March 1971 – Beaufort SC
The morning mist was burning off the water as the sun broke through the oak trees that lined the inlet and salt marshes. There was a stillness, a quiet with only the occasional blue heron splashing the water and capturing a fish. I could hear the haunting call of a loon off in the distance. It was a sad lonely sound that reminded me of the solitude out here alone on the water.
In the distance, I saw the tidal creek and the weathered dock. I pulled the poet’s book from my backpack and read the title The Lost Poet by Jesse Earle Grant. I had heard rumors in The Book Store that he had lived in a cottage far out in the marshes on one of the small islands. After reading the book I realized that he mentioned a cottage near a creek where an oak tree dominated the shoreline. I thought of his note in the book that said, “I will meet you on the other side.”
I had to wonder if perhaps he was talking about the other side meaning across the water. I knew the book was obscure now and only my love of the older poets made me dig deeper. He had drawn a map on the inside cover of his book, a guide as I crossed the water, and I was surprised how easy the cottage was to find. As I drew closer to the dock, I saw an old boat. It looked like a 1940 Chris Craft Runabout. The wood on the boat was beautiful and in no way in disrepair. A hand-painted sign with the word Cottage on it pointed toward the dense forest.
I could see paths and trails leading away from the dock, so I grabbed my backpack and headed down the trail. The island was primitive and almost like a jungle with palmetto trees and oaks, yet the trail was well-tended, rocks and tree limbs defining the paths. Where the trails crossed a sign kept you headed toward the cottage. Birds followed me singing their songs and a snake or two slithered toward the shrubs.
I could see the gables of the house above the trees and finally, the trees opened into a clearing where an amazing island cottage stood majestically before me. The house was painted in pastels, greens, yellow and soft blues. The house was well cared for as if someone lived there. I opened the screen door and took in the porch with rattan rockers and tables. Flowers hung from baskets and pots around the porch, azaleas, and hibiscus in so many colors. The flowers filled the air with fragrances, the beauty was powerful, and I was spellbound.
A note was pinned to the door that said, “The door is unlocked, and The Poet’s Library awaits you.” I turned the knob and walked into the living room. There were no lights, just the sun’s rays coming through the shear curtains. The floor was a deep red cherry wood and had that deep bass sound when I walked on it. It was quiet, no television, just the sound of the wind chimes dancing in the wind. I walked down a dark hallway opening to a study at the back of the house, a library indeed. I was enthralled, holding my breath, not wanting the moment to end.
Open French doors welcomed me to more books than I could imagine, the books I dreamed about, the writers I followed. A brass plaque embossed said The Wild Ones, Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce. The next plaque said Only The Dark Poets. I ran my fingers over the leatherbound books, and I remembered that Jessie had told me that to be a writer you had to embrace the duality of life. These writers, poets and storytellers were all here, Edgar Alan Poe, Dante Alighieri, and John Steinbeck.
The room looked over the salt marsh, a hermitage for a writer, a place of inspiration and tranquility. The open windows let in a gentle breeze blowing the curtains and capturing a mood of contemplation. On the old oak desk was a book with my name on it. A note on parchment paper said, “for the stories, you will write.” I opened the book filled with blank pages and knew that I would fill this and many more with my stories, memories, and thoughts.
The last plaque on the bookshelf said only The Ones Not Yet Written. I sat at the desk trying to absorb all that had happened when I heard classical music playing in the front room. I slowly walked back toward the front of the house where a note was left by the turntable saying, “Stay here for a while, rest from your journey, write, read, or walk along the marsh. Perhaps we will talk soon.”
The day passed quietly, and the night was soon to fall, yet here I sat in The Poet’s Library with my eyes on the Royal Typewriter in the corner.
They say that you can never go back again, yet if you can write a story if you can reach back and touch those long-ago memories you can go back again.