After our restful night’s sleep in the Walmart parking lot, we decided to camp in Frances Marion National Park. We took a never ending winding gravel road that cut through loblolly pines and swampy wetlands.
We were met with this lovely sign. Thank you, Administration 45 for your complete and total incompetency.
We drove another hour in the park hoping that something would be open, but we found more makeshift signs like the one above. In the hurried spray paint, I recognized the presumptive confidence of a park worker thinking they’d be back to work soon. The parks are now “open,” but what that really means, we’ll soon find out.
We decided to spend that day at the historic Hampton Plantation. Established in 1735, Hampton was a rice plantation that was built by the labor of enslaved Africans and their children born into a life of slavery. Because this is the lens I look through, it was difficult to see beauty in the plantation home or fields. I felt a deep sadness walking the grounds, wondering what pain and suffering bled into the soil beneath my feet. In the panorama below you can see the closest rice field to the house on the left.
As we walked the grounds, there was no denying the power of the live oak in front of the plantation home.
It made you wonder what things this tree had seen, who it helped shelter, or who may have taken their last breath here.
I felt no sense of grandeur standing on this porch. This family and their wealth, with their acres of rice fields overgrown and decayed, is nothing but a blade of grass. Here today and ghosts tomorrow.
We walked through the graveyard and the camellia flowers were in bloom.
Flowers grow in a graveyard. A table is built from the destruction of a tree. Death and life are two sides of the same coin.
We walked through the rice fields on dykes built by the enslaved people who labored here. We came upon a clearing that would have been ‘slave quarters.’ Looking through an etched glass plane, we were able to envision what this place could have looked like. There isn’t a way to put into words the feeling you get standing there. All I could think of was, “I’m so sorry.”
We took a walk through rice fields and woods and lost our way. A short walk became a long one as we had to retrace our steps again and again. This place had a way of trying to keep you inside it. Perhaps that’s what these woods were taught over time.
I was happy to leave and yet happy to have seen it. We can’t deny our country’s history, but we can strive to make it better every day by using our privilege and voice to say, “I’m so sorry” and in turn, be moved to action.