I, and three of my best writing friends spent last week at our very own private writers’ retreat. We decided after the short one we had last September that we’d do it again, and for a week this time. No hotel for us. Instead, we rented a house for our week together.
We arrived on Kiawah Island early Sunday afternoon, after spending Saturday night in downtown Charleston. Having checked in with the rental agency, we received our island “pass”, a slip of paper that would grant us access to the island, and was to be displayed on the dash of our car; but the house wasn’t ready for us, so we decided to go for lunch—after we drove by the house, first.
Kiawah Island is a residential, gated community with private homes, a lot of golf courses, and, as we discovered while driving toward our rental house, alligators.
At least that’s what the sign said. We did wonder if we would have the opportunity to see one during the week. Personally, I thought it was doubtful. After all, we were planning on spending almost all of our time at the house, writing. We weren’t planning on any sight-seeing excursions at all.
We had no formal structure for our week; half vacation, half retreat, we’d do what we wanted, when we wanted. We’d brainstorm, we’d chat—yes, mostly about writing, or books we’d read—and we’d relax.
Ah, but there was that sign, “Danger, alligators”, and you just had to wonder.
One of our group was from Florida and so the possibility of an alligator sighting wasn’t a particularly exciting prospect for her. But with two of us from Canada, and our fourth from Indiana, just the chance of such an encounter reeked of the exotic.
We saw one our first morning there.
Alerted by one of my friends, I stood on the deck, camera at the ready. It took me a moment to see it, as it moved with stealth, barely creating a wake, through the water of the lagoon that abutted “our” property. It swam slowly by, and as we held ourselves very still, we doubted he—or she—saw us.
As it turns out, we were wrong.
After that first day, the alligator—dubbed “Dave”—was a regular visitor, and one day, he was followed by another, whom we called “Roy”.
Did I say visitor? Yes, I did. You see, Dave developed a unique habit. In the afternoon when the sun was shining down with ultimate warmth, Dave the alligator climbed out of the lagoon and stretched out on the lawn, just a few feet from out deck. Fortunately, the deck was about six feet off the ground, and the only way up to us, the stairs, featured a locked gate at the top.
The reactions of family and friends to the presence of our alligator have been fascinating, and not at all what I expected. Ranging from “are you crazy?” (our second daughter) to the sad shaking of a head (my oldest son), to the outraged “damned if I would pay that much only to have alligators on my lawn!” (my beloved’s co-workers) it surprised me that others didn’t appreciate the extraordinary circumstance we experienced.
Were any of the four of us worried or nervous?
Not in the slightest. We all thought it was kind of quaint. Our own personal mascot—or, if you like, since we are all writers of romance—knight in reptilian armor—dozing peacefully yet, we were certain, aware and on guard, protecting the princesses in the palace.