With very little money at our disposal as we try to save up for gas money, food, and necessities, entertainment becomes either creative or not-happening. And as Jen's been working like crazy lately between bartending at a biker bar and occasionally serving at a chain restaurant, I've mostly been sitting around watching 'Torchwood' episodes. Until our Netflix subscription ran out, anyway.
So on her day off, we agreed to get out of the house and see some local flavor.
Our first stop was Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery north of Charleston. The monks here maintain several acres of public garden as part of their tradition, and while they offer daily tours (which we missed) they generally seclude themselves. We only saw one monk running the gift shop.
There was a small garden directly beside the gift shop, with a walkway that led to the abbey - until we were stopped by this polite little sign.
Alongside the shell-and-sand driveway on the way into the larger gardens, the monks had carved scriptural scenes into enormous tree trunks. The detail wasn't great, but the ambition was memorable. I chuckled at the mental image of a robed monk with safety goggles and a chainsaw, hacking away at a helicopter-sized oak stump.
The gardens hug the Cooper River, and since this region is at sea level it feels as if the river could swell and swallow the entire countryside on a whim's notice. But it won't, because it's a peaceable river. In fact, I think the whole garden joined the monks in their vows of silence and contemplation.
We wandered through a lush, hushed labyrinth thick with native grasses and seeding plants. Butterflies and grasshoppers swirled and jumped and we walked, walked, walked around paths that waved and tucked in on themselves in a weirdly mystical fashion. If I ever settle down long enough to have a yard of any sort, I want a labyrinth like this.
After Mepkin Abbey, we drove down the road to Strawberry Chapel. Built in 1725, it borders the now-nonexistent town of Childesbury and still holds annual services. Why anyone would want to worship in this dilapidated and utterly eerie chapel is beyond me.
Surrounded by a Confederate-era cemetery -- and "cemetery" is a loose description, as most of the gravesites are scattered apparently aimlessly in random clusters -- it's not surprising that this area has its own ghost story.
According to legend, the granddaughter of James Child (founder of Childesbury in 1707) was boarding with a French schoolmaster in 1748. That May, the seven-year-old Catherine Chicken got homesick and ran away. The schoolmaster, fearing severe retribution due to Catherine's prestigious family ties, went looking for her and found her on a road near Cooper River, near Strawberry Chapel. As punishment for her indolence, he tied her securely to a tombstone and left her there overnight.
A slave from Strawberry Plantation stumbled across her while walking through the chapel grounds and, finding a small white girl cold and unconscious, ran back to tell his master. The French schoolmaster was summarily run out of Childesbury. Catherine was forever traumatized. Later photographs of her, even as an adult, show sunken eyes and a faraway, distant look. After she died, locals reported hearing the tortured sobs of a young girl in the burial grounds of Strawberry Chapel.
The spirit of Mistress Chicken cannot rest.
Next: I have no idea.