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Mystery Plant! #716

John Nelson

Posted 3/30/23

By John Nelson

The amaryllis family is a large group of herbaceous species, many of them producing large bulbs, plenty of basal slender or strap-shaped leaves, and most with a tropical distribution, but a good many are native here in the Southeast. Many of these species have very showy flowers, and over the years have become highly popular in the trade with growers and gardeners. Included in this family are the familiar amaryllis, daffodils, crinums, milk-and-wine lilies, spring snowflakes, and spider lilies. Interestingly, there is a lot of disagreement amongst modern botanists as to the relationship of the amaryllis family and the true lily family. One current trend is to combine both the amaryllis and lily families into one super family of several thousand species.

This week’s Mystery Plant is a native Southeastern member of the regular “old” amaryllis family. In fact, Carl Linnaeus first described it (he saw a specimen of it collected from Virginia) as a species of Amaryllis. It may be found growing from Mississippi to Florida, and as far north as Maryland. It arises from a deep bulb, and produces a tuft of shiny green, grass-like leaves, grooved on one side, which are a foot or so long. (To me, the leaves feel like plastic.) The flowers are slightly fragrant, and produced singly on a long, hollow stalk.  (There is no above-ground stem.) Each flower is perfectly star-shaped, with six brilliant white perianth parts. Inside are the six bright yellow anthers, each atop a slender filament. The flower points straight up, rather than leaning. The flowers commonly become pink, or reddish, as they age. Eventually, a seed pod (capsule) is formed, which contains a number of black seeds. This species is blooming now, and is reasonably common in a variety of settings. It likes to grow on wet ground, often near creeks, and on thick, mucky ground, often in shady thickets or in glade-like openings. It is a wonderful sight in the spring, frequently in spectacular displays, especially with a backdrop of golden butterweed and red buckeye.  I remember a botany field trip about this time of the year, way back when I was a senior at South Carolina: there were just a few weeks remaining before final exams, and we spent a glorious afternoon in the woods not too far away. We all ended up in a magical place, really: a clearing within the forest near a boggy creek, with our Mystery Plant blooming like mad, hundreds of flowers gaping for the sky, and surrounded by clusters of violets, butterweeds, false garlic, and bluebells, the air dancing with sleepy craneflies and skippers. A magical place, and a magic time, away from homework and cramming.

There are two or three other species within this genus, too, which share its distribution; our Mystery Plant species is the most common. All of them are threatened with habitat loss, and because of this, these plants should never be picked, or collected from the wild, that is, dug up. (Actually they are hard to establish if you do dig them up: their bulbs are easily damaged during the process.) (Photo by Linda Lee.) ©JohnNelson2023

[Answer:  “Rain lily,” “Atamasco lily,” Zephyranthes atamasca]

John Nelson is the retired curator of the Herbarium at the University of South Carolina, in the Department of Biological Sciences. As a public service, the Herbarium offers free plant identifications. For more information, visit or email

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Memories Of Zebco Reels & Red Wrigglers

Tom Poland

Posted 3/30/2023

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer

I drive west, Georgia bound,

Ethan McDaniel opens that classic screen door to a world of joy. (Photo by Tom Poland).
Ethan McDaniel, the fisherman’s friend. (Photo by Tom Poland)

and pass it yet again, a place that pulls at my heart. My father had a worm farm, and my grandfather’s country store had a minnow tank. Fishing meant everything to me as a boy.

“If I stop and go in there for a moment, I might recapture my lost childhood.” I turn into Lake World, a portal to my past. Approaching the entrance to Ethan McDaniel’s bait shop, I come to a weathered screen door. I know I am in a good place. On the door is a faded sign. “Live Bait Sold Here.”

Opening that old timer of a door I catch a whiff of the Low Country. I close my eyes and I’m at a seafood dock down Edisto way, but I’m not. I’m at the edge of the Dreher Shoals Dam, the largest earthen dam in the world in its heyday. Lake World has its own honey hole, a big one.

In the 1950s, the place was known as Britton’s Bait & Tackle. North Lake Drive was a two-lane dirt road back then. For a couple of years the place sat vacant. Then Richard and Donna Hall opened it in 1984 and now Ethan owns it. He started working there at 15. He was 23 when he bought Lake World from Richard Hall. Ethan greets me with a warm smile. We talk fishing. “I’ve been catching fish since I was in diapers,” said Ethan. “Mom and Dad were fishermen.”

