There were only three in our age group, because several of the other swimmers I usually compete against didn’t enter the meet for one reason or another.)

Still, regardless of my race times or the colors of my ribbons, just being able to compete was a fabulous feeling.  Just as wonderful, though, was seeing my friends and making new ones.  That is what USMS is all about:  Enjoying swimming and competing with others who feel just as passionately about it as you do.

Swimming is what makes me happy, and it’s what I will keep on doing as long as I can.  It feels great to be back!

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That’s me in a timid-looking (careful!) block start in Lane 4 sporting a blue Georgia Masters swim cap that clashes with my suit!

BYE-BYE, BEAUFORT!

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During our first few days in Beaufort, the locals Bruce and I spoke with warned us that Beaufort would get under our skin, and we wouldn’t want to leave. “There’s just something about this place…”, they said.

Nearly three weeks later, as we prepare to make our way back to Georgia, I reflect back to those conversations and must admit the locals were spot-on. This is a great place, and we look forward to a return visit– hopefully, right back in this very house that we rented for our stay.

The memory I will take away with me that is sure to linger is the friendliness of the locals. Throughout our stay, we met friendly people everywhere we went. From the checkout lady at Publix to the gallery owners at Thibault Gallery (who, by the way, didn’t try to sell us anything), to the artists we spoke with during the First Friday After Five Artwalk, to the young guy behind the counter at Sea Eagle Market, to the lifeguards at the Beaufort Public Pool; they were all so warm and welcoming. Southern hospitality is alive and well here in Beaufort, South Carolina!

Visually, I was taken by the beauty of the Spanish moss on everything from the wild oaks, to the crepe myrtles, to even the magnolias. At “The Point”, that stuff was growing everywhere, and it was beautiful. So were the antebellum homes.

The marsh was also surprisingly alluring– something I found myself gazing at often. It was every-changing, as the tide rolled in and out; and, since we were here during the full moon, the tide had as much as a 10-foot swing during a few of those days.

Then, there were the dolphins. WOW! What a wonderful thrill it was to have the opportunity to spend hours observing them in their native habitat rather than in constricting tanks at Sea World. (As an adult who now knows better, I no longer view being a dolphin trainer as something I would aspire to be. I have yet to see the documentary, “Blackfish”, but I’m guessing after I do, my feelings for Sea World (and similar amusement parks) will continue on a downward spiral.

On the culinary end of things, we enjoyed a few good restaurants, but I most enjoyed eating shrimp- and, lots of it! Sea Eagle Market was our seafood source of choice for eight of our home-cooked meals, and seven of those dinners featured medium local shrimp purchased at $5.99 per pound. Boy, were they sweet and FRESH! Sea Eagle owns their own boats, so the shrimp they catch go directly from their boats onto the ice at the market.

Bruce has it down when it comes to cooking those little guys to perfection. Sautee in a little olive oil, red pepper flake, basil, and tons of freshly chopped garlic; toss over whole wheat penne with a little pesto and top with grated romano, and it’s the base for an easy and delicious dinner. Steamed broccoli on top and a side salad make this my favorite shrimp dinner. (The shrimp wraps Bruce made were tasty, too!)

About the only thing I didn’t like about Beaufort was the same thing I have dealt with no matter where we have visited along the coast: no-see-ums. Darn those little buggers! If there was a place I missed spraying with insect repellent, they found it. They weren’t as bad here as they were in Sanibel, but they were bad enough.

Even with the no-see-ums and miserable weather we had for several of the days, I loved this place and look forward to visiting again. After all, Beaufort got under my skin.

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BEAUFORT IS BEAUTIFUL ONCE AGAIN!

As I mentioned yesterday, Bruce and I had waited… and waited… and waited for the weather to clear, so we could enjoy the carriage tour under sunny blue skies. We finally scored a beautiful day on Wednesday and hopped on a ride with Southurn Rose Buggy Tours with Ki as our guide and Jim pulling the buggy.

Big Jim weighs in at 2200 pounds and is a Spotted Draft Horse, which is a mix between a Paint Stallion and a Percheron mare. He also has a taste for Spanish moss– neither Spanish or a moss. Actually, it’s a bromeliad in the pineapple family, and evidently tastes sweet like pineapple, because Jim stopped right in the middle of the street to grab some off a low-hanging branch. At the end of our tour, Jim, a gentle giant, snacked on carrots right from Ki’s hand.

Listening to the history of Beaufort was interesting, and Ki’s stories were humorous. What a delightful way to learn about such a charming, quaint, and friendly town.

