July 21, 2009

revisiting kiawah

Quite often, when one thinks of vacation, one’s mind is immediately drawn to places outside of the United States. This year, my family found our-selves not on vacation, but residing at our home away from home, Kiawah Island, South Carolina. My grandparents on my mother’s side have a home on Kiawah Island. Strange as it is, my husband’s grandmother on his mother’s side also owns a home there. We both feel a bond to that Island. As kids, my husband and I remember the Kiawah that used to be. We remember the quiet beaches, the local roadside vegetable markets, and the wonderful preservation of the surrounding ecosystem. It was a place where people could embrace nature in a pure form without giving up the comforts of home. It was a modern day lifestyle that embraced the efforts of the Kiawah Indians. We brought our daughter to Kiawah this year, and as I watched her play in the surf, I felt a strange melancholy come over me; my daughter would never know the pure Kiawah that I knew. The quiet beaches and no-fuss island life that I knew is slowly disappearing, and in its place stands a ritzier, more glamorous, and much more populated Kiawah. It begged the question: what kind of Kiawah would we leave her?

Even as the island has gained recognition, it remains one of the most carefully preserved barrier islands that exist today; hopefully this will not change. The Kiawah Island of old was owned by the Kiawah Indians, populated with wild horses racing through the waves. In the 1980’s nature tours had to be given in a safari-like automobile while tourists were given a layout of the land in the midst of bobcats, wild horses, herons and alligators. The natural habitat is authentic on Kiawah specifically because of the many laws that protect the wild life on the island. For example, there are no street lights on Kiawah; the community does not want to disrupt the natural cycle for the animals. Not only do the animals have the communities’ respect, but the actual land itself has immense respect from the people of Kiawah. The fact that no building is permitted on the dunes certainly prevents any additional erosion. I hope that my daughter gets to experience the ecosystem of Kiawah. I hope that things do not become too commercialized. Seeing my little one splash in the water made me realize just how simple it is to enjoy nature and how humans are naturally drawn toward natural wonders: waterfalls, beaches, mountains, caverns, lakes and valleys. We all travel to see and experience these things. There seems to be something within nature itself that is innately human. Hopefully we won’t lose that piece of ourselves within nature as these areas that we love so dearly become more and more populated. There is an Indian saying that I really connect with regarding these issues: ‘Mitakuye oyasin!’ Literally translated, it means: ‘we are all related.’ Hopefully we remember these words and treat the land as if we are all related, the ocean, the moon, the stars, the animals, the people; we are all related.