Crystal Coast of NC

My husband says a beach is a beach and that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. I say, “No way, Jose.” While there are some common features, each shoreline is just a little different from all others. Because of his attitude, my other half missed out on some beautiful sights last weekend.

We went to the Morehead City/Beaufort, NC area with some family members to celebrate my brother’s birthday and my husband’s retirement. It’s a lovely area, and although our primary purpose was to share a six-hour cruise excursion, we oohed and aahed like the tourists we were as we walked the downtown streets gawking at the pretty sights of Beaufort. We parked the car in the parking lot of FBC, and the “girls” and I chatted about how cool it would be to live in one of the charming homes and saunter over to church on Sunday morning. Afterwards, we might stroll down to the coastline and watch the harbor action. Everything was so clean, neat, and well-preserved.

We climbed aboard a catamaran that accommodated 42 people and began our sail out into the ocean. That was a stupendous adventure and one I’d recommend to everyone (more on this later).  After about an hour and a half, we reached Lookout Island, and our captain gave us some tips about shelling and instructed us on when to be back. The first moment that I set foot on the island, I was agog at the sight and “feel” of the place. All I could see was  beach, beach, and more beach…a wide expanse of sand and shells.  I looked down, and there were hundreds, no thousands, of shells of all types and sizes. The captain had provided shell bags for us, and I started collecting them right away. In fact, I became so involved with examining and bagging them that the rest of my party left me to go snorkeling. 

I probably walked a mile or more around the island gathering shells, watching people frolic in the ocean, chatting with fellow travelers, and listening to my sisters-in-law laugh as they enjoyed their snorkeling experience. There was also a bird sanctuary on the island that I didn’t enter; however, I did stand there for a while taking in the isolated beauty of the area. In the background, there was always the constant, repetitive sound of the ocean lapping on the sand. Calming, very calming.

Our next destination was Cape Lookout, part of the National Park Service. It too was breathtakingly beautiful. We bought a few souvenirs in the gift shop and then walked down pathway to the museum. Loved it. This is where my husband and I parted company. This is where he said, “If you’ve seen one beach, you’ve seen them all.” He sat in a rocking chair on the porch of the museum while I climbed the steps to lighthouse. Once at the top of the steps, I could see the ocean, and there was no way I could leave without seeing it up close and personal. I clamored down the steps and made my way down the path and over the small incline to get a look at the Atlantic Ocean.

On this particular afternoon, the sea was calm, and the beach was flat. The water was amazingly blue, and if we’d had more time, I’d have “sat a spell.” Lisa and I walked in the water up to our knees and headed back to civilization…or to the boat, that is. This morning I’m wondering what’s more civilized, a natural habitat along the side of a continent or a city teeming with people, restaurants, cars, hotels, hospitals, museums, and shops. Both have their pluses, of course. I couldn’t go for too long without the busy, buzzy world I usually inhabit. At the same time, it’s reassuring to know that there are sanctuaries where one can find serenity and calmness.

Visiting these Morehead City and Beaufort was awesome. Walking their beaches was a highlight of my summer, and I hope to repeat the experience in the not-too-far-distant future. One of the men I met on the sailboat was from Ohio, and he said he and his family have been coming every year for ten years. So do some friends of theirs, also from Ohio. It’s amazing to think of people coming from so far away to visit the Crystal Coast when there are people in SC, NC, and VA who have never experienced its beauty. You might consider it for your next getaway. It’s a “shore thing” that you’ll enjoy it.

Lessons from the Pride Lands

I loved loved loved seeing The Lion King in New York last week. I don’t have a vocabulary adequate to describe the music. It was that powerful. I especially enjoyed “The Circle of Life” and the number in which Rafiki is mourning the death of Mufasa. The dancing was extraordinary, and the animals…well, they were all awesome, both in how they looked and in how they performed. I almost cried with pure pleasure and awe when they first walked up on stage, especially the elephant.  Mufasa and Scar both had such deep kingly voices, and Mufasa’s roar was mighty…as was Simba’s at the end.

