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Let Me See Your Alligator

Life isn’t about safety. It isn’t about ruts and order and doing what’s comfortable. It’s about everything that exists beyond those lines. We grow as human beings when we move the lines, when we challenge ourselves, when we make ourselves embrace what’s possible instead of what’s comfortable.

So.

When was the last time YOU did something you thought you wouldn’t like? You spent time with someone you thought you wouldn’t agree with? You visited a place/read a book/watched a movie/experienced anything outside of your rutted comfort zone?

My answer?

Yesterday.

I facilitated a retreat for an architecture firm at the Middleton Inn. Middleton is an old plantation on the Ashley River outside Charleston, South Carolina. The retreat started Friday morning at 8am. Because I worked about 14 hours on Friday, I let the firm pay for me and MTM to spend the night at the inn.

A place that ALWAYS drives me mad.

Architects want to love the place (including MTM), because it is a modernist lodging where everything is “Oh Belvedere! Come here, Boy!”

And I can’t stand it. The rooms, anyway. The sleek modernist wood-and-concrete hasn’t been updated since 1987. The beds would embarrass a Motel 6, and the bathroom is Heresy. I complained all night long. About the smoke smell from the fireplace. About the non-cushy chairs. About the torture chamber of a bathtub. About the polar vortex that issued through a crack in the door.

About everything.

I woke up Saturday morning, determined to loathe the place to the end.

And I caught a glimpse of the river through a frame.

middleton inn

I remembered what it felt like to meander along the Ashley River in a shimmer of moonlight.

photo 2

I marveled at Spring, hovering in the breeze. (A gift to everyone who’s still stuck with Winter.)

middleton place

Even the cherubs rejoiced.

photo 5

I rubbed camellia petals, a-drip from waxy leaves.

middleton place

middleton place

I wondered at the ghosts that whispered through destruction, that glistened through ruin.

middleton place

I shot two alligators.

middleton place

No, really. I did.

middleton place

Okay. This time. ALLIGATORS, people.

middleton place

I marveled at beauty. Forgot everything I didn’t like. I was grateful for a gorgeous Spring day. In a mystical place. A flawed place. A place I’m determined to visit more often for a night or two, in spite of the discomforts, the inconveniences, the things I don’t like.

Because I want to live life outside the lines.

32 Comments Post a comment
  1. Spring on the breeze can catch you that way 🙂 I have to say that you have painted the most beautiful picture of this place. Unsurpassed natural beauty is right. Does look a bit like my old halls of residence from Uni though…

    February 23, 2014
  2. Wonderful picture of the river in the twilight…haunting. As opposed to the alligators that only good as shoes.

    February 23, 2014
  3. When I first looked at the post, I though, “O boy another moan coming up” Very glad to see I was wrong. It is wonderful to read that Andra opened the curtains slightly and saw the beauty that surrounded her. Thank you Andra, I will now also be more aware of the good (beauty) and ingnore the ugly things that do not conform to my rules.

    February 23, 2014
  4. Hmmm. I guess it’s a good thing those gators weren’t frisky or one would be typing that post for you as MTM was beating it on the head with a shoe… 😀

    February 23, 2014
  5. The only person I can speak for is me, but if I can’t escape my comfort zone, I don’t learn much. Improvising on guitar is my favorite thing in the world. If I wasn’t willing to take chances, I wouldn’t be in a place to accomplish what I can do. It’s all about trust and faith and allowing yourself the freedom to fail.

    February 23, 2014
  6. It can happen that a spot of discomfort (or a whole large chunk of it) can give an experience that extra zing.
    I was about to hate you for the alligators … then I looked more closely …

    February 23, 2014
  7. Very nice, Andra.

    February 23, 2014
  8. Beautiful!

    February 23, 2014
  9. I am happy and peaceful in my comfort zone. My new mantra is:

    Eat when hungry, sleep when tired . . . move when restless. :mrgreen:

    February 23, 2014
  10. Beautiful photos!!! And flowers!
    Still stuck in winter here, so this looks like a foreign country.

    February 23, 2014
  11. Maybe it has happened lately, I’m not sure. What I do know is that I often feel like I’m pulled in several directions by thoughts of work, necessities, money, time, energy, et cetera that I end up not knowing how to pull off “out of comfort zone” situations without great expense or time. I suppose at its basic level would be food, but that gets rather unfulfilling after a while.

    February 23, 2014
  12. Oh, how I would love to pack my bags and visit your spring. It looks just lovely.

    February 23, 2014
  13. I love Middleton Gardens, always have. It is one of my happy places. But I hate those modernistic accommodations! They just don’t fit. I have been in them, around them, and they are nice enough for what they are, but they stand out to me like a sore thumb. Love the plantation though.

    And I love eating alligator. Yummy.

    Which leads to one of the more recent times I tried something and was proven wrong. When you and Kenneth Andrews made me eat sushi. I had tried it before, but obviously a different type. Yuck. Now I am still not going to say I am a great fan, but the eel you had me eat that tasted of BBQ and a few other dishes were not bad at all. And I thank you for that because now I know that when friends demand we go to a bait, errr I mean sushi restaurant that I probably will be able to find something I can eat.

