January has been a month of trips to honor Avery and all that his existence has meant to our lives. All the credit must go to my better half who planned both the mountains and this island, back when I was numb from shock of losing Avery. He lost his son too though and he knew we both needed this. When we got home from the mountains I thought surely that was the most peaceful trip we could go on but this past weekend I was proved wrong.
Sapelo Island, about sixty miles South of Savannah, is a 16,500 acre island, of which only 434 acres are populated (Georgia Encyclopedia). The rest of the land is forests of different types of trees, dense in some places. Everything from branches to phone wires is draped in Spanish moss. My favorite were the larger oak trees whose many branches formed arches over pathways. The island is divided into North and South ends, the North end being off limits without permission from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In looking for a trip to the Georgia coastline, Jordan came across Sapelo and found the Birdhouses on Airbnb.
The island is not open to all vehicles and must be reached by a twenty five minute ferry ride. Residents can pay $45 to have a vehicle brought over on a barge which runs twice a month; or, in the case of shipping over supplies and building materials, the barge can be rented in whole for $3,000. We learned this from the island resident who picked us up at the dock, I’m going to call her Maisel (because I don’t know how she’d feel about me using her name and as I write this The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is on TV). She forgot us at first and I stood there observing the closeness of the community I just found myself in. There were some students who took the same ferry as us, we left late because we were waiting for their school bus. There were tourists that shuffled into buses to go to the mansion. After fifteen minutes of chaos we were left looking at the settled parking lot that was overflowing with traffic just a moment ago. There aren’t many full time residents of the island, forty five is what Maisel told us. Over the next two and a half days we saw five people at maximum. There didn’t seem to be anyone there to pick us up from the dock though and one of the locals asked us who we were waiting on. They all seemed to know each other which wasn’t surprising on a native island with so few full time residents. He made a call and confirmed Maisel was on her way and she showed up a few minutes later, apologizing for forgetting us. We didn’t care in the slightest, the views of wilderness as far as I could see didn’t make it feel like I had been stranded at all. We got in her truck and headed away from the dock.
On the way to our cottage, after we told Maisel, “Yes, this is our first time on the island”, she gave us so many directions and insights I couldn’t have possibly remembered, or even heard them all. The South end is basically a rectangular grid of paved roads, one is a straightaway connecting the residential community to the mansion and the UGA marine campus, and a road parallel to that which runs along the airport. Other than those the majority of the roads were unpaved dirt, many of which lead to dead ends. Maisel left us with the keys to the golf cart and a map.
The cottage we stayed at was named Candy Cottage and it was part of a building with another apartment and a museum in the front. The building used to be BJ Confectionary which was a bakery and market. The inside of our cottage was decorated in rainbows. Rainbow polka dots on the duvet cover, rainbow rugs, rainbow knives on a magnetic strip on the wall, rainbow silverware handles. Rainbow towels, rainbow dishes and glasses, rainbow polka dotted cabinet knobs. Everything about Candy Cottage was rainbows.
Here I need to diverge into how I feel about the “rainbow baby” term. The day after I lost Avery, after I had spent some time holding him, I gave him back to the nurse and in response to my tears she said, “You’ll be back here with your rainbow baby soon”. I took comfort in thinking about my next baby then but I was in shock and over the next few weeks I became much more aware that the grief for Avery couldn’t be covered up with a rainbow. He wasn’t a storm, he was my rainbow, my first born son and everything I had been dreaming for my life. My emotions collide on this term because on one hand it allows the rest of the world and bereaved parents to come together to celebrate the extraordinary outcome hope can have. But on the other hand I’m predicting that being pregnant with my “rainbow baby” will be a storm in itself. I won’t be able to enjoy the milestones of pregnancy innocently or in a way where I won’t imagine the worst anymore.
My viewpoint on rainbows is this: life is full of them. Babies yes, but also jobs, relationships, anything that colors in your personal world. I don’t think rainbows can be compared. I’ve never looked at a rainbow and said, “You know, that’s a pretty one but it wasn’t as great as this one I saw last year”. Avery is my rainbow and my future babies will be rainbows too.
Despite the fact that I’m neutral on the term “rainbow baby”, I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of the cottage we were staying at to be full of rainbow decor. I had to believe it was a sign from Avery, him playing a joke on me. Our first trip in the golf cart was rushing to the closest beach in time for sunset and when I snapped a picture from the top of the dune, I realized it had a rainbow arched contrail from an airplane.
The rainbows weren’t the first signs from Avery. On the very first picture I took from the ferry docked before we set off, a blue dot appeared with the sun’s reflection. I estimate I took around 200 pictures over the weekend and 75% of them have a blue dot in it. Saturday morning for a bit just after sunrise it was green that was showing up in many photos. I could believe it was nothing but light refraction but I can also choose to believe it was a sign from Avery, a sign of his light. Sure, it had something to do with the way the sun was reflecting my camera, I could make it show up at different places by tilting my phone but it was always showing up somewhere.
We visited two different beaches and the lighthouse before lunch, the sun was warm and high in the royal blue sky. Heading back to the cottage for food our cart broke down. I took a picture here which of course had Avery’s blue dot in it. I believed this was him telling me it could’ve been much worse and we could have broke down miles from our place since we had just been driving all over.
We just walked the mile home, ate, and Jordan procured (his word) us another cart to drive. I feel I need to state for the record (his) that I would not have felt nearly as safe on this trip if it weren’t for my husband and his job which requires him to travel via golf cart all day. Many of the roads on Sapelo aren’t for carts and the rest are questionable. I was blessed to be escorted by an experienced driver.
One of the questionable dirt roads was cemetery road and it was washed out by a creek just after the gates, you could only get so far from each end. I took a picture of the cemetery sign and a blue heart showed up in it right next to where it says rest in peace.
With it being hibernation season the island was relatively calm with wildlife. Maisel said gators lay on the sides of the roads in summer and the mosquitoes are unbearable. This time of year was chilly but there was a sense of heightened serenity and desolation in the midst of wintertime. An armadillo ran alongside the road once and another time a raccoon family, a mom and two babies, dashed in front of the golf cart. We saw some baby deer, two wild horses, and many birds I don’t know all the names for, egrets, cardinals, and woodpeckers to name a few. On the beach midday on Saturday we found several dead crabs, horseshoe crabs and a jellyfish. Saturday evening at the dock, at the most Northern part of the island we were allowed to go, not long before dark, a dolphin swam past just as we were walking down. As we were getting the ferry to leave on Sunday there were a couple dolphins playing in the water around the boat.
Saturday was our big day of abundant sunshine and adventure. Sunday was cloudy and had an early afternoon rain shower. Maisel made and brought us lunch, all the journal entries for the cottage talked about her being a great cook so we had to try it out. It was probably the best fried chicken, mac and cheese, and corn I’d ever had and I know it was the best biscuit I’d ever had. We explored a few more hours then we said goodbye for now to Candy Cottage & Sapelo after a weekend of serene desolation in the wilderness with wildlife. The clouds and rain showers didn’t mean we forgot what a gorgeous day of blue sky Saturday was nor did it make it any easier to leave on Sunday.
Since it was mostly cloudy I thought surely they’re be no signs from Avery in my pictures on Sunday but leaving the cottage for the last time I noticed two orange leaves that formed a heart when looking from the right angle.
A weekend on this island has taught me when I quiet my mind and have faith, signs of Avery are everywhere and there was no where better suited for quiet than this nearly uncivilized native land.
To see all our Sapelo Island pictures, visit my Facebook album. –> facebook