I could go on and on about the performance itself, but instead I’m going to share a few lessons I was reminded of during the two hour and 45 minute production (didn’t seem that long!).   

  • There’s a lot more to see than will ever be seen and a lot more to do than will ever be done. I had forgotten that these words came from “The Circle of Life.”  The statement is so true!
  • Our ancestors live in us. I love the scene in which young Simba sees his reflection in the water and thinks that it’s Mufasa. But no, it’s his own kingly image staring back at him, and someone (Rafiki I think) tells Simba that his father lives in him. I first saw The Lion King (movie) shortly after the death of my father, and the concept of our parents living in us aided in the grief process (still does). My parents live in me, my siblings, our children, and our grandchildren.
  • Like Simba, we can do two things when it comes to our past:  run from it or learn from it. Actually, there’s another thing we can do, something I see every single day of my life…stay stuck in it. Rafiki reminds Simba to to learn from it and move on.
  • There’s a lot more to being king that lording it over everyone. Leadership involves influence, the ability to see the big picture, the recognition of the interdependence of all life, and lots of other positive attributes, none of which Scar had.
  • Good conquers evil in the end. It might not be in this lifetime, but ultimately it happens.
  • Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. I’ve been humming “Hakuna Matata” a lot lately. No worries, right?
  • We’re all in this together. The people, the animals, the water, the vegetation, and the celestial bodies all have a part to play. In fact, I learned last week that some of the elements in the stars reside in us and that they’re vital to life on earth.

I think I might rent The Lion King from Netflix today, and maybe you should do it too. So much truth, so much beauty.

Our Country

You have to love this picture. I snapped it at Ellis Island last year and have it tacked on the bulletin board in my office as a reminder that we all came from somewhere else. This great country is relatively new compared to many (say France or England), and we have variety unparalleled in the rest of the world.  When I first saw this picture, I searched all of the faces hoping to find ME. Who are my people? What is my heritage?

My recent trip to New York City reminded me once again of just what a WASP I am. That’s fine when I’m living in my little neck of the woods in South Carolina, but when I venture out just a bit, I see that I could easily become a minority. Truly, I heard more people speaking French, Spanish, Chinese, and German than English while in New York, and yet I hear people all around me frequently saying that they wish “foreigners” would go back where they belong (where that might be I’m not sure).

Don’t these intolerant folks realize that their ancestors came from elsewhere else and that they were once foreigners?? What about you? Did your ancestors come over on the Mayflower? And hey, even if they did, they weren’t the first ones in North America. Weren’t there some Indians (er, Native Americans) already here? Aren’t you glad they didn’t send your “people” back across the big water? I am.

And I’m also glad that so many other nationalities have joined to make this great land even greater…and it’s not just because of tacos and spaghetti either. It’s  because of everything related to culture, including art, music, traditions, skills, religions, languages, and so forth.  When at Ellis Island last May, I saw a short play featuring the experience of Bela Legosi upon his arrival in America. Then there are  Arnold Schwarzneggaer, Levi Strauss, Peter Jennings, Deepak Chopra, and Mariah Carey…all immigrants who enriched our society.

My husband must have commented a dozen times or more about how many different shapes, sizes, noses, skin color, and languages we encountered. It was mind boggling to see and hear the tremendous diversity and to realize once again that this is OUR land, not just YOURS and MINE.

As I walked away from the above picture and looked back, this is what I saw, the flip side of the same image(s). And just so you know, the little boy walking in front of the faces appeared to be from India. He belongs here just as much as you and I do.

Seaforms and Carolina Wrens

I think it was Sarah Ban Breathnach who said that some days are filled with simple pleasures and that others are redeemed by them. This post is about the former situation. Saturday was a day chocked full of simple pleasures, the kind that make your heart sing and rejoice in the beauties of the earth, in people’s various gifts and creations, and in the importance of friendship..and really of all connections, both human and nonhuman.