    And then there was the time I visited Boston. Nancy and I were sure we were going to hate that Northern bastion of Yankee-ism. We were wrong on all counts. we fell in love with the city, the people, the parks, and the attitudes. If it were for the winters we just might move there.

    Oh, but I forget. There is no fried alligator for me to eat in Boston. Bummer.

    February 23, 2014
  14. Very nice.

    February 23, 2014
  15. a great revelation, andra. beautiful pics.

    February 23, 2014
  16. Isn’t it funny how all it takes is one thing to change our perspective. But when that vhange happens it opens a floodgate.

    February 23, 2014
  17. Isn’t it lovely when you find yourself unexpectedly changing your opinion? I’m so glad you found the beauty in that place; it does look pretty great in your photos.

    February 23, 2014
  18. Excellent post and great photos. Sometimes I think we find the most amazing things when we look outside our comfort zone.

    February 23, 2014
  19. I do love the Inn at Middleton Place. I spent my 10th wedding anniversary there (first marriage) and paddled around the tub and hours enjoying the river views and then hours before the fireplace in-room quaffing lovely red wine and fine cheeses. And as you know i love going to the wine and cheese strolls there…and walking the paths and seeing the camellias…Glad you were able to have a redeeming time.

    February 23, 2014
  20. I jumped out of my comfort zone several times when we first moved to Florida: canoeing was new to me, canoeing in rivers “full” of alligators was very new to me, and canoeing under the webs of large spiders was incredibly terrifying. I’ve had alligators swim under our canoe, rather than just wait for us to pass. I’ve narrowly missed putting my hand on a coiled snake while portaging. I have deer flies leave my legs covered with itchy welts, and I almost passed out from heat exhaustion when we tried paddling at high noon on a mid-July day. All this was in the first summer or two. I’ve hiked in dark winter where the wind chill brought the temps down to the high 20s and the wind itself threatened to knock me and my walking sticks off the causeway. I’ve been out on the ocean at night, holding tight onto a line and trying not to throw up. I don’t know that I would care to repeat any of these “adventures” again, but the flip side is always how great the hot shower feels when you finally get home; the taste of a good cold beer after an exhausting hike. The memory of the stars on a clear night, the dank smell of whatever was being dragged up from the ocean floor; the fine lacy effect of a spider web’s shadow; the intricate pattern on the back of the sleeping snake; the history hidden in the hide of the 6-foot alligator as it silently glides back into the water.

    February 23, 2014
  21. Fantastic photos Andra! I’m glad the outside experience was enough to wash away some of the less than stellar interior time…

    February 23, 2014
  22. Lance #

    THat cartoon was the perfect touch. I haven’t seen that in 20 or 25 years. Gorgeous pictures. I;m ready for spring.

    February 23, 2014
  23. Have you heard the joke “get me a crocodile sandwich and make it snappy!” Sorry….

    February 24, 2014
  24. I would sacrifice comfort for all that outdoor beauty also. Although, I need cushiony seating and bedding for my aching body. Thanks for the shot of Spring!

    February 24, 2014
  25. tarakianwarrior #

    Well does this count? I joined a 5:00 a.m. Crossfit class. Now, you may not think that is outside my comfort zone, but truly, it is. To go into an already established class (where people have to pair up – gulp), lift weights, grunt groan, makeup free…uh, yeah…with people who are more than 20 years younger than you…yes, pegged my comfort zone. Afraid that I would slow up their workout, afraid that I would hold them back, afraid…and then something happened…the thing I was afraid of (someone telling me I didn’t belong in the class), happened, and now, I’m no longer afraid, I go every day…take that B***hes! So does that count?

    February 24, 2014
  26. tarakianwarrior #

    Oh, and beautiful photographs Andra – enjoyed each one of them. 🙂 Thank you for making me pause this morning and soak it in.

    February 24, 2014
  27. Man I got polar vortices coming out the wazoo over here – this house is so drafty it’s barely an upgrade from living in a cave! Those are some beautiful shots though, even with the gators. I’ll love vicariously through you until our Spring catches up.

    February 24, 2014
  28. Lovely photos and sentiments, Andra – and nice “shot” of the alligators.

    February 24, 2014
  29. Sometimes I need to take those little shifts in perspective, too, Andra. Just look at what you saw once you did! I believed you about the alligators–the first time! LOL! Beautiful shots of early spring. 🙂

    February 24, 2014
  30. Ha. As a girl we vacationed in South Carolina. I learned the best way to run away from an Alligator was in zig zags otherwise you were toast.

    February 24, 2014
  31. Look at you having a good attitude — although you are totally justified in hating a little on modernist architecture. I’m sorry, but the purpose of beds and couches is to be comfortable, not to have clean lines and evoke stark feelings.

    February 25, 2014

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