Following our tour, Bruce and I returned to “The Point” on foot to get another look at the antebellum homes, and then finished our walk along the waterfront park.

Today, after my morning swim, we returned to the historic district to explore more of the area. Thunderstorms are expected tomorrow (yeah, more rain… just what South Carolina needs), so we enjoyed a last look around under what was left of the sunny skies before the clouds started rolling in. Tomorrow, we’ll dodge the raindrops and stop over at the Methodist church for their fall festival; however, we figure that will be just about it before we pack up for our trip home on Sunday.

Join me on my photo tour of the historic district of Beaufort as well as a few more scenes from previous days during our stay.
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Scientists estimate that the oldest Grand Oaks in Beaufort are as much as 600 years old!

Scientists estimate that the oldest Grand Oaks in Beaufort are as much as 600 years old!

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The Old Church Cemetery surrounds The Parish Church of St. Helena. Established in 1712 as a colonial parish of the Church of England, St. Helena’s is one of the oldest churches in America. The original church was built on the present site in 1724 and appears today as it did in 1842 following its final enlargement.

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Among the most historic burial grounds in America, St. Helena’s Old Churchyard has graves of nearly 100 veterans of every major conflict since 1711. These are marked with the flag under which they fought. Sixty of these veterans served in the Army or Navy of the Confederate States of America.

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This little (and, I emphasize l-i-t-t-l-e) was located on St. Helena Island along Sea Island Parkway. CUUUUTE!

This little (and, I emphasize l-i-t-t-l-e) was located on St. Helena Island along Sea Island Parkway. CUUUUTE!

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The marsh at Fripp Inlet

The marsh at Fripp Inlet

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BLUFFTON REDUX

After the deluge nearly stranded us in Old Town Bluffton last week, we were hoping good weather would return before our time ran out. Ten days of gloomy skies, and a total of more than 5″ of rain during a few of those days (24″ just up the road in Mt. Pleasant!) left us wondering if we would ever see the sun again. We woke up to an absolutely glorious day yesterday, though, so we took full advantage by beginning the day with an interesting carriage tour of historic downtown Beaufort.  Our day concluded  with the nearly three-hour paddle /  photo shoot of Flipper and his friends who appeared in yesterday’s blog post. (Stay tuned for carriage tour pictures tomorrow.)

Following my swim this morning, Bruce and I returned to Bluffton to see the quaint and artsy community on foot. We didn’t want to leave South Carolina remembering Bluffton as just a rain-soaked town viewed from behind the wheel of Scarlett going through a car wash.

What a gorgeous day and a cute little Old Town! We began our stroll at The Church of the Cross, an interesting wood church of Gothic design dating back to 1854.  It is situated on a bluff with a fabulous view of the water below, so we enjoyed the scenery before wandering up to the weekly farmer’s market. Surrounding the food stalls were several art galleries, so we poked around getting an excellent feel for the artist community in the area. All of the galleries we visited were either a co-op, guild, or collection of works by several artists, so it was inspiring to see the variety of art and craft being created in the region.

This is Bluffton from my view behind the camera:

The Church of the Cross

The Church of the Cross

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PHOTOGRAPHING FLIPPER AND FRIENDS- TAKE 2

As a dolphin lover who wanted more than anything in the world to be a dolphin trainer when I was a kid, “Flipper” was my favorite TV show. Yes, it was corny, but who knew? Heck, I was only eight years old.

Flash-forward 45 years, and I’m still crazy about those amazing bottlenose dolphins. Having the opportunity to watch them in their habitat has been such a treat while we have been in Beaufort!
Today, I celebrate my 200th blog post on WordPress by dedicating it to Flipper and his friends. These are shots from our third paddle in Fripp Inlet:

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SOGGY SOUTH CAROLINA: SUN AT LAST!

After getting rained out at the Beaufort Shrimp Festival on Friday evening and hunkering down indoors throughout the (incredibly!) rainy weekend, we were ready to get OUTDOORS!

Before the rain chased us inside for a marathon book-reading session, we enjoyed speaking with a few of the artists and viewing their art works during the First Friday After Five Art Walk in downtown Beaufort. The Shrimp Festival began an hour later, so Bruce and I wandered into the waterfront park and shared a few samples of very tasty shrimp dishes. Although we had planned to make a dinner of additional shrimp offerings, the drizzles of rain were increasing as we listened to the very cool R&B band perform for the crowd. (Man, that lead singer sounded like a cross between Lou Rawls and Barry White!)