It’s a rich sensory experience walking around Lake World’s busy shelves. I walk amid blinding fluorescent corks and silvered lead weights. Newfangled rods hold the colors of the rainbow and fishing accessories refuse to let the eye ignore them. Old top water lures hang from a window.

That live bait? He gets his minnows from Arkansas, true Arkansas shiners. Crickets come from Augusta, and herring come from Lake Murray, Lake Hartwell … wherever they can be caught. He sells red wigglers, greens, and night crawlers. Dad used to grow red wrigglers in the back yard. (A fond memory.)

You see a range of products from A to Z—from Advil to Zebco. Slim Jims and other foods keep fishermen from getting too hungry. Ethan sells Mathias sandwiches in summer. He sells drinks, chips, and a classic item—Vienna sausages. (Yet another fond memory.)

Over the years some interesting patrons have come in for food. “Pet squirrels used to come to the door and jump onto the counter and eat crackers,” said Ethan. “Ratchet and Prissy would dash in the door and snag a Snickers candy bar, then dash out.”

Aside from candy-loving squirrels, some big names have walked through that old screen door. Bill Dance, Hank Parker, and TV personalities like Mark Davis. “George Rogers comes in once a week in spring and summer,” said Ethan. “He loves to fish for bream in farm ponds.” (And here’s another fond memory.) Ethan pauses. “The good thing about the bait shop is you get to be friends with everybody.”

The business is seasonal. In winter Ethan sells minnows and crappie jigs. In summer he sells striper bait tanks and live herring. He’s open from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. in peak season. He works a minimum of 60 hours a week, 70 to 80 come busy summers, but Ethan loves his work.

Consider him a museum curator. The bait shop, one of the last of its kind, is something he intends to keep as is. He sells old-fashioned print maps of Lake Murray. “You don’t have to download or update them,” he said. “Grandparents bring their grandkids in so they can see how things used to be.” A regular coffee club comes in mornings. And then he says something that drives home the universal appeal of wetting a hook.

“Every religion and nationality you can think of, every social level, every economic level comes in here. Everybody coming in here is happy—they’re going fishing.”

He’s right. I felt happy as I walked through that wonderful screen door. As I hoped, Ethan McDaniel’s Lake World had brought back fond memories of farm ponds, red wrigglers and bream beds, and bass and Zebco reels.


Tom Poland’s website at

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Stuart Neiman Cartoon: No Evidence

Posted 3/28/23

By Stuart Neiman

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Living on Purpose: What will be your wager about God’s existence?

Dr. William Holland

Posted 3/28/23

By Dr. William Holland

God’s offer for everyone to accept His salvation is the greatest gesture of compassion and grace the world has ever known. However, for those who reject His invitation, as the rich young ruler did, choosing to embrace the default and ignoring the divine will be the most devastating decision a person will ever make. The image of a red devil with a pitchfork is not cute or a joke and neither is the holiness of God who has always demanded honor, reverence, and respect. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” Proverbs 9:10. Having factual information and accepting it are two profoundly different things and whether we want to admit it or not, we choose whom we will serve every moment.

It’s no secret that seekers of truth have lots of difficult questions. I guess the most important at the end of life is, “How much truth did the seeker find?” and, more importantly, “How much of it did they comprehend and demonstrate?” It’s been said that knowledge is merely the accumulation of information, but wisdom is the understanding of knowledge. We use the concept of levels to describe just how far and how deep we will venture in our quest to know the mysteries and secrets about God and the meaning and purpose of our lives. Sadly, the passion to discover these revelations seem to only matter to a fraction of the population, which is peculiar. 

With the help of technology we receive a constant flow of communication at the push of a button and most consider this a blessing. Nonetheless, what the masses fail to realize is that information is commonly mixed with biased and opinionated commentary that contaminates the message, which in turn can distort our perspectives. In this light, things are not always the way they seem, thus the critical need for spiritual discernment. Deception is like an infection of the mind and soul. The modern views about philosophy and spirituality declare that truth is relative to what the individual believes, and there is not a divine standard of truth for everyone to trust and obey. Yet, the Bible is very clear about there only being one God and one truth which means that what we believe has everything to do with whether we are right or wrong. When it comes to our state of being in the next dimension, we do not want to be on the side of error and face judgment for conforming to the culture.  

