Tuesday, October 21

Down at Little Beach

The dogs and I walk to the neighbourhood beach every day this week, since the weather turned so fine, we can explore further down the shore than usual, with less fear of snakes and other wild creatures, like man eating mesquitoes, ambushing us. Thus, the area serves as the Herbal and Sweetpea playground. In the morning, the sun lights up a clean, businesslike sky under which everyone is going about their routine of hurrying to work, the getting of breakfast, birds cleaning their feathers for the day. The evening brings a glowing sky of pink over silver water--if the wind has died down--fish leaping in pursuit of dinner before they become feed for the dive bomber seagulls and the lone grim crane. On the walk back home, we smell grilled meat and smoke from fireplaces warming the air. The night soon closes in, as the days are shortening, calling us to the quiet rest of bed, snuggled in against the chill that settles into the house.

Wednesday, October 8

In A Word: Responsibility

As we read about the energy crisis, the economic crisis, the educational crisis, and the political crisis that are occurring during the present, I would argue that we as a nation are not being creative enough in solving the issues we face. Instead of asking "what can I do to fix the situation?" We are asking someone else ( the Government) to jump in and do the work for us.

This issue manifests itself in how we view not only economic matters, but martial matters as well. Bill Murphy Jr. addresses this attitude in a recent article published in the Atlantic. I think that he is touching on something that we can all take on board, not just in the Military arena, but in other, more important arenas as well.

Tuesday, October 7

Into The East

As a resident of Eastern North Carolina, it is hard to imagine that you can go any further east from New Bern and still be in the United States. You can however, and if you do, you end up in an area that is still unspoiled by the kitchy stores, chain stores, fast food chains, and motor traffic that makes up most other areas of the country. The locals call it "down east". It is a relatively small geographical area that extends east, north-east from Beaufort, NC up through the Outer Banks and ends somewhere around the Kitty Hawk area. It is an area where folks rely mainly on fishing and crabbing to make a living. Subsistence living is the name of the game, and many still speak with the accents of their forefathers. It is an accent so rare and under threat of dying out that the University of North Carolina has set out to archive it.

The land itself is very low lying, much like the land you might find in South Texas or Southern Louisiana. It is home to very large mosquitoes. Marshes and estuaries weave throughout the backcountry and islands of trees pop up where the land rises high enough to support decent soil. Pirates roamed this land up until the Revolutionary War. In fact, this part of North Carolina was the hiding place of Edward Teach, the famed pirate, Blackbeard. Blackbeard met his fate at the hands of the British near a small island on the southern tip of the Outer Banks called Ocracoke. Interestingly enough, it is Blackbeard, not his executioner, that still commands all of the attention and the lore.

Ocracoke was our destination this past weekend. Electra was deserving of a late birthday trip, and so we decided to pack up the truck and head out to this, one of our favorite places. It takes us an hour driving time to transit the 50 odd miles to the Cedar Island ferry. The drive is really quite lovely. We pass through a few small villages and little else. The villages as I alluded to earlier are all based around the fishing industry and small shrimp boats, crabbing boats, and fishing trawlers are lined up in small canals, ditches almost, that back up to the homes of the watermen.

The ferry ride is a 2.5 hour trip across the open waters of the Pamlico Sound. The Sound is one of the largest inland bodies of water in the world; we are beyond the sight of land for most of the trip. As we finally make out the contour of the island proper, the first sight we see is the lighthouse, one of the oldest continuously operating lighthouses in the US. It is still in operation, maintained by the Coast Guard. The village of Ocracoke itself is centered around a natural harbor that goes by the name of Silver Lake. All of the Village's small businesses are centered around the 'lake', so it is an easy bike ride to any of the small restaurant, artsy shops and inns tucked away in the live oaks and sea grasses lining the shore.

Our first stop on the island was to one of our favorite places: The Ocracoke Coffee Co. This quaint little shop boasts adirondack chair seating scattered amongst the trees and a wooden deck outside, or cool, bug-free seating inside next to a tiny bookstore where one can peruse books on local history and fishing. Here we read the afternoon away and listened to the locals chat both in person and on-line with laptops handy, until we felt it was time to head down to the water, check out a pair of kayaks and head out to the little coves and inlets that once harbored pirates.

A leisurely three hour tour was all that I was proposing, but as it turns out, a three hour tour was more than we got. Being an Oceanography major, I am always interested in observing the notorious currents of the North Carolina coast; today I wanted to show my dear Electra the unique inlets that make up the passageways between the Atlantic and the Sound. A great plan if she weren't 7 months pregnant, lacking her usual muscle tone, and necessitating a paddle back against the current to our starting point. After we explored a couple-mile length of inlet, meandering along with stops at fishing nets, pictures of each other with the lighthouse in the background, and a short walk down the beach at the other end of the island, it was time to turn back, with an hour to spare before sunset. Problem is, we had to fight the outgoing currents that I had been intent on showing her. Thinking this a minor setback, we paddled more slowly only to discover we overestimated the strength left in Elektra's burning shoulders and the sun seems to set faster as it nears the horizon.

We soon found ourselves alone and paddling doggedly over the moonlit waters of the Pamlico Sound. With my own wild imaginings of the Coast Guard coming to fetch us and our over-time rented kayaks, and Elektra in mad fits of huffing and puffing, envisioning a brain-dead child from oxygen deprivation, we were never so glad to turn into the final stretch of Silver Lake, the little harbor where we would beach our crafts and fight off the hoards of grandaddy mosquitoes that met us with lusty greed. We cooled off with a short bike ride to a local favorite eatery, Howard's Pub. Back at our B&B, we settled in for a marvelous soak that washed out the layers of bug spray and restored Beau to happy kicking again.

The morning found us once again out on the road, but this time heading north on Hwy. 12 up to the Pony Pens and the beach. Ocracoke is also home to many wild ponies who are the descendents of English and Spanish ponies that were shipwrecked off of the coast some three to four hundred years ago. The beach itself is largely free of people and has not a trace of buildings or civilization anywhere in sight. I was hoping for a few good waves, but was disapointed with a glassy sea which, once you got used to the coolness of the water, provided a wonderful setting for a relaxing swim.

The afternoon ended as the day before had begun. As a treat, Electra and I purchased a bottle of wine, some cheese, and some crackers to enjoy on our 2.5 hour trip back to the mainland.