Salvation Island

by Sam Hurley

Edisto is the last of its kind. Nowhere else on earth can you enjoy a Monday morning just as much as a Saturday night.  It’s a place of both moderation and excess, elegantly comingling in harmony.  It’s a sleepy little beach town nestled ever so perfectly at the edge of the earth.  Edisto is a lot of different things to a lot of people from all around the world.   For me, it is a place of zen.  It’s off by itself lying in the marsh grass patiently waiting to be discovered by the next soul that needs it just as much as mine. Here in the canopy of this jungle island, something different exists unlike anywhere else in the world.  If you ask me, there is no place like Edisto. By now you must be asking, "How can it be so? How did I find myself here?”  Just remember the answer to that question, more often than not, will be one you end up telling your friends and strangers for years to come.  This is one of the last island paradises that doesn’t require a passport or a trip through airport security.  So while you’re here, don’t waste one second! Go ahead and let your inhibitions go to the winds, mix a drink, kick off your shoes, wipe those sunglasses, and get your beach hat ready.    No matter where we are in this fast paced world, we’re all on an island or at least dreaming of one.  It is here on this island that I choose to make the absolute very best of my days.  I’ve learned to be content with a hard days work, good health, and great friends by my side.  When I’m here to see the sun set over Edisto, I add it to the only tally that I keep up with these days. How many more of these beautiful evenings may I see in my lifetime?  I want to pass this place on and share it with everyone.  This is the very essence of Edisto.

After a happy childhood and fantastic friendships, I learned later in my adolescence of the ugliness that can and will show its nasty head from time to time in our world.  My roommate along with two other classmates had died in a tragic car accident during my sophomore year of college.  This came a few short years after someone very close to me took their own life. It completely rocked the very core of my being.  I was holding up well on the outside, but life was only getting harder and faster.  I needed a moment to gather myself; I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next.  So I took a drive. I found Edisto Island my junior year of college.  It was summer furlough, and I was working as a law clerk for a litigation firm in the fine city of Charleston.  It wasn’t by chance that I was going to Edisto this particular weekend. It was fate.  It’s important to know that before I stepped foot on the beach, I was very much approaching a breaking point. 

The drive down to the island was my first experience with time travel but certainly not my last.   The further I got outside of Charleston, the more the mystique sank in.  I had never seen so many grand oaks towering over the shaded Lowcountry road. The Spanish moss and afternoon sunshine danced with each other through my windshield, and I couldn’t believe it.  With every farm I passed and every bridge I crossed, I could feel peace coming over me unlike anything I had experienced.  I was on my way to somewhere timeless, a fountain of youth for those lucky enough to seek it.  When I opened my car door at the 26th beach access and took that first step onto the beach, it hit me.   There is still a place that hasn’t been overdeveloped, polluted by corporate greed, and ruined by ignorance and lack of foresight.  Edisto has been cherished and protected by both God and man.   So I stripped off my worldly garb, tossed on my swimsuit, and went out for a swim.   No water parks, Ferris wheels, or cheap motels could be seen in my peripheral, which was a blissful remedy to the everyday grind that was beginning to plague me in my other life.   The salt and sand removed the tar and feathers. For once I felt free to live life the way it should be, without fear and sadness.   At this very moment out in the waves, only the wonderful view of beautiful nothingness shared by salt kissed beach houses and rip rap jetties were tangible. Everything else was alien.  

In the time between my first visit and now, I always longed for Edisto. Afternoon boat rides and southern dinner parties beneath the palms were a part of me.    When the love of my life Leslie and I began dating, I had to bring her to the Island.  As fate just so had it, she shared my awe and love for this beautiful place.  Soon we made weekend trips down from Charleston religiously. Going to Folly became more than a pesky chore. It became a sad metaphor that once the cat is out of the bag you can’t put it back in.  I no longer enjoyed fighting two hour traffic jams and hordes of people just for a spot down by the beach. Hell, I no longer enjoyed fighting period.  After a trip down together, Leslie and I decided Edisto was our kind of place!  Even a week together in St. Croix couldn’t change our minds.  In our daily excursions long before we moved down, we made friends with the locals.  I believe that is what propelled us both down here in the first place.  Edistonians are some of the finest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.  I’ve learned some have been here for generations, others came from the corners of the earth, but all have made their home here for a similar reason.  It’s Spartan and hip all at the same time.    There were many nights Leslie and I didn’t want to return to the mainland. Charleston became farther and farther away.  We didn’t find ourselves getting too upset by that.  Here is where we wanted to be. 

Fast forward. It’s been almost a year since we moved to Edisto, only bringing with us what truly mattered.  Everything else was left behind, including well-paying jobs with room for advancement. The hell with it I said, enough is enough.  I found a great job here where I work with some of the nicest and most unique people.  Every day is different, but at the very least it is spent on Edisto.  Leslie and I have had a blast getting to know everyone personally.   We are also relieved that gunshots aren’t fired in earshot, unless they are warranted and aimed towards dinner.  Here oyster roasts are as much a part of fall and winter as the lack of tourists crowding the grocery store or gas pumps.  We are hooked.  Edisto is where our grandkids will spend their time at the beach. We hope to leave this legacy for not only them but for everyone else that loves it as much as we do.   I only hope that Edisto continues to live on through time, forever holding steadfast to the magic that has allowed it to remain virtually the same to everyone that comes back to it.  It can’t change. It won’t change. This Is Edisto.

I leave you with a few lyrics from Van Morrison.   I feel these few lines embody the very essence of what Edisto represents.   While I’ve I heard this song many times before, I was coming across the bridge onto the island one evening as the sun was setting. It hit me.  Every time I hear it, I believe he’s singing about Edisto.                      

"Hark, now hear the sailors cry.

Smell the sea and feel the sky,

let your soul and spirit fly - into the mystic.”

-Van the Man