This is installment four of Stillwater Farm.
Oak trees hung over the pavement like tilted umbrellas. Spanish moss draped from the limbs. Travis felt nostalgic as the drove reminded him of a different time other than the present day. The straight flat country roads ran though a rural part of South Carolina that hadn't seemed to change much. Or so it seemed to Travis. Even with modern homes scattered here and there, he could easily imagine people sipping lemonade on their wooden front porches at the hottest hour of the day to escape the sun's heat. It dripped with that laid back southern attitude where there is no rush to anything. Even the other drivers on the road seemed perfectly content in their slow pace as if they too had fallen back in time. When they came to a modern highway of four lanes, Travis felt disappointment at the vast expanse of cement and the faster travel, but it didn't last long because in that quickened pace of highway travel, they soon reached the turnoff to the beach which put them back on to another slow country road.
They passed a number of old structures and historic churches. There were many vendors on the roadside selling tomatoes, preserves, crafts, and fresh seafood. The fresh seafood signaled to Travis that they were getting close to their destination.
Karen turned onto a dirt road that led to a state park. When it came time for her to check-in she said, "I'm staying here for a night, but I'll be leaving in the morning. If you want, we can share a site." Travis didn't have any other place to go so he told her okay and gave her half the money needed to rent a campsite for the night.
It was a short hike in to the primitive camping sites and Travis was glad not to be staying in a site that offered both electricity and water where big campers with noisy air conditioners parked. There were a few pop-up campers and tents, but those were dwarfed by the mighty land yachts pulled by the big diesel trucks.
The primitive site sat on a marsh. Karen merely carried in her sleeping bag, the stuffed elephant and some water. Travis didn't see any tent and wondered where she would sleep. She solved the mystery when she unrolled her bag and a little tent that fit over the opening of the bag was built in to offer protection from the bugs. She also had a bottle of repellent which she quickly applied then walked through the trees to the edge of the marsh and sat in the dirt in her pink sundress.
Travis set up his pup tent then pulled out a single burner cook stove, two packages of noodles with sauce and some dehydrated vegetables not because he was hungry but because he didn't know what else to do at the moment. He was still quite full from the BBQ sandwich, but thought that he would get ready for later. He did need to allow time for the veggies to reconstitute and soften because if they didn't, they wouldn’t resemble any type of vegetable but would remain a hard nugget that could break a tooth. He didn't pull out any food for Karen who was very quiet and introverted sad energy. She seemed to know what she was doing. She obviously had a purpose or a plan even though Travis couldn't figure out for the life of him what that could be.
After he laid out the food, Travis didn't know what to do. He went out to the spigot at the top of the trail to fill his bottles. When he returned, Karen remained at the marsh's edge staring into the tall sea grass where the birds flittered and the baby crabs foraged for food.
"I'm going to take a walk," Travis called to her.
"Okay," she said back.
Travis noticed on the map that there were some walking trails. The trails were flat, wide, and sandy with bits and pieces of shells naturally imbedded into the path. It led through a beautiful oak hammock mixed with large pine trees and some, but not many palmetto trees. Squirrels dug for food, and a woodpecker pounded into a tree nearby. Looking down, he found deer and raccoon tracks almost on top of each other. On a large tree, a long snake skin clung to the bark. It was perfectly intact, and where the eyes of the snake would be, were perfect little holes in the skin. He resisted the temptation to take the skin. The trails flatness gave opportunity to bicyclists. As he reveled in his quiet reunion with nature, bicyclists sped by disturbing the tranquility of the woods. The cyclists disrupted the calmness that Travis sought, the calmness that one can reach by being completely quiet and still with the natural world. Of course maybe the cyclists were out to get some exercise, and they had every right to ride their bikes on the trails. At that speed, Travis knew that the cyclists were missing all the opportunities of nature and that communion with nature was only possible by being quiet and still in the wood. And he thought, “Camping is not camping when one camps in the Hilton on wheels at the campground. If one wants to connect with earth, one needs to be hushed with her, clearing the mind and making oneself vulnerable to her. If someone wants the luxuries of home, rent a damn house, condo, or hotel room. That's what they are there for. By bringing those monstrous beasts and moving mechanisms into nature, one can never even come close to the gist of nature.” He found it sad that a human could not find complete solitude at sea level and asked himself, "Does that place exist?"
Travis had a reoccurring dream. He would be outdoors, somewhere, and there was a river or a lake, some kind of fresh water source. The water was always crystal blue and a quiet sanctuary during his childhood. But now, boats and large numbers of people filled the waterway making it as congested as a city street and becoming polluted with garbage and noise. There is always a secret channel into another part of the river or lake that no one knows about, but he remembers from his childhood. All he needs to do is recall the exact means of access. He starts to feel panicked that he won't find the way. When he finds the way, he is sometimes too big to get through it or he is frightened because he has to go through a tight tunnel that leads under water for a long period of time. When he doesn't wake up too soon and makes it through the tunnel, the area is not the same. It has been touched, but at least it isn't like the place outside that is crowded with people. Someone has found it, and of course, had to fuck it up in some little way by leaving garbage or graffiti, nothing that couldn't be fixed, nothing permanent. It is still a sanctuary even though not private, and in the dream, he feels some relief and hope, but in Travis’ waking hours, he felt only despair.