An amazing thing about living here in the South Carolina Lowcountry is that we get to enjoy a slight change of seasons. Fall is a favorite for many locals.
While we always invite visitors to share in our small piece of heaven, by now the younger families are back home and settling into the school routine. Once again it seems it’s time to stop and take a close look at our surroundings.
Without the assistance of a calendar, we can see fall approaching. There is the occasional morning temperature of 70 degrees with a noted absence of humidity. Perhaps the most important change comes in our marshes.
With so much of our land protected by marsh grass and even more covered with water, especially during our nine-foot tides, it isn’t surprising that the marsh transitions take center stage. At first, it is almost undetectable – just a slight change of color, but today as we look over the sea of grassland, we are keenly aware of the yellow hew that recently appeared. It is spectacular with the sun shining on it at low tide.
This miraculous grass can survive in saltwater because it is able to excrete salt through its glands to withstand the twice daily flow of the brackish tides. It helps trap sediment in the wetlands to provide a habitat for oysters and mussels. As it dies off in the winter and changes to brown, it will feed a plethora of sea life while offering a protective nursery setting to many varieties of fish.
In addition to its contributions to the ecosystem, it decelerates water flow. These marshes provide a protective buffer from storm surges during tropical storms and nearby hurricanes.
It is fascinating to note that for many of us the marsh has been an acquired taste. Having lived here full time nearly 30 years, it is undoubtedly now our personal favorite view. Those who object to the marsh may not be able to get past the slightly sulfuric smell of the Spartina grasses as it goes through its life cycle anchored by the pluff mud. People change like the tides. At first, they may avoid the marsh, but as they observe, learn to understand and appreciate it, their hearts change.
On your next visit, take time to watch the sun set or the moon rise over the marsh whatever time of year it is. Here in South Carolina, we take a moment to “smell the marsh” in place of the roses and take in the vastness of its existence. It is easy to feel small next to a sea of grasses or take our beauty for granted. Come and take time to observe the wetlands in a new light. If you are really intrigued by the marsh, treat yourself to the book written by Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing. Please let me know if you can’t put it down – a very special story.