Sunday, July 16, 2017

Explore. Dream. Discover.

By Alex Kearns

Bucket Lists, Wish Lists, If Onlys—we all have them, and we all vow to check off those boxes of longings. Someday. Maybe. Then time passes and there always seems to be another excuse, another reason why not, another day that slips by.

But what if we told you there’s a place where you can set your inner explorer free? What if you heard about a small town on the edge of the continent that offers you everything you need to live life without regrets? Would you dare to make your dreams come true?

St. Marys is a paradise of possibility. Wide graceful streets, trees that whisper bygone lullabies, and a harbor that curves sweetly before setting off on a river’s 126-mile blackwater journey to its birthplace: the liquid highway of soldiers and sailers, pirates, and fortune-seekers. Biking, kayaking, walking, fishing, paddle-boarding…the choices are as varied as the shades of green and gold that cloak the salt marsh. Stretch your muscles, flex your limbs, and breathe. There’s a world waiting for you so “throw off the bowlines”!

 “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” H. Jackson Brown Jr. 

Meanwhile, the truly courageous voyager can embark on inner journeys that enrich the heart and challenge the intellect. As the dawn light bathes the waterfront park, those who practice Tai Chi carve the air in graceful shapes of tranquility while others gather for morning prayer. Yoga, dance, photography, theatre, music, art, volunteerism – the paths to self-expression and awareness are as varied as those who call St. Marys “home.”

And then there’s Cumberland Island: the perfect marriage of the physical and the spiritual. There is a transcendent beauty there that reaches deep into one’s soul. It releases and transforms us in unexpected ways. When you run your fingers lightly over the masterpiece of a live oak, emerge from a twilight tunnel of green into a sun-dazzled world of sugar-sand dunes, and stand alone on a beach that stretches into the horizon…you are profoundly changed. Suddenly you hear your own voice on the wind, taste the sea salt on your skin, walk the earth with a gentler but firmer step, and know what it is to be Timeless.

No matter how many years have passed by or how many evenings came to a close with the sighed words “Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow,” it’s never too late to put aside the lists of “some-days” and reach out for life. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. St. Marys awaits you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Symphony of St. Marys

A melody recalls a lost moment in time. A voice summons the complex nuances of emotions. The magnum opus of Nature serves as the accompaniment to our lives. Each separate space and place possesses a unique signature of sound and thus it is with St. Marys. Listen.
Just listen.
The tide turns, and with its indrawn breath the winds alter almost imperceptibly. The sighing through the live oaks is lowered to a soft whisper as the palmetto fronds pause in their chatter. It is the sound of an eternal rhythm.
In the moon-glow of a southern night a dog barks, and the evening chorus begins—then falls silent. We often wonder at these canine conversations: do they regale one another with tales of sun-basking, swims in the park, the antics of their humans? Or is it simply the “all’s-well” call throughout the town as another day draws to a close?
As with any symphony, one may listen to the totality or disseminate the parts. The kettle-drum of approaching thunder entwines about the alto notes of church bells that fall like soft prayers upon the streets and corners. The timpani of rain on a tin roof, the exhilarating woodwind cry of a hawk in full flight, the heartbreakingly lovely violin of high winds through ancient tree limbs, the gentle bells of boats in the harbor, the flutes of children at play, the oboes of slow, tranquil voices and quiet days: this is the music of Home.
At times St. Marys is a lullaby that soothes the soul and redeems the spirit. She can also be the clarion call of a
joyous brass band as festival throngs gather in the streets to celebrate our community. During the quiet dawn hours, the town is a sonata of infinite delicacy, while sunset is a
concerto of such mastery and grace as to humble us all.
There is a certain indefinable magic here in St. Marys that heightens the senses and opens the mind. You will find yourself tilting your head to better capture an elusive…something. It may be the splash of dolphins at play as they leap from the silvery reflection of a full moon. It may be the silent unfolding of a magnolia
blossom or the rustle of an armadillo in the palmetto
understory. Perhaps it’s even subtler and is but the
stretching of the world beneath a healing sun. One can almost believe that that which is assumed to be soundless, is not: the fall of azalea blossoms in February, the mist of jasmine in June, the fog that shrouds the river or the scent of an oncoming storm. Senses merge and transform in St. Marys, and that which is seen and felt is often heard.
“I can hear myself think”—a rare and priceless gift in these hectic times. Hear your thoughts, your dreams, your hopes, your heart. Hear color and emotion and aspirations and community. Hear the symphony of St. Marys. Listen. Just listen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