I’m sure with the hundreds of newspapers that publish this column each week, there are skeptics, agnostics, and maybe even a few atheists that read it and I’m honored. There is a growing audience that is interested to know if anyone can prove that God exists, and this is the most important question anyone could ask. I can give examples of what I believe confirms He is real, but at the end of the day, I cannot knock on God’s door and literally introduce Him to you. There is just as much faith in rejecting God as there is in embracing Him and we are accountable for our choices. In the spirit realm, divine truth is absolute, but in the natural world, there is virtually no absolute proof outside of pure logic and mathematics. For that reason, courtrooms do not require absolute proof to reach a verdict; rather, they seek to present reasonable doubt and consider what’s most probable.

Some have heard of Pascal’s wager which is a pragmatic argument presented by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, and theologian Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). He considered that all human beings wager with their eternal future concerning whether God exists or not. By the way, these decisions are not optional. Merely by existing we are forced to decide even if we are convinced we are not participating at all. Pascal’s presentation basically declares that if we wager that God is just a fairy tale and we are correct, we have lost nothing. However, if we believe that He is real and we love and serve Him, we have gained everything. Yet, many gamble against the odds and will risk losing their souls, knowing there is overwhelming evidence for the reality of God. Read Mark 8:36-37. You see, believing in God does not require blind faith, but neither can it overcome determined resistance. Airtight, sound arguments will remain unconvincing to those who are resolved to doubt.

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Mystery Plant! #715

John Nelson

Posted 3/23/2023

By John Nelson

Photo by Linda Lee.

Don’t worry about kids falling out of this tree. It’s terrible for a tree house, or just for climbing, and for pretty obvious reasons.

It is a native deciduous plant, fairly common from New York through the lower Midwest, and south to Texas and northern Florida. Most people would consider this plant something of a shrub, but it does get to be tree-sized, that is, short tree-sized, with the tallest usually about 30 or so feet high. The plants grow quickly in a variety of woodland habitats, often on open, disturbed ground. Otherwise, they can handle reasonably shady places. The plants are quite striking when they reach any appreciable size, for a variety of reasons.

The plants themselves are only sparingly branched, and so a thicket of these in late winter will sometime have a kind of “stickly”, willowy look. The plants frequently spread themselves by runners, just below the soil surface. The leaves are quite impressive: technically, they are the largest leaves of any North American tree species. The leaves are just now starting to sprout out, however, so you’ll have to wait to see them in their full glory. Each leaf is equipped with a smooth, pale brown stalk, and the blade is divided over and over again into many dozens of teardrop-shaped leaflets. Because most people will look at the entire leaf and see only leaflets, they think the leaf itself is small. But the leaf is definitely compound, and big ones can be nearly 4 feet long. The autumn foliage is attractive, a sort of shiny yellow. In winter condition, the scar produced by the falling leaf is quite prominently U-shaped, something like a smile, and each of these leaf scars will reveal a series of vascular bundle scars within, arranged in a crescent. Small white flowers are produced in umbrella-like clusters in large, branched arrangements toward the top of the trunk. A variety of insects love the flowers, including bees, wasps and several butterflies. In late summer, the young fruits begin to swell and turn dark, eventually becoming shiny purple-black, and very juicy. Delicious for birds…although when I sampled one or two, they were terrible!

But the wondrous thing about this plant must be the fantastic assortment of “stickers” it exhibits. The young stickers are pliable and green, but eventually become hardened, or indurated, both hook-shaped as well as straight. The sharp stickers may be found all up and down the stems, and also on the leaf stalks and successive divisions of the leaf blade. You’ll also see a prominent “crown” of these things associated with each leaf scar. (Note that these stickers are technically what we call “prickles,” and are not thorns, as they contain no vascular tissue. The “thorns” of a rose bush are also prickles. If you want true thorns, you might consider something like the treacherous honey-locust.)

This native species makes a wonderful addition to the back border of a garden, as long as you can handle its sprouts, from the runners. The flowers and fruits are attractive to wildlife, and the fall foliage is nice. Be sure to tell your friends that it is a relative of ginseng (and English ivy!)   ©JohnNelson2023

[Answer:  “Devil’s walking-stick,” Aralia spinosa]

John Nelson is the retired curator of the Herbarium at the University of South Carolina, in the Department of Biological Sciences. As a public service, the Herbarium offers free plant identifications. For more information, visit or email

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Everything and Nothing: A cure for the Sunday Afternoon Blues

Aïda Rogers

Posted 3/21/23

By Aïda Rogers

For many years I’ve been afflicted by the Sunday Afternoon Blues, which means that for almost as many years I’ve known how to get rid of them: I get out of the house and do something. Anything.

When I felt the old dread descending a few Sundays ago I had my plan ready. I put on my gloves, grabbed a garbage bag and marched out into the paralyzing serenity. I’d been noticing trash along the road and decided to do something about it.