Connie and I headed out in the late morning to see the Seaforms exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art. In a word, awesome. I truly do not have a vocabulary sufficient to describe these magnificent, colorful assorted glass shells, jellyfish, and other treasures of the sea. How, we wondered, could a mortal man create such spectacular beauty in a studio? We walked around like “country come to town” admiring each and every piece, exclaiming anew every few moments, “Look! Can you believe this? Isn’t it gorgeous? Check out the color, will you?” Incidentally, admission is free on Saturday. Before I forget, we visited the museum gift shop and purchased glass Hershey’s kisses to commemorate the viewing the glass seaforms.

Outside in the brilliant sunshine again, we sauntered down Main Street for a block or two and partook of the lively energy of a Latino festival. The food smelled SO GOOD, and we were sorely tempted to stop and enjoy a taco or two. Since we’d already planned to eat at DiPrato’s at the edge of the university campus, however, we resisted the allure of the delicious aroma and headed for the car. Along the way, Connie spied a tiny bird on its back, apparently fighting for its precious life. She gently turned it over, and the little creature struggled to move. “Maybe he’s resting,” she said. We had the same scary thought that some big-footed human might come along and squash the pretty little green backed hummingbird and were trying to figure out how to move him without harm when rescue arrived. An African American man who had been enjoying the festival came upon us, appraised the situation, and tenderly moved our feathered friend off to the side beneath some shrubbery. “At least now he’ll die in peace,” he said. 

We jumped in the Highlander again and headed for lunch, swerving around the curves and hills near and through the university. Once inside, we feasted on salad, sandwiches, and the best pita chips and pimento cheese in the world…yes, they’re that good. The food was excellent, and our fellow diners and our “girl talk” added to the ambience of the experience. 

Lunch over, we spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for a few specific items including just the right gift for Connie’s friend Paula, the book club book that I have yet to read, and some cupcake dessert plates at TJ Maxx (love that store!). We also strolled through Pier 1, and both of us thought of our iFriend Hayden and the little goodies we had fun selecting for her last week.  Where else but in the good old US of A can one freely explore such a bounteous display of merchandise? I wouldn’t call us materialistic; I would say, however, that we enjoy looking and touching things of beauty.

Our excursion over, I dropped Connie off at her home and reflected on our day. Ain’t life grand??? There are so many good things out there to see and experience, but so often we’re too busy, busy, busy with the details of our lives that we don’t stop long enough to see them, much less savor them.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven through Columbia, SC, but until Saturday I had never, no never, noticed the little Carolina wrens hopping around the sidewalks.

Sea Shells by the Seashore

When summer comes, I find myself getting beach fever and can hardly muster the energy and will to go to work. For 28 years, even though I was working about 15 miles from the strand itself, I could “sense” the nearness of the ocean’s roar and the sandy beach with the sea birds standing as sentinels as they looked “as one” at some sight unseen by my human eyes. Now, 130 miles away, it’s not so easy. Sure, the warm wave pools are still there, as are the squealing children, the shell seekers, and the incoming waves. It’s just not the same, though. I need a vacation, a weekend trip to the seashore.

 

What is the hold that a beach has on me? Whatever it is, I think it casts the same spell on millions of others as well. Last week, I came across a little book entitled Gift from the Sea that I read many years ago when I was a younger mother. There were many passages that spoke to my life and situation at the time, and when I skimmed the book yesterday, I was amazed to see all of the things I had underlined. The passages took me down memory lane as I recalled the sometimes overwhelming responsibilities and “occupations” that I had, most of them centered around the home and family. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, author of this timeless volume, remarks that that saints were rarely married women because of the distractions inherent in raising children and running a house. “Human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life.”

 

Although it was written many decades ago, the challenges and issues faced by Lindbergh are the same ones faced by women in today’s crazy, bustling world. In fact, although women in Siberia, Cameroon, or Ceylon might not have her specific set of circumstances, they can still identify with Lindbergh’s ponderings about a woman’s life, her obligations, her relationships, and her needs. She lived in an upscale suburb of Connecticut and was the mother of five children, and yet there’s something in her writing that can touch the souls of women everywhere whether in a grass hut, McMansion, or mountain shack.