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Gazing off into the distance, Bruce noticed the extremely dark cloud wall and interrupted me as I was thoroughly groovin’ to Mr. Rawls-White. “Uhhh, those clouds are getting closer. Unless you want to get soaked, we better get a MOVE ON!” Up went the umbrella, and off we went. By the time we made the two mile drive back to the house, the rain was coming down in sheets!

Our hearts went out to Mr. Rawls-White, his two jivin’ sax players, the rest of his band, and all of the vendors who weren’t so lucky.

The festival was canceled the following day as Beaufort endured 3 inches of rain in 48 hours. Combined with a huge high tide that pushed water up over the seawall and into the park, it was a total wash in more ways than one. Thankfully, though, Beaufort came out of the storm with just spotty flooding and none of the tragedies that Charleston or Columbia experienced.

Today, the sun finally came out in all its glory while we explored Hunting Island State Park, the most visited state park in South Carolina. The following are scenes from today.

Meet "Buddy" the terrapin. You can find him at the Hunting Island State Park Nature Center.

Meet “Buddy” the terrapin. You can find him at the Hunting Island State Park Nature Center.

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Sun at last!

Sun at last!

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While strolling along the Hunting Island Fishing Pier, we watched this red getting hooked. He was too large to keep (according to state law), so he was tossed back. Hopefully, he will breed again, so many more little reds will grow up to be just like him!

While strolling along the Hunting Island Fishing Pier, we watched this red getting hooked. He was too large to keep (according to state law), so Big Red was tossed back. Hopefully, he will breed again, so many more little reds will grow up to be just like him!

SOAKING IN SOUTH CAROLINA

Before heading to the coast for our stay in Beaufort, SC, several people commented to us that we had chosen a “great time of year to visit the coast”. Bruce and I both thought the same thing given the typically comfortable temperatures and good fishing conditions this time of year. We were willing to take the risk during hurricane season figuring the odds were in our favor.

Sure enough, Hurricane Joaquin is making its march north. Fortunately, the storm tracker shows it curving away from South Carolina, so we feel quite confident we’ll be ok. The weather otherwise, however, hasn’t exactly been stellar (aside from a couple of beautiful days), as we have had a lot of rain and gloomy skies since our arrival on September 22.

Yesterday, we took our chances and decided to see how much of Hiltonhead and Bluffton we could enjoy before the rains hit. Seeing (very) dark clouds off in the distance as we were wrapping up our look around Hiltonhead, we made our way to Bluffton in hopes of seeing the historic district before needing an umbrella. Our original plan was to also visit the Farmer’s Market, but once we saw the weather forecast for the day, we knew it would get canceled.

As we rolled into town, it looked as if someone had flipped the switch on the car wash, and we were in the middle of it! Except, the car wash Bruce and I took Scarlett through during our summer road trip wasn’t nearly as bad as this! We had never seen so much rain come down as hard or fast as this! It was like driving through Niagara Falls, or so I imagined.

I pulled over into a parking lot at Bruce’s suggestion to ride out the storm. Although, once the car was parked, I remembered the forecast calling for the rain to worsen throughout the afternoon and night. What were we going to do? Sleep in the car?

This area is called the “Lowcountry”, because it is located in the southernmost region of South Carolina; however, I decided it was also a fitting name, because it is absolutely flat. Flat means flooding. Uh-oh!

I made an executive decision, being the one behind the wheel, and decided that getting the heck out of there was a far wiser decision than getting stuck in a flood. Besides, Scarlett would have never forgiven me if I had gotten her stuck and had to call AAA to fish her out!

Off we went through the streets of Bluffton, relying on Trudy to navigate us back to the highway home. In the short time we had contemplated our stategy, the streets had already flooded to the point where our only option was driving smack-dab down the middle of the road. Only a couple of feet of asphalt remained visible, but it was good enough! Neither of us could see a darn thing ahead, but we somehow managed to make it out safely. Whewww!

It rained through the night, and we now have a reprieve until the next front arrives. Unfortunately, this is Beaufort Shrimp Festival weekend, and the rains are supposed to hit with a vengeance later tonight. The festival is scheduled tonight and tomorrow; however, the forecast calls for extremely heavy rain and thunderstorms late tonight and throughout tomorrow. Some areas of South Carolina are forecasted to get pummeled with up to two feet of rain! Charleston and other areas already had horrible flooding, and now they’re going to get hit again.

Thankfully (and, yes, I did check with the manager on this), the house where we are staying sits on land that isn’t prone to flooding. Our apartment is located upstairs, too, so we feel safe.