First came the empty cigarette pack and then the empty Jack Daniels bottle. Across the street, proof of Chick-Fil-A’s popularity and a $100 gift card with, I was irked later to learn, a zero balance. Feeling like an athlete warming up, I kept walking. And as always happens, the more I looked, the more I saw. There along Pinckney Street in McClellanville, a postcard town if ever there was one, people had tossed their expendables. Beer cans. Soda bottles. Paper bags. Plastic bags. Bags with wet stuff in them.


But somehow I felt protected from the yuck, probably because I became so focused on getting rid of it. Sunday Afternoon Blues can’t be sustained when discoveries are made, discoveries like that secret public art project of 27 empty Michelob Ultra cans nestled in straw at the bottom of a thicket. Two cans of Truly Berry Punch hung from branches above. It was a study in silver and purple that I relished returning to green.

Thinking the reasons people litter was based on a complex formula of education and economics, I was surprised to learn this problem is simple and fixable. People litter, studies have found, because there aren’t enough public trash bins and recycling stations. Maybe that’s what was going on one day in the deep green of Sumter National Forest. Driving to Union, I came upon a very low-to-the-ground car ahead of me. It bumped along, four or five heads visible inside. Suddenly the car stopped, a door opened, and a bag of trash was put out. Too startled to do anything – I really should have picked it up – I kept going after the car turned off. I know now that those were people in trouble. They might have been living in that car. Their worries were self-survival, not earth survival.

And so the litter goes on. It goes on roads, in creeks, in woods; it flies from the back of trucks to scatter God knows what God knows where. Picking up three bags of it made me feel better – even good – but that was probably the biggest benefit of the man-earth-trash equation. I’m not optimistic litter will disappear. Money would have to be spent, particularly in communities with little of that necessity.

Then again, I can’t forget something else I saw once. A man in a wheelchair was wrestling litter from some bushes by the sidewalk. He was working hard to fix something someone else messed up.

There’s probably a metaphor here, something about brothers’ keepers. But I’m holding on to what I saw when I started out on my mission. It was a bluebird, something I rarely see, and which I followed. I’ve decided to take that as a sign. I can do my little bit.

Aïda Rogers writes from an old house in Columbia and a new porch in McClellanville. Her three-volume anthology series, State of the Heart: South Carolina Writers on the Places They Love, includes stories by 108 Palmetto State writers.

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The magic and mess of a blank page

Reba Campbell

Posted 3/21/23

By Reba Campbell

Photo by Reba Campbell

I started the year trying to resume the discipline of keeping a handwritten journal. This process of deliberately writing by hand has reminded me how it so often results in a flow that’s very different from writing using a keyboard.

Research abounds about how hand-writing spurs creativity and encourages memory paths in ways writing using a keyboard doesn’t. A recent Fast Company article references research that says pressing a key doesn’t stimulate brain pathways the same way writing by hand does. “It’s possible that there’s not the same connection to the emotional part of the brain when people type, as opposed to writing in longhand.”

This got me to thinking about a poem I’d written several years ago about writing by hand. Normally I don’t write poetry, but it just kind of flowed out of me though a magical purple during a writing workshop.

On the first day of the workshop, the instructor said we would be writing by hand.

Write with a pen? On paper? Surely, you’re kidding, I thought. I write with a pen only when hard copy editing, jotting off personal thank-you notes or signing an occasional check. I’m the queen of a paperless workspace, the diva of electronic communication.

The instructor offered us the choice of old-style composition books for our writing work. I reached for my laptop saying, “I don’t write by hand.”

“Here we do,” the instructor said.

So in the interest of cooperation, I dutifully selected the notebook with the cover that most appealed to me. I pulled out the only pen I had in my bag – a purple roller ball I used for editing at work. I opened the notebook, skimmed my hand across the first page and gripped my purple pen helplessly. I felt completely blank.

There’s something different about staring down a blank piece of paper versus a blank computer screen. At least the screen has other distractions going on … icons, blinking curser, color. That blank lined page scared me. That purple pen felt like lead in my hand.

I’ve always liked the simplicity of “cut and paste” on a computer. If I get something wrong, it’s just a matter of highlight and delete. The consistency of font choices is familiar. They are tidy and easy to manage. Things might occasionally get messy with track changes, but I can always hide that. And a computer key never leaks purple ink or leaves a ridge on my finger.

As the weeks went on in my class, however, I got more comfortable with the hand-written exercises. I began to see writing by hand gave me the freedom to mess up, make changes, and play with words in a way that keys and a computer screen don’t allow.

