Surprise, Peacocks, and Magnolia Plantation on the Ashley

Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise. – Alice Walker

Surprised by Color - Peacock!

The Magnolia Plantation on the Ashley River is doing some brave new work, and is lucky to have D.J. Tucker, an enthusiastic human being if I have ever met one. He heads up the From Slavery to Freedom Project involving the restored slave cabins there.

I visited recently for a delicious heritage food dinner cooked over an open fire, and upon entering this place of most beautiful of gardens, I was surprised to be greeted near my car by strutting peacocks! Fantastically colored peacocks, roaming in the yard!

Thanksgiving recently made me think about gratitude, so a bit of sleuthing turned up surprise as one key to the virtue. A book by the wise David Steindl-Rast sits on my bedside table right now. Art, too, gets made when one is most alive. And awake to wonder.

“Have you ever noticed how your eyes open a bit wider when you are surprised?” he writes in Common Sense Spirituality: The Essential Wisdom, “It is as if you had been asleep, merely daydreaming or sleepwalking through some routine activity, and then you hear your favorite record on the radio, or you look up from the puddles on the parking lot and see a rainbow, or the telephone rings and it’s the voice of an old friend, and all of a sudden you’re awake. Even an unwelcome surprise shakes us out of complacency and makes us come alive. We may not like it at first, but looking back, we can always recognize it as a gift. Humdrum equals deadness; surprise equals life. In fact, my favorite name for the One I worship in wonder — the only name that does not limit God — is Surprise.

One of several Slave Cabins. Magnolia Plantation

“I remember spiritual giants I have been privileged to meet, he continues, — Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, His Holiness the Dalai Lama — I can still feel the life energy they radiated. But how did they come by this vitality? There is no lack of surprises in this world, but such radiant aliveness is rare. What I observed was that these people were all profoundly grateful, and then I understood the secret.

He writes that surprise does not make us automatically alive. Aliveness is a matter of give-and-take, of response. If we allow surprise merely to baffle us, it will stun us and stunt our growth. But as it also involves editing I think, like one does as a photographer. The secret is editing down to the best. And as they wisely say 12 Steps, Take what you will and leave the rest. “Every surprise is a challenge to trust in life and so to grow. Surprise is a seed. Gratefulness sprouts when we rise to the challenge of surprise. The great ones in the realm of Spirit are so intensely alive because they are so deeply grateful.” Wow.

Cheers from the Lowcountry this fine, cold December Day. May this month bring nothing but surprises.

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I was called to be an artist. And as an old old midwife said to me "If the Lord wants you to do something, you won't have no good luck' til you do." So, here I am, sharing what I love, longing to illuminate the work of art, which is everywhere.

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Posted in architecture, art, Arts & Culture, beauty, Charleston South Carolina, creativity, Gullah, religion, spirituality, Writing
2 comments on “Surprise, Peacocks, and Magnolia Plantation on the Ashley
  1. Sadler says:

    Great essay Charlotte. There’s so much to be surprised about, that it’s really up to us isn’t it? If we could live each day as though it was our last, I bet we’d have few in any regrets.

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What’s this?

Welcome to my blog about the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a place proud with beauty, history and art. Sometimes we feel a call, to be, to go, to do. I was called to be an artist, and as an old midwife from Alabama said, “If the good Lord wants you to do something, you won’t have no good luck until you do it.”

So here I am writing about what I know, about the 'under glimmer' as the poet Basho, says, the way I have learned to see, to notice. I am inspired by, and talking about the history and art and culture of this place that has called me to herself. By the ancestors.

My background includes a degree in fine arts from a small private college in Florida, and before that, four years of all girls' boarding school in Asheville. I worked as a professional photographer, helped my children grow up, and now and I love seasoned things, good food, better conversation, beauty, my beloved and beautiful Italian Greyhound, Beau. Moved by the sacred places and stories of this beautiful historic land called the Lowcountry, I am here in spirit and I hope to infect you with my love of this place.

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