After a downtown visit for the First Friday Art Walk and dinner at the Shrimp Festival, it looks like we’ll be hunkering down and catching up on our reading over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the following are some miscellaneous pictures shot over the past few days. Cheers!

This map of Hiltonhead looks like a profile of my New Balance running shoe!

This map of Hiltonhead looks like a profile of my New Balance running shoe!

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What's wrong with this picture? Note the sign BEHIND the starting block? This is at the pool where I have been swimming here in Beaufort.

What’s wrong with this picture? Note the sign BEHIND the starting block! This is at the pool where I have been swimming here in Beaufort.

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Check out the dorsal fin and goggles on this pooch!

Check out the dorsal fin and goggles on this pooch!

Our home away from home is located upstairs behind the screened-in porch.

Our home away from home is located upstairs behind the screened-in porch.

Beyond the Spanish moss-covered oaks is the dock and marsh.

Beyond the Spanish moss-covered oaks on the property is the dock and marsh. This is the view from upstairs.

During the full moon high tide, the dock flooded.

During the full moon high tide, the dock flooded.

PHOTOGRAPHING FLIPPER AND FRIENDS

When I reflect back on my experiences doing action photography, there was only one subject more challenging than photographing dolphins in the wild from a kayak: snapping shots of small, fast-swimming fish while SCUBA diving (or even worse, snorkeling). Back in the 1980’s when I did underwater photography, digital wasn’t yet available, so I shot 36-exposure rolls of film using my dad’s Nikonos underwater camera. Getting one or two good shots from a roll was considered a success in the world of underwater photography, so the expense added up shooting through so much film in hopes of capturing a fish in focus and well-composed in the frame.

Fast forward to the 21st Century, and I feel very fortunate to utilize digital technology in my photography. Although I no longer SCUBA dive, I shoot plenty of topside pictures during my travels, so it’s nice to be a shutterbug without the concern of expense.

Thankfully, that was the case today back at Fripp Inlet, because I shot dozens of dolphin photos that ended up in my netbook computer’s recycle bin, never to be scene again.

Photographing my dorsal-finned friends while they hunted down fish for lunch was a challenge, but it sure was an enjoyable one! It was so relaxing being out on the water listening to nothing but the sound of water lapping up against my kayak and the pfffffft sound of the dolphins exhaling through their blowholes. (Of course, it seemed like that mostly happened just before I had my camera focused on the right spot. It’s impossible to accurately anticipate exactly where those dolphins are going to pop up!)

The greatest thrill was seeing a dolphin jump out of the water right in front of me, and then repeat the aerial show twice more in rapid succession. I think he was taking a good look around to see just what (or who) that was floating on that pink thing above him (or her?). As you can see, my timing in capturing this acrobat was a bit off, because my waterproof camera lacks a burst mode. Oh well, better late than never!

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THE LOWCOUNTRY REGION: HOME OF THE GULLAH COMMUNITY

Several years ago when Bruce and I visited Charleston, one of the things that intrigued me most was the Gullah culture. It was our first time in the Lowcountry, and we were unfamiliar with the customs, creole language, and cuisine of the Gullah people who are descendants of enslaved Africans and live in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and Georgia.

Today, we visited Penn Center on St. Helena Island which is the heart of the Gullah community. Founded in 1862, it was originally the first school for freed African Slaves. In addition to traditional subjects, trades and marketable skills such as agriculture, carpentry, and homemaking were taught. As the students learned, they utilized their new skills to help sustain and maintain the school.

Closed in the 1940’s, Penn became a central meeting place for those involved in the civil rights movement. It was a safe place blacks and whites could sit down together to discuss strategy and issues; and, it is also where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reportedly began his “I Have a Dream” speech.

In 1974, Penn Center was designated a National Historic Landmark District, and is the only African American landmark district in the nation. Today, in addition to the museum, the center offers educational and cultural programs related to the history of the Sea Islands and Gullah people.

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One of the things I enjoyed seeing most at the museum and Welcome Center was the display of sweetgrass coil baskets woven by members of the Gullah community.

Originally used as a way to clean rice using the “fanning” method, rice was placed in the baskets to separate the hull from the seed after it was first broken up with a mortar and pestle.

A craft passed down from mother to daughter, there are now over 1,500 people involved in some aspect of basket making. These baskets were woven by Jery Bennet Taylor and are sold at Penn Center:
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SCENES FROM PENN CENTER AND ST. HELENA ISLAND

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