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North Carolina Vacation: The Outer Banks
Visits to the North Carolina Outer Banks were a big part of my summer vacations growing up. Even now, idly reminiscing, I look back at all the days and nights I have spent there and realize how much this place has become a part of who I am. From the ocean to the sand dunes to the beach house, this is what it means to me:
Finding my way across the now soggy, now scorched boardwalk that crosses the dunes, I am met by a music and a scent and all at once by a sight of the sea. It shoots up suddenly at the edge of the boardwalk and surprises me every time. And there have been many times.
It has been a few years since I have been back here, here at the Outer Banks. But somehow, the seashells and the drifted twigs and the very sand seem placed exactly as they were all through my childhood summers. Here is where my love for the sea was awakened. The beach house and the boardwalk and the way the sea looks at me from across the dunes have become a part of me, and a part of me will always be left behind here.
The Atlantic Ocean has a feeling all its own, almost its own personality, and the Pacific cannot compare. The Atlantic, just here, is gray and passionate, unafraid of boundaries. I could walk along the coast in a rainy twilight and let the ocean overwhelm me. The Atlantic Ocean is allowed to be melancholy, and no one accuses it. The grayness of it all does not inhibit its beauty. Tropical waters are incessantly sunny, or are supposed to be, but here by my Atlantic, I cherish the occasional overcast skies.
But not forever do the clouds hang over our heads, sympathizing with our burdened hearts. The sun does shine and the sea does cheer up with the summertime. I can sit in my beach chair, enjoying the beautiful essence of summer vacation, blocking the sun with a paperback book, blocking my pores with sunscreen. I can watch little children playing by the water’s edge as they attempt sand castles and daydreams. I was a little child here once. I can feel the sea breeze forever blowing, for it blows through my thoughts even when I am a thousand miles from here.
The seashore is always full, of birds on stilt-legs, of shells and fragments of shells, of crabs that I chase at nighttime with a flashlight. The waves break and rush up to me with foamy fingers that cover my feet as my toes sink into the wet sand. Sand and sea-water grate against the mosquito bites on my ankles. My footprints are left behind me and are washed away and forgotten.
The long drifting walks by the sea have always been the best part of this place. Strolling in my solitary fashion I can become serene and contemplative, understanding my own thoughts better than before. I can be myself. When I was little, my mom and I used to look for seashells on our early morning walks. We would go as far as the pier and come back with her coffee cup full of beautiful shells and starfish. Now the pier is gone. Time has taken it and made us grow up against our will. Time has made us all change. Even so, the sea in all its inconstancy of nature is still there, by the outstretched shore, by our beach house, reminding us of our immutable God Who has been with us all these years.
The memories of this place are almost unbearable. I can’t touch all of them, but they touch me. Our family has reunited here for years. We have played games and told stories, watched movies when our sunburns have prevented us from going outside, crowded each other and misunderstood one another. We have loved and lived and laughed. We are a family. Sometimes we sit at the edge of the boardwalk, on the benches there or balanced on the railing, and just talk. The salty air and the sea sounds open us up and we can talk easier.