Paradise: worth any price

paradise oak island sand spurs

Two of my favorite places on earth are bedeviled by the same spiky scoundrel. It guards the territory it has claimed, crippling any who attempt to breach its borders. And that’s bad enough; but snagging its victims as they step into paradise? Well, that’s just uncalled for.

Paradise A

My parents’ home is in North Myrtle Beach (NMB), SC. It’s welcoming and homey, filled with rich memories and promises of good food, loving connection, and quick laughter from shared stories.

When the whole family gathers in NMB, the driveway fills up instantly; cars spill into the yard, along the side of the house, and just off the road out front. The lucky folks who arrive first go in through the garage or follow the walkway to the front door. The rest of us cut across the yard, only sometimes stopping to wipe our feet on the rubber mat left for that purpose. It’s later, barefooted and walking on the carpet that we realize what we’ve done.

Paradise B

To get to my other favorite place, you leave NMB and drive north on Highway 17 about 50 miles. If you’re favored with light traffic, it’ll take just a little over an hour. There, tucked behind the Oak Island lighthouse, is Fort Caswell: a magical hideaway on the NC coast unknown to the average tourist. Home to the Baptist summer camp of my youth, Fort Caswell is roughly 250 acres of pure bliss, offering wide open spaces and unblemished beaches.

At Caswell, sidewalks encircle the camp–mostly–but don’t bother to crisscross the fields from one side to the other. The unexperienced visitor will buckle on sandals and head out; those of us who have spent much time there know better. It’s strictly closed-toed shoes for us. Think we’re kidding? Go ahead and slip on those flimsy rubber flip-flops of the 1970s. Just notify your next of kin in advance.

The bad guy revealed

Who is this nasty villain, this enemy of tranquility? It is a destroyer of hayfields and coastal front yards, a devious parasite that hitches rides on pants’ legs, soccer balls, and pet fur. It’s the nemesis of bare feet everywhere. Its name? Cenchrus echinatus, or as most of us call it the #$%@& sand spur!

Oh they are awful! At Caswell, your best hope is that you will only have to pick the little stinkers off your socks. Most likely, you’ll find them in your bunk bed at the start of camp and in your luggage when you get back home. At my parents’ house, they cling to whoever dares tread in their general vicinity. They strike, patient little jerks, at the precise moment everyone forgets to watch out for them.

cenchrus echinatus
The Evil One.

Prickles in Paradise

Sand spurs have caused me angst for decades. They find a way inside my shoes at NMB and the ones at Caswell? Those things can draw blood! I CANNOT STAND THEM. Seriously! In fact, my brain catalogs sand spurs with fruit flies and mosquitoes.

Then why, when I vehemently detest sand spurs, do I enter their territory? Simple: paradise is worth the price. Compared to missing out on the unparalleled beauty of Caswell or the absolute contentment of being at my parents’ house? A few little prickles here and there ain’t nothing.

What about you? Where’s your happy place? And are their sand spurs (actual or otherwise) that you are willing to face to get there?

By Aileen MItchell Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 35 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.