It is one of the 50-plus sea islands from Charleston, South Carolina to Savannah, Georgia. And its name is as magical-sounding as the place itself: Edisto (a slight variation on Oristo, the Indians from whom it was purchased by the Earl of Shaftsbury in 1674).
It is a two-hour drive from Columbia, and the last section of the trip is particularly remarkable. You turn east onto Hwy 174 and follow it for another 21-miles to Edisto Beach. This luscious stretch is lined with tiny produce stands, antebellum plantations, vegetable farms, dirt roads dipping into dark piney woods, white-painted churches, mammoth live oaks laced with Spanish moss, and sweeping marshes whose beauty is almost aching.
The island has bravely resisted commercialization. The only well-known chain store is the Piggly Wiggly, and even it has a cozy, quirky, Edisto-like ambience. All the other businesses are local, with friendly owners and quality stuff. There is a quietness and simplicity to Edisto that tend to bring out the best in people. Even at “the Pig,” visitors from all over the state (and country) speak to one another or make momentary eye contact and flash a smile. I have been to this island over a half-dozen times now, and every occasion has been a complete joy. But this is the first time that I’ve visited since this understanding occurred. Nothing has changed, and yet everything is infused with added depth and beauty. All is witnessed with fathomless gratitude, which appears to come not from this body-mind, but from the source of me.
I am going not directly to the beach but to a rustic, four-story house near the gated community of Jeremy Cay. The invitation comes from a couple I’ve known for years (he’s an engineer at NASA, and she is a former English composition teacher at USC in Columbia). Two of their friends from California will also be there. My room, it turns out, is on the third level and bedecked with a trio of five-foot paneled windows with an immediate view of giant Palmetto trees and--a mere ten-feet away-- a quarter-mile of marsh, and then the ocean. I have my own bathroom and two incredibly comfortable double-beds.
My friends don’t have the least interest in nonduality. But they are kind and generous souls, who leave me in my solitude, knowing I’m perfectly okay with being alone and speaking little. Tonight, though, there is much laughter and witty conversations, as the women--sterling cooks both--prepare roasted vegetables, corn muffins, shrimp (for themselves--I don’t eat it), hummus, sliced Carolina tomatoes drizzled in olive oil and pepper, and slivered smoked mozzarella. We wash it all down with various forms of tea, piping and cold. I have hot Tetley Decaffinated Black tea, sweetened with--my latest rage--a heaping teaspoon of packed brown sugar. After the sumptuous dinner, I put my expertise to work: I wash the dishes.
Later, as I lay in bed, a full moon rises over the enormous marsh. I am alone in my Aloneness. Slowly, I turn onto my side and gaze steadily at the moon, as it goes from rose to white. It is now so brilliant that I can see ripples in the tidal creeks. But all occurrences--however pristine and magnificent-- are within presence. It is the Alpha and the Omega of all that exists. And you never move from That. Indeed, even this splendor of the moon over the marsh cannot begin to outshine your very own radiance.