 

The chapters in Gift from the Sea center on Lindbergh’s musings during a two-week vacation at the shore. Leaving husband, children, and house behind, she lives in a bare beach cabin without heat, telephone, plumbing, hot water, rugs, or curtains. Loving her simple beach life, Lindbergh takes a shell at a time and describes it in relation to other things in a woman’s life. For instance, the moon shell reminds her that quiet time, solitude, contemplation, and “something of one’s own” is needed. The double-sunrise represents the pure relationship found in early stages of friendship and marriage, and she reminds the reader that there is no permanent return to an old form of relationship since all are in the process of change. The oyster bed symbolizes the middle years of marriage and family, especially as the home itself grows and expands to accommodate the growing family.

 

Now in midlife, I can better understand her affinity for all the shells as reminders that each cycle of the wave, the tide, and the relationship is valid. When Lindbergh leaves her seaside home away from home, she sweeps several shells into her pocket to remind her that the sea recedes and returns eternally. The shells serve as her “island eyes” and remind her of lessons learned about solitude, closeness to nature, life of the spirit, and the cycles of human relationships. I probably have a hundred or more shells at home, most of which are on my back porch. Thanks to re-reading this book, now I can better understand their significance and symbolism.

 

As a P.S., my DH and I are going to Myrtle Beach for a few days during the week of the Fourth. I think he’s planning to play golf, read, and eat shrimp and oystsers. I’m planning to read, walk, relax, and people watch ON THE BEACH. And yes, I have plenty of sunscreen, Doc.

Minnie Pearl and Friends

Spring Break 2008 has been great so far. Although our plans to travel to the Big Apple were nipped in the bud (cash flow problem), we decided to get in the trusty Toyota and head up the road to Nashville. Neither of us had ever been, but we researched it before leaving town Monday morning and felt pretty comfortable about our visit.

It was dark when we arrived, and since we were tired after seven hours in the car, we decided to grab a bite to eat and check into the hotel. The next morning we were up early, ready to go and do the tourist thing. First on the agenda was securing tickets for the Grand Ole Opry. After all, how can a person go to Nashville without visiting that legendary site?

Tickets secured, we signed up for a Grayline tour of the city, and thanks to our driver, it was both fun and informative. Among other things, we learned that Minnie Pearl earned two college degrees, Alan Jackson used to deliver mail to Opry performers, Porter Wagoner was a chronic insomniac who often slept only two hours per night, and printing and publishing is the #1 business in Nashville. We did other typical day-tripper things like shopping and eating out (even at 11:00 at night…a big deal for us small town residents). We did a little shopping. DH found a Bass Pro Shop, and I found a marvelous mall. Someone recommended that we tour the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, and thinking that’d we be in and out in fifteen minutes, we decided to sandwich it in. We emerged 55 minutes later, agog at the foliage, waterfalls, restaurants, atriums, conservatory, and ballrooms that we’d seen.

Because it was a Tuesday night, the Opry singers and musicians weren’t big names like Loretta Lynn or Lorrie Morgan; they had been there the previous weekend. In fact, there were no female performers at all on Tuesday, but the men who were there were all talented and well worth the admission price. My personal favorites were Little Jimmy Dickens (quite amusing) and Chuck Wicks (eye candy as my friend Dorothy would have said). Until this week, I didn’t know that the Grand Ole Opry was actually a radio show that’s broadcast three nights a week from Nashville on an AM radio station known as WSM (650 on the dial, I think). Since it’s actually a radio show, the performances from the Opry house are interspersed with commercials from sponsors such as the Cracker Barrel and Humana.

The most important thing I brought home from the trip was the sure knowledge that these singers, song writers, musicians, and other performers are using their God-given gifts and that they work hard, very hard, to hone their craft(s) and entertain their fans. Before our visit to Nashville, I never thought that much about Vince Gill, Roy Acuff, or Tammy Wynette. Thanks to our trip up the road, now I have an increased appreciation of these country greats. I can’t get Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” or her untimely death out of my mind. And just so you’ll know, we listened to 650 AM all the way back to SC