Murells Inlet, South Carolina
I'm convinced that spontaneity is the best part about adulthood. I can not even describe to you how little we planned our Myrtle Beach vacation. It went something like this:
Keegan: "I want to take you somewhere next weekend. Where do you want to go?"
Me: "Myrtle Beach!"
Two hours later, plane tickets were bought and a friend's beach villa secured.
Seven days later we were off!
Brookgreen Gardens is 9,000 acres of gardens, sculptures, and wilderness. We hiked to a grove of 300-year-old grandfather trees. It was a magical place. Sacred with age and wisdom.
We had just come from admiring the amazing 19th and 20th Century sculptures but there was something about these old trees, saplings when our country was founded, that gave us pause.
Me, being the nerd I am, flung out my arms and ran into the grove singing: "I want adventure in the great, wide somewhere!" leaving Keegan behind taking pictures. (All the pictures were taken by him on an iPhone7. Nice lens, right?)
I watched a breeze lift the shredded curtains of Spanish moss that hung from the tree limbs. A late afternoon sun glared in the western sky; its rays filtered through the trees, sliding shadows along the grass whenever the wind blew.
Love in the time of Jazz
Now for the love story I promised you last week!
It unfolded in the early 1920's. The jazz age. A time of new music, new money, and new opportunity for women. Women were working in more fields than ever before: the peace corps, as physicians, journalists, and scientists. But there was still a majority that expected women to forsake education, or, at the very least, quit their jobs once they married in order to raise their families.
Anna Hyatt was not one of them. Anna was a sculptor who came from a middle-class family. Her father was a professor of zoology and Anna grew up around animals and loved them greatly. She declined proposals of marriage because she was concerned that a husband would come between her and her art.
Anna was successful, particularly at sculpting animals. In the 1920's, her skill earned her the equivalent of a million dollars a year today.
At age 40, she met Archer Huntington, a divorcée, heir to his father's railroad money and avid philanthropist. Anna was six feet tall, but Archer was five inches taller than she was.
He fell in love with and proposed to Anna, but she turned him down. Later, she accepted him and they were married on March 10, 1923.
March 10 was both Archer and Anna's birthday and became their anniversary too. They called it: "Three in one day."
Anna became ill with tuberculosis and was often too weak to sculpt. Archer decided that it would be good for her to escape the cold Connecticut winters for the more temperate climate of the South Carolina beaches.
He built her Atalaya Castle
They bought 9,000 acres of beach and woods (of what is now Huntington Beach State Park and Brookgreen Gardens). Archer oversaw the building of their winter retreat himself.
The castle was clearly built by a man. Practical brick walls and paver floors give the impression it could be hosed clean. There are two rectangular court yards with built in water troughs for the birds and dogs Anna loved so well. A water tower juts out in the center of these, with housing for bats to prevent malarial pests.
There was a stable for the horses and a stone walled in private zoo. Because Anna loved sculpting bears, lions, wolves and birds, she often had animals brought in. She let the bears wander the grounds and watched the ripple of their legs muscles and the skin that hung from their shaggy bellies.
I think her success as a sculptor came from her talent to sculpt what she saw. To observe the thing and sculpt the truth.
Philanthropists and poets
Despite the Huntington's wealth, the house was surprisingly simple. They didn't use it to entertain. There were no guest rooms. Their table had only six chairs. Atalaya Castle was a retreat for the couple to rest, enjoy each other and nature.
Archer was a poet and nature conservationist. He bought up large plots of land all over the country to keep as wildlife habitats. They built Brookgreen gardens (the place I referenced earlier) and 80 of Anna sculptures still exist there today.
Anna didn't let illness stop her from creating art. Archer wasn't stingy with his inheritance. Together they built a retreat for others to visit and be inspired.
Wandering the ruins of their winter home, seeing the gardens, and learning about their legacy, inspired me to not let fear hold me back from pursuing my dreams no matter what obstacles stand in the way.
What are some vacations you've gone on/or are planning this spring?