I spent a little over 24 hours in Charleston, South Carolina this past weekend. Of course we would have enjoyed a longer visit, but at this time of the year we couldn’t do it – so we enjoyed the 80 degree weather for just enough time to reassure ourselves that warm days will eventually arrive in the northeast. Our visit to the Palmetto State was for a festive occasion – a family wedding – but we managed to find a few hours to watch the surfers at Folly Beach and explore the old part of the city.
As soon as we arrived in Old Charleston, we began looking for a bookstore. We only found one, but it was a good find. Blue Bicycle Books on King Street is deceiving. The storefront of the used bookstore isn’t that big, but there’s a long central hallway with lots of explorable rooms leading from it. It was especially fun to look at the display of local books and remember reading Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides so many years ago! Two things I loved: the store’s logo and a sign at the entrance with a quote from The Smiths:
Another highlight of the trip was our visit to The Charleston Museum, which according to their website is “America’s First Museum.” Founded in 1773, the Museum is a walk through Charleston’s culture and history – perfect for our whirlwind tour of the city. We were kind of “speed touring” through the exhibits when I stopped to look at a display of pottery. The descriptive information described the pottery as being made by Dave. And then I realized whose work I was looking at – Dave as in Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet and Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, a beautiful and important picture book about a slave who lived in 19th century South Carolina and was a skilled poet who sometimes inscribed words onto the clay. As the label explained, out, Dave learned to read and write, but it was illegal to educate slaves.
On one of the pots, he had carved these words:
“Dave belongs to Mr. Miles wher the oven bakes and the pot biles.”
It’s the word belongs that breaks your heart.
I stood there imagining Dave making his beautiful pots and thinking that unless you know Hill’s book, you could walk right by the work of this gifted artist. It was one of those rewarding and special moments when a book enriches an experience. But I can’t figure out why Hill’s book was not for sale in the museum gift shop. Unless it was sold out, I don’t get it.
One of the other highlights of the quick trip was the Starbucks in the hotel lobby. For two mornings, I was able to take my coffee outside and look for seashells…