by Constance Daley
The American Reporter
St. Simons Island, Ga.
April 5, 2005
THE LONG WAY HOME
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- When Robert Frost wrote "The Road Not Taken" he was writing about making a choice between two roads of equal merit. He chose the one less traveled.
This morning, I made an instant decision to turn right at the light instead of going straight, a shorter distance home but one that never fails to trouble me. The traffic is heavier and heavier each week and this particular Sunday was the end of Spring break here on the Island and visitors were going home, hundreds of them.
On that busy road, fewer miles though it is, there are "eyebrows" paved into the sides of the road so drivers can pass those waiting to turn and not destroy the shoulder - which is exactly what they had been doing rather than wait a minute or two for the oncoming traffic to subside.
Along that well-traveled road, there's a canopy of oak trees draped with hanging moss that developers would love to cut down to widen the road. It's unthinkable, of course, but they do think about it. The "eyebrows" are a compromise. The trucks can navigate their way forward.
For two or more miles there are restaurants, dress shops, gas stations, little strip malls, real estate agencies, bookstores, resale shops, a motel, the Post Office, neon-lighted salons for manicures, pedicures, exercising and massages. It reflects a lifestyle and could be the main drag in any town in America.
But this isn't any town in America. It was here that battles were fought and won on our way to becoming the land of independence we know. That could also be something common to any town on the Eastern Coast but here exists a sanctuary of peaceful calm and charm.
When they say "the more things change the more they remain the same," they are not talking about here. The more things change here, the more the island loses what has make it so special. There's the history: huge plantations that cotton-lined the nation, now, for the most part sub-divisions made up of lovely homes with manicured lawns and gardens. The island isn't becoming run down but built up at the expense of exactly the oasis worth preserving.
There are the historical sites where blood was shed at forts built to protect the land from Spanish invaders and unfriendly Indians - already advancing from Florida. St. Simons Island is approximately 11 miles long and not even 3 miles wide; by comparison, Manhattan Island (New York City) is 13 miles long and 3 miles wide at its heart. Raised in the latter and now residing on St. Simons, it seems I'm always trying to maintain the status quo, resisting the surge of growth in a magnificent setting.
The island's biggest attraction is its beauty and natural resources and when people move here they adopt the philosophy of preserving it as it is - since as it was can never be again. So, we do have pockets and green belts and pristine bodies of water around almost every corner - if we're willing to take the long road home.
This Sunday morning, I was. I turned the corner in the right hand lane and as the lane narrowed I saw the long road home ahead of me where elegant homes were sheltered behind trees on the left and to the right, the glorious marshes. Dunbar Creek is in the distance and the landing where centuries ago the Ebo tribe of Nigeria was being disembarked to enter into the ranks of slaves on plantations; instead, they elected to follow their king back into the waters on that moonlit night.
These proud Nigerians, men, women and children - soon to be separated as families - chanted in unison, following their king's example: "The Sea brought me and the Sea will bring me home." Their heavy chains clanged and pulled them down to their death. If that legend is not true, it's still one easy to imagine, especially when those living in the homes adjacent to the creek swear they can hear echoes of the chains and chants on a still summer night.
The road is peaceful, winding, paved especially well since this is the road that carried the G-8 to their historic Summit last June in their long sleek limousines. Right now, the April flowers are in full bloom and mingling while the warm spring breezes carry the scent through my open windows.
How different from that other road, the one with pickup trucks filled with the tools of whatever trade; or, the huge beer distributor's semis, occupying whole lanes and parking in the mini malls to unload; moving vans of such length that turning a corner for them turns me into a "white knuckle driver" waiting for them to complete their maneuver. And still they come.
This Sunday morning for me was different. The spur-of-the-moment turn I took from the road getting me home in a New York minute to the one of smooth driving, quiet contemplation, reverence and contentment brought me to the same significant realization Robert Frost found when his roads diverged: He wrote: "I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
St. Simons is a peaceful little island, if you know your way around.