Writing by hand means I can go back to another page and find words I thought I didn’t need. Those words are still sitting right there where I left them, good as new. This is unlike typing on a computer. Once that delete key zaps out a word, a turn of a phrase or a thought, it’s pretty much gone for good.

Hand writing broadens my willingness to slog through the “not right”- scribbling thoughts that may go nowhere at the moment but may prove perfect several pages later – and letting those words survive for a possible other use or a different insight.

The process of writing by hand with that purple pen has led me to a softer acceptance of my daily striving to get it right the first time – whatever “it” is. My default had long been “get it right, and if you don’t, just quickly fix it.”

But now when I open my paper journal (almost) every day, I try not to see just a blank page. I remind myself to see possibilities in the messes of colors and lines and squiggles that often lead me to places I didn’t know I could explore.

Sure, it’s messy. But isn’t that how we get to the good stuff?

The Purple Pen

It felt awkward in my hand
like what I wrote
had to be right the first time.

Doesn’t everything have to be right
the first time?

Scribbling with the pen is messy
I can’t fix what I get wrong
A drop from my tea cup
smears the ink a bit

It’s messy

What if I think of a better way to say it?
I can’t delete it once it’s there
How do I fix it
without being messy?

My head goes
faster than
my hand can write
I can’t
keep up

It’s getting messy

What if I
miss words
or lose them
to another
random thought

It’s messy

Words are now
tumbling too fast
Fingers with
the pen
can’t keep up

It’s messy

My fingers get a little tired
from the pen
There’s a ridge on my finger
It looks messy
from leaking purple ink

Writing becomes
illegible scribble
I’m getting
lost in this stuff
that’s tumbling out

It’s getting really messy

Ink shows thru from the other side of the page
Makes it hard to read
through that mess
This doesn’t happen with keys

It’s just too messy

Mistakes can disappear
with the press of a key
With a pen, they keep haunting, remembering, waiting, reminding

But…what if I need back a thought that fell
victim to the delete key

It’s gone forever

And that would have been really messy

Reba is the president of the Medway Group. She is passionate about travel; writing; learning to play the uke, guitar and keyboard; and staying connected with old friends. She can be reached at, @rebahcampbell on Instagram and Twitter and through her blog, Random Connect Points (

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Living on Purpose: What does having a pure heart mean to you?

Dr. William Holland

Posted 03/20/2023

By Dr. William Holland

Many are familiar with the beatitudes which are a section of a larger discourse spoken by Jesus in His earthly ministry. They are found in His sermon on the mount in Matthew chapter 5, and some of them are mentioned again in the sermon on the plain found in the twentieth chapter of Luke. Both homilies are filled with spiritual wisdom and laid the groundwork for New Testament Christianity. There are also beatitudes found in the Psalms, and all of these truths are timeless and just as life-changing and relevant today as they were when they were spoken. The Greek word for “beatitude” simply means blessed, fortunate, and content, and presented in the context of living each moment with a relentless determination for having a clear understanding of right and wrong and demonstrating boldness to accomplish God’s purpose no matter the cost.

When you think about the condition and direction of your life today, do you see consider yourself being this type of Christian? It’s easy to read over these precepts while yawning, but they were never meant to be options or suggestions. You might have heard the old saying that beatitude is short for “be-in-this-attitude” and this is a good way to make them more personal. When we take the time to meditate on the deeper meanings, we realize they are pillars in the foundation of our faith and our relationship with God and humanity. Today I want to focus on one of these statements found in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Within the context of the next two chapters, Jesus is basically teaching us what being His follower is about. Christ is clear about the importance of being holy and pure in our conscience, but how do we develop this attitude and retain it?

As we ponder about the state of being pure, we also notice Jesus mentions the word heart. What do you think of when you hear something like, “well, bless your heart”, “she broke his heart” or “he loved her with all of his heart?” Some say it is the conscience, the emotions, the intellect, and our will, others believe it is the deepest recess of the soul. Whatever, or wherever it is, it is the most sacred place of our existence and the very location that God wants us to surrender to Him so that He can dwell there. Daniel 1:8 talks about how Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with sin. In this light, we see that it is our responsibility to guard and protect our inner sanctuary from the darkness and corruption of carnality.

