My trip to Charleston, SC started almost immediately with a truly fabulous tour given by the incomparable Mr. Al Miller. I had picked up my fellow guest star for the next day’s filming with The Quilt Show, Victoria Findlay Wolfe at the airport and barely had time to check in to the hotel before we hopped the bus and went off on a loopedy-loop trip around the city and it’s neighbors. I’ll introduce Victoria to you in more depth soon.
I knew I was going to be filming on a plantation and had mixed emotions about it. I didn’t feel right about ignoring the issue of slavery even if it is a show about quilts, and not history. I called a few trusted friends who said “don’t rail against slavery, honor the contributions of the local black community.” So I called around ahead of time and found Mr. Miller and commenced to learning something about the black history of the area. It was FABULOUS!!! We took the Porgy & Bess tour, although I didn’t know that was what it was until it was almost over.
Al was a treasure trove of historical knowledge, his non-stop story telling peppered with non-stop instructions, “get a picture of that yellow house on the right side of the bus,” “now get over to the left and take a shot of that!” We were the only ones on the bus so it didn’t matter that we were clambering all over the seats.
There were snippets about houses and slaves and people and politics. There were so many stories that I can’t remember most of them. One of my favorite stops was on a corner to see this house. It’s not really a house – it’s a work of public art that was built for the Spoleto Art Festival in 1991 by the artist David Hammons.
But my very favorite stop was at the Angel Oak tree. After a bit of a drive over to Johns Island dirt roads and spying white squirrels with a black stripe up their back like funny little reverse skunks we pulled up to a little cabin in the woods. As you walk up to this tree you don’t really realize what you are seeing. In the south the undergrowth is always just plain thick.
But this wasn’t scraggly undergrowth – it was ONE tree. One enormously spread out Southern Live Oak estimated to be over 1500 years old. It is 66 feet tall and shades over 17200 square feet. As I stepped under and over some of the outer branches and came under it’s canopy there was a sense of awe. Then my inner six-year-old needed a mighty and immediate leash to keep me from squealing out loud and going “all monkey” as we call the tree climbing urge around our house. This is a tree climbers paradise – except for all the signs that say absolutely NO CLIMBIN
Sigh. Very big sigh. I really, really, really wanted to climb way up into it’s highest branches and lay back to feel the wind. (Except the wind was a little on the very cold side.) Ah well. I did find a most gorgeous sweetgrass basket made by the Gullah/Geechee artisans who are the descendants of the areas’ slaves. They are amazing works of art.
I was able to use it in as a prop on my segment for The Quilt Show filming and Ricky Tims was good enough to talk about it during my segment.