A quick budget weekend getaway close to our hometown of Savannah, Georgia was in order. We settled on Sapelo Island, one of Georgia’s barrier islands. We knew it would be a peaceful retreat because the island has a population of just seventy.
I had just left my day job when my boyfriend Bob suggested that maybe we should head out of town. My mental state was generally stable, although some moments of sheer panic and a sense of being lost floating around aimlessly in the world were starting to creep in whenever I sat still for too long.
We arrived at the Meridian Dock on a Friday morning around 7:15 a.m. We were early enough to watch the island schoolchildren disembark from the ferry. I watched a handful of them bounce off the boat and onto the awaiting school bus, laughing at God only knows what but having the best time. Fresh and shiny and hopeful for the new day. It was a priceless peek into what innocent human lives look like. I began to remember who I was. For the longest time, I had defined myself by my job and the income I generated. A friend once asked me who I would be without my job and I couldn’t answer.
The waiting area to board the ferry is a small building with concrete floors and some benches. We passed the time with one other passenger – a farmer from north Georgia whose ties to the island stemmed from his mother being born there. He shared a story about his grandfather quitting his job as Island Manager after a few short weeks of working for Mr. R.J. Reynolds, the great tobacco heir, who had recently purchased the island in 1934 from Mr. Howard Coffin. The grandfather was on board a barge that he claimed R.J. had paid some goons to sink for the insurance company. Unbeknownst to him of course, and he stayed on board that ship for two days with the other two crew members and worked to keep that barge afloat. His reward? R.J. cussed him out for saving the barge, so he quit on the spot. Then my new friend cracked wise with a lawyer joke and further endeared himself to me.
We paid our $5.00 round trip ferry fee and were on our way. We rented realtor Lucy Lea’s upstairs apartment and she had left The Beast for us at the dock. The old hunter green Jeep Cherokee had the key in its ignition and though somewhat muddy and a little rusted, seemed perfectly willing to haul us around. She would later prove her worth when I braced myself in a Spiderman stance inside the car as Bob navigated a very muddy and pothole filled road to Cabretta Beach. We did not tip and we did not get stuck. The Beast never faltered.
Lucy’s apartment had a very handy way of getting luggage upstairs:
I wish I had a pulley system at my apartment.
Cabretta Beach was the wild and out of control cousin. Cabretta was desolate and intriguing, with interesting features, but not exactly what you would call pretty.
It certainly was the most isolated beach I have ever visited. We did not see a soul and we went on both days we were on the island. We were okay with being alone in the world.
The last time, on our way back, I noticed what appeared to be drawings in the sand of trees. I don’t know what could have made them, but there was a section of beach that was covered with the drawings.
The Hog Hammock community on Sapelo is comprised of many descendants of slaves that stayed on the island after the Civil War to preserve their Gullah-Geechee culture. Today, there are a few old home places still standing, complete with peeling Haint Blue paint. The color was believed to have spiritual properties in many African cultures, such as the ability to ward off evil spirits.
At the end of the first day we caught a sunset by the lighthouse. We had not been so relaxed since last fall when we escaped to the north Georgia mountains for a weekend.
The next day at Nanny Goat Beach, we had to contend with the crowds. We saw a whopping seven more people. I was coming back to life. Full of hope and not worried about much. Freedom was my new favorite drug and I was starting to learn what it felt like to be a person and not a job. I listed off all of the things I was without a job: girlfriend, daughter, friend, sister, aunt, cousin, published author, traveler, and healthy human being. I also decided that sometimes when you are in transition, it is okay to float.
As we were leaving, I asked Lucy Lea about her Sapelo story. She came to the island by chance. She had a clothing store in Peachtree City, Georgia and was actually in search of Cumberland Island. Greyfield was booked so she found herself in a grocery store buying a meal for the night when she found a book sitting on top of the green beans. The book was about Georgia’s islands. She visited Sapelo and knew she wanted to live there immediately. Some things are just meant to be I guess.
People have asked her what she does with all her time on the island. “I don’t know,” she said. “I do yoga. I go walking. All I know is I never have enough time.” I know what she means.
The last night of our stay, Lucy’s daughter-in-law rode the ferry at 2:30 a.m. to the mainland and a new baby girl bounced in to our world. I prayed that she would live a good life with enough adversity mixed in to make her strong enough to fight when she has to.
I watched some dolphins playing while I waited on the ferry. And when our time came to go, we floated right on home.