St. Marys - Step Into Her Light

Southern Georgia. Even the words fall sweetly on the tongue like the juice of a sun-ripened peach or a seductively rich Pinot Noir. This is the land that captured the hearts of writers such as Sidney Lanier, Flannery O’Connor, Alice Walker––the list is as long as the evening shadows. It is a world of deep mystery, open hearts and inspirational views. It is an enigma, a benison and a way of being.
The citizens of Historic St. Marys, Southern Georgia’s most luminous star, walk through their lives bathed in the light that is particular to this land of marsh, river and sea. This celestial presence, both corporeal and visceral, beckons the photographer, writer, artist and dreamer within us all.
The shifting hues of St. Marys form a captivating palette of color and mood. On a rare, rain-soft day there’s no better beginning than a long, lingering
waterfront breakfast at The Riverside Café. The aroma of coffee twines about the scent of the sea while we gaze at the shimmering brushed-pewter of sky and river. The Cumberland Queen departs and her farewell salute echoes in the misty air.
After breakfast, we walk to the long dock that stretches out into the marsh and pause to look in wonder still. One never ceases to be entranced by this endless vista, for the marsh that sweeps toward the Florida coast shifts and
alters hourly as the changing light paints upon its canvas. This rare ecosystem is the jewel in the crown of the Low Country—alive with growth, birth, change, renewal and infinite beauty.
Another morning, drenched in the dew-soaked light of a new day, magnolia trees reflect the sun from their rich foliage while the palms capture the rays and toss them back like diamonds into the air. Bougainvilla and hibiscus
blossoms drink in the moisture as the earth prepares itself for the noon heat. Even then, in the mid-day intensity of light and warmth, there is that which delights the eye within the shadows of massive live oaks draped in Spanish moss. It is a unique interplay of color and depth, known only in this land of entrancing contradictions.
Then there is the “Magic Hour,”
the legendary time of golden light and violet hue that whispers to the artist in every soul. All pause to savor this exquisite delight of warm evening breezes, cocktails on the front porch, children’s voices, neighbors waving
as they stroll by. This is St. Marys
at her most captivating—a small
town cradled within “the vast sweet visage of space” (Sidney Lanier).
We invite you to experience a place and a way of being that will captivate and enthrall. But be warned, though you may leave St Marys, you will do so altered in some profound way for there is no leaving this “Brigadoon” without carrying her within your heart forever.

Special thanks to Alex Kearns for
these sentiments that so beautifully
capture another dimension of the magic of St. Marys.

Friday, February 29, 2008

St. Marys - The Seduction of Serenity

“I have found peace here,” is the oft-quoted reply when newcomers are asked why they moved to St. Marys. There is an indefinable “softening of the edges” that seems to permeate life in St. Marys. To live in St. Marys is to come face to face with serenity on so many levels. St. Marys’ enviable location just across the river from Florida puts it in an aquatic embrace surrounded by marshes, rivers, creeks, the Intracoastal Waterway; and just across Cumberland Island, the waters of the great Atlantic. Native Americans believed that for every day you spend around water, a day is added to your life. Could it be the water that is the source of St. Marys’ serenity?

Put yourself in this picture: The day is almost over. You take a lazy stroll down to the waterfront park and settle into an old-fashioned wooden swing hung beneath a rose-covered arbor. Before you, a setting sun casts a million points of gold onto the surface of a tranquil river. Dolphins dance in the distance. Seagulls soar and laugh in flight, their gracefulness mesmerizing, leaving you yearning for wings of your own. Is it the sunsets that hold the secret to St. Marys’ serenity?

On an early morning walk through St. Marys’ Downtown Historic District, you catch the tranquilizing scent of gardenia and marvel at the fragile blossoms peeking through a pristine white picket fence. Stately magnolias and moss-covered live oaks canopy St. Marys’ fertile yards, and parks and streetscapes. In the distance you hear the baritone echo of the Cumberland Queen as she sets sail for another day of adventure on Cumberland Island. You stop for a moment, close your eyes, and listen to the lulling birdsongs—more distinct calls than you’ve ever experienced at one time. You lean across another picket fence and trace the Braille marker of a Victorian home, replete with splendor that so defines the Southern landscape. Is it this—the feast of the senses—that gives us the spellbinding sense of serenity?

Or could it be the people? You’ve noticed the warmth in the voices of the merchants who happily open their stores to you—browsing perfectly acceptable. You’re stricken by the respect and politeness of the waiter at the little café on the corner, whose singular mission in life seems to be to make you happy. You immerse yourself in the friendly greetings and kindness of strangers you encounter on the streets, rich with the wisdom of the area and passionate in their eagerness to share. There is quietude about the town that bespeaks calm. Tranquility. Serenity.

You have found peace here in this little town of St. Marys, Georgia. Perhaps for a day. Perhaps for a lifetime.

“We arrived at St. Marys at the hush of eventide. It struck me as such an exquisite blow that I could not find a word. In whose brain was born so glorious concept of community? What streetways! What nobility of space! What simple grandeur and what a peace lay over all!” Written by Pulitzer Prize winner Margorie Kinnan Rawlings after her visit to St. Marys sometime before 1931.