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  • Life-everlasting:Nature and Culture on Sapelo Island
  • Mary Hussmann (bio)

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Figure 1.

"Though it was early morning, the day was already hot. I could smell the salty earth smell of the sea marsh that stretched out in front of us, cut by a tidal channel." Photograph courtesy of Mary Hussmann.

Though it was early morning, the day was already hot. I could smell the salty earth smell of the sea marsh that stretched out in front of us, cut by a tidal channel. The ferry, Anne Marie, sat at the end of the pier, where men busily loaded boxes and construction materials onto the open deck. Some in our party frantically dialed cell phones and made last minute calls, unsure whether they'd find service on the island. The rest of us milled around waiting to load the backpacks, suitcases, and boxes of food piled on the dock. After we had hauled our things onto the boat, I walked up to the highest deck as we churned away from shore. A few puffy clouds cast their reflections on the glassy water, and gulls wheeled in our wake. Though the trip to the island took a half hour through the tidal river and out into the sound, we were too excited to sit down and instead stood at the rails, watching as a porpoise arced alongside. [End Page 7]

Fourteen of us, eleven students and three teachers, had made the twenty-four hour bus trip south from St. Lawrence University in upstate New York. After a night in Savannah, we were on our way to Sapelo Island off the coast of Georgia, a sea island accessible only by boat. My friend Margaret, who teaches autobiography and Caribbean and African American literature, had been intrigued by a Geechee memoir she had taught called God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man, by Sapelo resident and activist Cornelia Bailey. Margaret had asked me to team teach a summer course on the Geechee/Gullah culture of Sapelo Island. My brother Ben, a history teacher, also taught and traveled with us. Meeting twice daily and covering a book a day, we had spent an intense week on campus studying the history, culture, and ecology of the island. The culmination of the course was a week on Sapelo, staying at Nancy and Caesar Banks's guesthouse in Hog Hammock, the last Gullah/Geechee community on a sea island not connected to the mainland.

As the Anne Marie chugged into Marsh Landing, I looked around at Margaret and the students. We were an unlikely group. Ben and I are white midwesterners; Margaret is African American and was raised in Mississippi and Florida. The students were equally split along racial lines. There was smiling Laura from Puerto Rico, warm and generous with everyone; ornery Turquoise, whose constant grumpiness made the rest of us laugh; "Big George," a beguiling smooth talker from the inner city; Maia, another city kid, smart and creative and burning with fury at the white privilege around her; quiet Amanda, book smart but unschooled in the hip city ways of her peers. Sarah and Erin were sorority girls, one from small town Utah, the other from a 'burb in the northeast, yet both had perfected the disinterested affect of affluent young adults. Erika and Jordy were the disaffected outsiders, financial aid students from small northeastern towns. Becky, the daughter of a friend and not too academically inclined, seemed simply along for the ride. Precocious Jessa was only fifteen, the daughter of good friends and taking her first trip on her own. [End Page 8]


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Figure 2.

"Fourteen of us, eleven students and three teachers, had made the twenty-four hour bus trip south from St. Lawrence University in upstate New York. After a night in Savannah, we were on our way to Sapelo Island off the coast of Georgia, a sea island accessible only by boat." Preparing to leave from Canton, New York, courtesy of Mary Hussmann.

Back on campus, Margaret and I had noticed that most students segregated themselves in the classroom along racial as well as economic lines, and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 7-32
Launched on MUSE
2006-03-06
Open Access
No
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