Archive for ‘Observations’


My next stop was a double bonus, not only did I get to spend time with an old friend but it was an excellent reason to visit Greensboro, North Carolina. I adore exploring new places and Greensboro did not disappoint.

After a delightful dinner, Hector and I strolled around historic downtown. It was a vibrant scene for a week night; we were serenaded by a band playing in the park while a steady stream of pedestrians frequented local businesses in the carefully restored, old buildings.

Most notable was the F.W. Woolworth department store which now houses the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. On February 1, 1960 four freshmen from the nearby university walked inside and sat down at the lunch counter.

They were refused service by a white waitress who said, “We don’t serve Negroes here.” The young men didn’t budge until closing time. They returned the next day with a larger group.

The nonviolent group grew in size and quickly gained national attention. To further their impact, they began boycotting segregated businesses. On March 16th President Eisenhower expressed his sympathy with their efforts to “enjoy the rights of equality that they are guaranteed by the Constitution.”

By late July, the segregated businesses in Greensboro were suffering huge losses. In a major victory, the Woolworth counter served its first black customers on the 25th of that month. As they say, money talks.

Around the corner from Woolworths we espied a tall statue. Ever curious we walked over and discovered General Nathaneal Greene (the city’s namesake). I first met the Fighting Quaker during my Rhode Island trip back in 2007.

As the leader of the southern theater during the Revolutionary War, Greene was considered by General George Washington to be his most talented officer. Pretty impressive for a man who had been previously overlooked for service due to a limp sustained during childhood!

We wrapped up the evening with a tasty IPA from a local brewery. Overall, a charming introduction to a historic city!

Surprising Santee

I recently took a quick road trip to visit friends in North Carolina and Virgina. I broke the first leg of the 13 hour drive roughly in half with an overnight stop in Santee, South Carolina.

I spent the following morning exploring Santee National Wildlife Refuge located on the north bank of Lake Marion. After the crowded beaches of sunny Florida, having the entire place to myself was incredibly pleasant.

Not only does the refuge preserve acreage for wildlife but, I was surprised to learn, it also protects two important historic sites. The Santee Indian Mound remains the largest ceremonial and burial site yet discovered in the region.

Something that tall on the coastal plain obviously afforded a good viewpoint, a fact the British Army did not overlook. In 1780 they established Fort Watson atop the mound in an effort to control South Carolina.

Continental Army troops attacked the fort on April 5, 1781 but were repulsed by the well-positioned British cannons and sharpshooters. You could say the Brits had the upper hand. But never, ever doubt American ingenuity.

Determined to overtake the fort, Major Hezikiah Maham designed a thirty-foot tall log tower. The structure was built nearby, placed on wheels, and moved into firing range of the fort during the night of April 22nd.

With their height advantage gone, the British could no longer protect the sides of the mound and they surrendered by the end of April 23rd. The success of the tower was replicated several other times by the Continental Army and is part of the reason we don’t speak the Queen’s English in this country.

Call Me Trash Panda…

Households around here have the custom of placing unwanted items by the curb. If they aren’t taken by passersby then they are removed by the garbage company.

My return trip from my sunset beach walks takes me through a lovely neighborhood full of impressive houses. Just this past week I came across these curbside treasures: a small, hand-painted chest with brass handles and a faux, five-foot-tall fiddle leaf fig (say that three times fast).

Just call me a trash panda!

Photo by Steve H, Washington, DC 2007

Little Gift

I found this tiny gem (less than an inch long) on my doorstep this morning. There’s been a pair of Blue Jays visiting my yard regularly, they are quite fond of my bird feeder but even more so of the bird bath. I clean it daily and fill it with fresh water, which they take turns frolicking in.

I wonder if this token was from them? They have been known to do such things. I’ll be on the lookout for more treats in the future. For now, Poubelle*, will have a spot on my kitchen windowsill where she can watch the Blue Jays every day.

*Poubelle is French for trash can. It was also a friend of mine’s nickname during her childhood (given with affectionate by her grandfather). Besides, it’s a fun word to say!