Ocracoke is a beautiful island, and our life here for the last week has been like a dream.
This is my view, sitting on the deck, where today writing follows lectio divina. On at least one evening, I finished the day in this spot, as the last evidence of the dying sun melted into the horizon.
Last night, I looked back at this deck from the sound-side beach, where the girls were flying bright kites with long, dancing tails as the sky shifted from aqua blue and gold to strokes of amber. It looks like a painting, I thought, realizing even as the thought flitted through my mind that no painting could ever capture such beauty.
It’s wonderful that for this week, the first thing I’ve wondered each morning is what sort of personality the water will show as I tug open the blinds and greet the day.
Speaking of greetings—there’s a significant duck population on Ocracoke. Beautiful birds—The males are iridescent green about the eyes, and the females wear deep purple stripes on each flank. They snooze in the sunshine on grassy lawns like pets, and when it rains, they turn the mud puddles into something beautiful.
Every day, we ride our bikes all over this island, and we’ve taken to greeting the ducks as we pass. Even Adam lifts a hand in their general direction and announces, “Ducks,” as we glide by. As you might expect of any coastal village, Ocracoke moves at an unhurried, simple pace, and at least at this time of year, the community seems to pause at sunset to stand in the sand and appreciate the view.
I don’t even think I can count the number of times I’ve smiled at some sight this week—the gentle movement of the boats in the marina, the line made by my husband and children riding bikes in front of me, the girls choreographing a performance (“The Jumping Sisters“…my favorite part is when they clasp hands and declare, “We are the sisters of peace!”), Adam falling into the sand as though he would melt into the shore, Kevin sitting beside me with a cup of coffee in his hand, the waves and the dunes, the sky—oh, the sky—and whispered, Thank you, Father. You lead me beside still waters….You restore my soul.
This vacation came when we most needed to get away and shed the demands and limitations of routine. I love being able to forget that supper is supposed to be at a certain time or that it isn’t practical to stay out experiencing and enjoying things till the last of the light has gone.
We’ve made so many memories here, pouring ourselves out in equal measures of pure rest (I’ve had a few naps in the middle of the day), delightful adventure, and just loving each other.
On Monday, we stood staring out over a pasture of “wild” Ocracoke ponies, wondering why these beautiful creatures now look so tame behind stretches of plank fence, standing together at a feeding trough munching hay, the shadow of a barn high and wide beyond them.
We read a paragraph pinned to a bulletin board titled Are they still wild? Supposedly, it’s that they don’t wear shoes, and no one owns them, and they’re not used for work.
So, see, it’s fair to say my spirit is absolutely wild too.:) As we left, Kevin had us all laughing as he put his hands on our shoulders and pretended concern. “Are you okay? That was pretty crazy…Those horses were out of control.”
Wednesday, we took the ferry to Cape Hatteras.
Before we stood inside the lighthouse staring up at the spiraling stairs, we stood on asphalt at a tiny airstrip.
A surprise for the kids awaited—their first airplane ride, at 800 ft, touring the cape from the air.
As is usually the case, they reacted a bit differently than we had expected. Immediately shy about the flight, Zoe kept asking to see someone else fly first, and Adam simply took one look at the plane and said aloud, “No, thank you.”
I chuckled as Adam settled into a tiny seat in the back of the plane. He’d had to duck and climb through a tiny little door to get back there, but he had windows above and beside him on both sides. He pressed his ear phones to his ears, resigned that despite his polite refusal, the ride was happening. The girls snuggled against me on the middle seat, and Kevin sat in the front , beside the pilot, with a few different cameras. I loved knowing that he’d get to take photographs from the air.
The difference in perspective was the first thing that impressed me, as we lifted into the sky and over the water. I saw schools of porpoises and forests of underwater plant life clearly from where I sat, as well as a thousand shades of green and blue blending together as the almost transparent water spread out from the land. The islands looked like strips of shale below us, but we flew close enough to see both light houses—Ocracoke’s quaintly elegant white light and the historic Cape Hatteras beacon—and even to pick out our own house and all of our favorite spots in the village. I loved every minute of the ride, but when I looked over at Zoe, it was clear that all the bouncing was making her a little green. She tends toward motion sickness, and she left the plane sure that she did not want to ride in another one like it and asking me if commercial airlines were also “noisy and bumpy.” When Adam climbed out of his little seat, I asked him what he thought. His response, as he moved quickly away from the plane, was, “Thank you!” Although the pilot took this as gratitude about the experience, Kevin and I weren’t sure if he was saying, “Thank you, that was fun,” or “Thank you for landing the plane!”
From the air strip, we drove to the lighthouse.
There’s a picture of the Hatteras light on the wall next to our dining room table, and I think Zoe in particular was initially enthralled with the idea that she could see that specific place in person. It is a beautiful structure, but not as pretty to me as the Ocracoke light,
which having not been named a “national historic treasure” has no museum and gift shop attached, and no park official standing inside telling everyone how much oil it took the keeper to make sure the light burned daily.
Don’t get me wrong–I find the information very interesting, but it all just makes the structure comparatively less elegant and quietly stunning. After about five minutes listening to the park official just inside the Hatteras lighthouse, Adam started looking for music in surfaces and testing the echo in the room with his voice. When I lifted a finger to my lips, he softly muttered, “No quiet on Wednesday,” and I took him by the hand and led him outside. One of our mottoes this trip has been, “It’s everyone’s vacation,” and I wasn’t about to make him stand there and quietly listen to a bunch of words he didn’t understand. When we walked back out into the sun, he smiled at me and pointed toward the path, “Right there, please.” He had seen the light and was ready to head back to our little village.
There are so many things I am thankful for when I look back over this week, but here are just a few more:
- Walks through the nature preserve that ended on the shore, in the place believed to have once been Blackbeard’s favorite hang out. The people who own the property next door have made fences out of pointy driftwood, decorated with shells. It’s a beautiful place, if slightly foreboding.
- The friendly people we’ve met along the way, including the kind older lady walking her dog at sunset. She and Riley struck up a conversation beginning with Riley’s mention of her dog. “Oh, do you like dogs?” She asked. “Yes, I do,” Riley said brightly, touching the dog lightly on the head. “Do you have a dog?” The lady asked, smiling. “No, we don’t have a dog …because dogs get hair all over the floor and they don’t smell very good and they’re messy.” She said it so innocently, as Riley does, that the frail little lady smiled, responding wisely, “Yes, that’s true. That’s why you should only have a dog if you love them very much.”
- Walking barefoot on the beach and the smile on Adam’s face every time he bent down and pressed his fingers into the wet sand.
- Watching my children roll their jeans up as high as possible so that they could wade through a tide pool, icy water or not.
- Seeing Kevin in his element, snapping beautiful photographs everywhere we went. Once, a couple stopped him and asked him to take their picture with the sunset in the background. I loved their expression when he handed the camera back to them and they saw the shot.
- Standing at the lighthouse at dusk, seeing it’s pure white light glowing against a rosy sky.
- Hugs and shared jokes…and all the time in the world to enjoy them.
So, as we come to the end of the week, one thing is certain: I’ve fallen in love with another island…one I remembered already in blinks from very early childhood. But instead of dreading our departure, I just feel full of gratitude for the blessing of so many moments well spent.