Back in the early 50s when I first became aware of sensations, diesel fuel was a predominant smell, and I grew to savor it. My grandfather owned a service station, and early in my life for a year or so our family lived there in a commercial building that doubled as a domicile. We called this abode “The Station.” Out front it was all concrete, though there was a grassless backyard with one lone sycamore tree standing on the edge of the property.
A Doberman pincher named Ace roamed the desert domain of the backyard, and he was about as friendly as Cerberus, the three-headed canine guardian of the Greek Underworld. So I spent my days inside safe from traffic and attack dog, a preschooler cut off from nature. There wasn’t that much nature to see at the Station anyway. The only wildlife I remember encountering were a black snake sunning on summer pavement and bats zigzagging overhead at dusk.
At night, eighteen wheelers rushed past in swooshes, sounding somewhat like waves breaking on a beach. In fact, the Station was sort of like a barren island standing in a sea of cement. We lived in isolation.
What a contrast to the town of Summerville itself, “Flowertown in the Pines,” a garden of earthly delights where the sweet ephemeral smell of tea olive wafted in front and back yards among the other flowering shrubs, azaleas and gardenias.
We had moved from the Station to Laurel Street across from the Playground with its swings, sliding boards, a foot-propelled merry-go-ground, and a bell-shaped contraption we called the “ocean wave.” Unfortunately, I contracted rheumatic fever at Laurel Street and spent three months confined to bed after a weeklong stay in Dorchester County Hospital. Like Ace the Doberman and highway traffic, disease also kept me inside before I started kindergarten.
Did these early experiences of mandatory house arrest contribute to my becoming “an indoorsman?”
Dunno. Maybe? Whatever the case, a prefer the not-so-great indoors. I’d much rather hunker down in a dark basement bar in Asheville than hike the Appalachian Trail.
Now, however, I live on the Folly River, and the windows that line the outer walls of our house look out over the marsh to uninhabited Long and Morris Islands. Now I can’t avoid nature; it’s been thrust upon me, even in our air-conditioned living room. Sitting on the sofa or out on the screened porch or deck, I have witnessed owls, wood storks, ospreys, painted buntings, egrets, bats, deer, bald eagles, river otters, and minks, not to mention the frogs that inhabit our water garden and fill the night with constant croaking. Also, I’ve seen my share of Wild Kingdom carnage, hawks swooping down to snatch birds, ospreys lumbering over the house with fish in their talons.
I still spend an inordinate time cooped up in my study, which I have dubbed “the drafty garret.” Cut off from the outside word, I spend way too much time staring into an iMac screen reading depressing news stories and fiddling around with words.
However, I still savor the evocative odor of diesel and the memory-producing aroma of tea olive and the flora and fauna of the backside of the Edge of America. In other words, I enjoy being, whether indoors or out, thanks in great part to my wife Caroline and her daughter Brooks. Oh yeah, and KitKat, whom I’ve grown very fond of, a chihuahua terrier mix that wouldn’t have been my first pick of dog crossifications. Unlike Ace, her bark is worse than her bite.
Anyway, It’s summertime, and at least for now, as the song says, “the living is easy.”
 I was, on the other hand, an avid surfer until my mid-60s when old age made me feel as if I’d been in a minor auto accident after each surf session.
Here’s a snippet of the great Danielle Howle from the May 31 iteration of the Singer Songwriter Soapbox at Chico Feo. She currently has a kickstarter campaign to secure funds to record her 16th studio album. You can contribute here.