The first several chapters of Proverbs explain that we are to store the treasures of God’s word in our hearts and the authority of His truth will produce joy and peace. “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear to my sayings. Let them not depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” Proverbs 4:20-23. This is about staying focused and being consistent which by the way is one of the most difficult aspects of the Christian life. A pure heart is not divided and as James 1:6-8 reminds us, a double-minded person does not receive help from the Lord. A pure heart for God walks with integrity, repents often, and does not fear what the world thinks of them. A pure heart embraces humility, comprehends and embraces our identity in Christ, and makes a covenant vow to surrender our will in order that we might accomplish His.

It’s a beautiful thing to be close enough to God to feel conviction from the Holy Spirit. This is His way of getting our attention when He wants to correct or give us special instructions. Hebrews 10:22 talks about drawing near to God with a true heart in the full assurance of faith, and having our hearts purified from an evil conscience. Living in God’s presence and being pure in heart does not happen by accident. We see what we are trained to see. May we be awakened and allow the refiner to have His way. Let us be consumed with a passion to be holy, knowing those who are pure in heart will see God.

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Behind The Lens

Tom Poland

Posted 03/20/2023

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer

Photo by Tom Poland.

Thirty-seven years ago I wrote “Worth The Wait,” a feature on photographing wildlife. South Carolina Wildlife magazine photographers Ted Borg, Robert Clark, and Phillip Jones gave me tips on seasons and subjects, cameras and lenses, film speed, light and color, and preparation. As close as we got to perseverance was my title, more on that to come. We mentioned the simple strategy of sitting still.

The feature’s photos included a whitetail buck, squirrel, water lilies, a caterpillar, shrimp trawlers, a mountain sunset, and duck hunter and dog at dawn. The images seem dull compared to the digital images we see today. “Film just didn’t have the range digital does,” said Robert Clark. “We thought it was great because that’s all we had at the time.”

Digital camera came out in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and they revolutionized photography. Even yours truly can take a decent photo now—as long as the subject’s stationary. I photograph flowers such as the majestic rocky shoals spider lily. Hummingbirds frustrate me but this summer I intend to get a stellar image of a male ruby-throated hummer. I’ll persevere.

I enjoy photographing nature, especially at Georgia’s Anthony Shoals, my mother’s childhood refuge after she had picked cotton and bone-dry cotton fields withered. She took me there when I was a boy and I have never forgotten that day or the wild river studded by rocks. But men like to dam rivers and where mountain laurel, rhododendron, and lilies that weren’t lilies had bloomed, a plain of blue water covered everything. A dam drowned Anthony Shoals. It saddened me to know that majestic stretch of river had been silenced. Then, a miracle. The shoals escaped not one but two dams. The song of a wild river running over bedrock still exalted Georgia air.

Each May-June I make several expeditions to Anthony Shoals. The road in is third-world rough with downed trees and major mudholes. Then I have to go down a steep bluff. As I descend, from afar comes a sound, something alive and formidable, the opera of a wild river raging against bedrock. The music strengthens with each step. The water roars and hisses as it froths and foams over and around rocks. Closer in, I see milky-white filigrees twist and braid and murmur to beget inner peace as no other sound can—soothing whitewater’s white noise.

The Broad River had run through my blood as a boy and now it rushes toward the sea where it joins the Savannah in the great cycle of water. There I photograph rocky shoals spider lilies, a flower whose blooms open at night and last but a day, pale phantoms with traces of green and gold. But perseverance and sitting still among vines and trees brings me a spectacle. Ospreys circle a ledge where roiling water foams white. One plunges into water, then rises with a fish—its shimmering mirror of scales flashes silver.

Ospreys whistle, circle, and plummet. Hummingbirds tend lilies, and a banded water snake swims my way. An otter surfaces and snorts. The river is a living thing. Behind the lens, I aim my telephoto and shoot, trying to do what I wrote about in South Carolina Wildlife all those years ago.

I had the joy of seeing a photograph of mine—a magnolia bloom—grace the cover of the January-February 2023 South Carolina Wildlife magazine. Credit digital photography for that. I’ll stick with words, hard though they be. A photographer can photoshop an image to perfection. Musicians gain superb advantages in recording studios. No software elevates bad writing, although I hear artificial intelligence promises to write like a pro. I’ll believe it when I see it, but I won’t see it as South Carolina Wildlife magazine turns seventy. Old timers generally turn a blind eye to whippersnappers’ fancy technologies, digital photography aside.

Tom Poland’s website at

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Stuart Neiman Cartoon: Territorial Dispute

Posted 03/20/23

By Stuart Neiman

This content is being shared through the S.C. News Exchange and is for use in SCPA member publications. Please use appropriate bylines and credit line