Carolina in the Morning

“Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning.” Gus Kahn, Lyricist, 1922

Sitting in a rocking chair painted Charleston Green, making it appear almost black, I am at peace. I am on my front porch, realizing why this architectual feature is so fundamental here in the South. It makes me wonder if Gus Khan had been sitting in a similar setting when he wrote those lyrics nearly a centuary ago.

It is a glorious morning. It is just past eight o’clock and the thermometer reads a comfortable eighty-two degrees. We may reach another scorching upper nineties before the day is through but at the moment, comfort is king. I am facing west, so the sun is still relatively low in the eastern sky behind me. It is casting a shadow of my house across the front law, thus I am seated in the shade. A slight breeze whispers past from right to left and disappears around the corner of my home. I breathe in the gentle wind’s plesantries.

The sky is rich in its shades of azure. Sometimes the Carolina sky is so blue you can almost taste it. This is one of those times. The color is punctuated by a shelf of scattered white clouds drifting by lazily. I see a large hawk circling slowly high above, no doubt searching for its breakfast.

The sounds of this morning are orchestral. I can hear the rapid, rhythmic tick-tick noise katydids make by rubbing hind legs on their wings. It is a soothing sound, in a strange sort of way. Hundreds, if not thousands, of them are hidden in the trees surrounding our neighborhood. It is as if they are being led by a conductor for their performance seems unified. In reality, however, entomologists believe they are in competition. The males are after the ladies. They make the sound hoping to attract the females of the katydid world, each trying to out tick the others to be the first in the cadence, if only by milliseconds.

Beneath the rhythm of the katydids I can hear the slower, bass-like beat of tree frogs who are also in a romantic mood. The volume of these tiny green creatures is amazing, vastly louder than their diminutive appearance would indicate. Providing a melodic counterpoint to this musical bottom are the songs of a multitude of birds calling to each other. Chickadees, cardinals, Carolina wrens and more are all singing different tunes. A mocking bird sits high on the rooftop of a neighbor’s house doing his best to imitate his feathered brethren. He is, yes, mocking them.

In front of me, the resident lizard of our front porch makes his morning appearance. He is about five inches long and spectacularly green at this hour. He can turn brown, though, chameleon-like. But this particular little guy is called an anole, a species of lizard native to the southeast. I know he is a ‘he’ because his dewlap, or throat fan, is bright red. Female dewlaps tend to be more pinkish in color. The dewlap, under his chin, bulges out when he is courting lady anoles, feels threatened or when he challenges other males of his species. He, like those others, is very territorial. As such, he suddenly stops in mid-scurry, casting an eye in my direction. Apparently deciding I am no threat, he just as abruptly scampers away, disappearing under the porch steps. I like him.

In the yard, just beyond the porch, I see a bumble bee busily negotiating the blossoms of various flowers. He is frantic in his pace, as if he had a quota of nectar to collect, a deadline to meet, is afraid he will miss it and will be fired from his job by the Queen Bee. I watch as he zips from one flower to another and then zooms off, presumably to carry his collection back to the hive. I wish him good luck and I hope he makes it on time.

In the distance, I hear a mechanical sound growing gradually louder. It is the droning buzz of a small airplane. It appears in my line of vision, sedately moving right to left, along with the breeze. My guess is the single-engine craft is preparing to land at the little, local airport nearby. As it passes, the tone of the engine changes pitch, the Doppler effect kicking in. The sound is oddly satisfying.

The neighborhood is beginning to wake, now. Several of my neighbors have emerged for their daily exercise. Here comes a couple riding their bicycles at a leisurely pace. She is about fifteen yards in front of him. They are not speaking to each other. Maybe their morning got off to a rough start. Another neighbor speeds by on his ten-speed, pedaling hard and fast, his shirt damp with perspiration. I raise my coffee cup in a toast to his dedication, perfectly satisfied that I can sit here and observe his perseverance.

A few joggers pound past my house, lost in their world of flowing endorphins. Most of them keep their eyes straight ahead, as if searching for an imaginary finish line. It is a solitary existence, I wager. One woman, dressed in stylish jogging gear, makes a turn and passes directly in front of my house. She, apparently, is lost in a world of music, for she is wearing a pair of Apple ear-pods and her pace is steady and even, as if she is keeping time to some tune. As she passes, the women suddenly notices me out of the corner of her eye. She quickly turns her head and, without missing a beat, she gives me a little wave, a cheery “Good morning!” and continues on her way.

I lean back and raise the cup of coffee to my lips. I decide Gus Khan was right. Little, if anything, could be finer. I am at peace.

Published by J. Paul Hickey

Author, Bass Player, Retired National Correspondent for ABC News - 32 years with the network - Retired in 2012. Narrates Audiobooks. Volunteer at Fort Sumter National Park. Holder of two university Honorary Doctorate Degrees, Distinguished Eagle Scout, former SCUBA diver.

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