Surf’s Up!

Herbert C. Bonner Bridge to Hatteras Island
Herbert C. Bonner Bridge to Hatteras Island.

Here’s the bridge I drove across in a raging storm last week, as I mentioned in my last post. The speck you see just to the right of the peak is a truck, to give you an idea of scale. And yes, the bridge continues both to the left and the right of where this photo ends. It’s 2.7 miles (4.3 km) long and the only driving route to Hatteras Island that doesn’t involve a ferry.

Life here on the island is lived mostly either in the water, on the beach or . . . on stilts. Really. Nearly all the buildings on the island–and even the air conditioning units–are significantly above ground level. Hurricanes hit the Outer Banks more than any other place in the United States, and even when it’s not a direct hit, flooding is common, with storm surges and something a bit more tame sounding called “overwash.” I don’t care how tame it sounds, this is just what you think it is–the Atlantic meeting Pamlico Sound on TOP of Hatteras Island. No, thank you.

Sunday marks the end of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, and according to the weather service, this year was pretty quiet. Only one hurricane made landfall in the U.S this year. Guess where. Here. Right here.  On the 4th of July, Rodanthe experienced wave surges up to 5 feet high. David and I looked this up because we kept noticing debris trapped in shrubs and trees as much as chest high. Have I mentioned this island is FLAT? Yikes.

And this was not the only storm to flood Hatteras. Hurricane Sandy never actually hit here, but still caused extensive flooding. Some businesses seem to have given up . . .

Rodanthe, NC
Rodanthe, NC, part of a now defunct amusement complex

This was part of a now defunct complex of pools, mini-golf, plus a number of super-cool, complicated go-cart tracks and who knows what else. Now all abandoned. The sea won.

So why come here?

Because sometimes it looks like this . . .

Evening Over Atlantic
Evening Light on the Atlantic

I know a photo doesn’t quite capture it, but trust me, this stunning undulating silver- blue was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Wow.

Of course, at other times it looks like this . . .

David checking out the wild waves
David down checking out the wild waves

This was after a night of howling winds and intermittent heavy rain. We’d never seen it like this before, so David went down early one morning to check it out.

And then, a few minutes later, this . . .

Sun's up over the Atlantic
Sun’s up over the Atlantic

Happened upon this the same day:

The seas have lifted up, Lord, 

    the seas have lifted up their voice;

    the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. 

Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,

    mightier than the breakers of the sea–

   the Lord on high is mighty. ∼Psalm 93: 3-4

And then some days, like yesterday, the surf is perfect. All day long we watched surfers out on the water, and I was struck by how important timing is in surfing. Not to take away from skills earned after hours–or years–of practice, but no matter how much skill you have, you can’t surf without being in the right place at the right time to catch the right wave. The wave itself is a gift, but you have to choose it, and then you have to ride it for all it’s worth.

This Thanksgiving week, David and I are thankful for you, dear friends and family, and also for the timing that made this journey possible. Here in Rodanthe, we’re grateful for the peace and very likely the best views we’ll have all year. Saturday we leave here and make our way down to Folly Beach, near Charleston, South Carolina, but there we’ll be on the first floor and a mile from the ocean. So fewer stunning views, but much closer proximity to an interesting city to explore (not to mention better access to higher ground).  I promise we know all of this journey is a gift, and we are definitely trying to ride it for all it’s worth.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Beauty and Danger

Sunrise over the Atlantic
Sunrise over the Atlantic

The sea is very beautiful, especially at sunrise and sunset, as you can see from these sunrise photos taken from our deck (a fourth floor balcony).

Sunrise over Atlantic
Sunrise over Atlantic

Here on Hatteras Island the sun rises over the Atlantic and sets over Pamlico Sound, as you saw in the last post.

Even during the day, the waves are mesmerizing to watch:

Wave Curl

Wave Mist

Wave Foam

Wave SandBut the sea is also dangerous, of course, and not just during storms.

Lightning over Atlantic
Lightning over Atlantic

Best shot I could get of Monday night’s lightning before deciding I’d rather be INSIDE!

One of the biggest dangers around here is actually sand. Cape Hatteras marks the meeting point of the southerly-flowing cold Labrador Current and the northerly-flowing Gulf Stream, resulting in great deposits of sand, called the Diamond Shoals, which are dangerous shallows which extend up to fourteen miles out into the Atlantic. So many ships have wrecked here, this area has earned the nickname “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Hence all the cool lighthouses.

Bodie Island Lighthouse
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Cape Hatteras LIghthouse
Cape Hatteras LIghthouse

I learned a bit about lighthouses from the guide at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. (Landlubber Alert! Extreme ignorance ahead!) It was news to me that each light has its own signal pattern, also called the “nightmark.” For example, the signal pattern for Bodie (pronounced “body”) Lighthouse is 2 ½ seconds on, 2 ½ seconds off, 2 ½ seconds on, 22 ½  seconds off. I also did not realize that some lights use different color lights like red and green, as well as white. And lighthouses are painted so distinctively–the “daymark”–not just so they’re beautiful, but so ships at sea can easily identify exactly which lighthouse they’re seeing, whether day or night. Okay, I know, DUH, but I had no idea of any of this. I will spare you all I learned Googling for more info during an hour of insomnia during the wee hours the other night. Super cool. LOVE learning new things!

I had my own tense moments of wishing for a guiding light late Monday afternoon, driving alone back to the condo from the north, on the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, 2.7 miles of narrow two-lane roadway, sweeping WAY up over an inlet between the Atlantic and Pamlico Sound. Just as I approached the bridge, the storm increased in intensity, blowing almost horizontally and reducing visibility to super-scary. The car in front of me kept drifting to the center and staying there, over the double yellow line, directly in the path of oncoming traffic. I backed way off, hoping to avoid being part of whatever accident he was about to cause, but that bridge seemed to go on forever.

At the end of the bridge he pulled over and I had a split second to decide whether to stop there, too, or try to make it home, but it was nearly 4:30 and the sun sets here around 4:45, leaving me still half an hour away on dark Highway 12, so I decided to keep going, although I was now in the lead, visibility about one car length. Worse, David and I have been on this road in the rain, and standing water is the norm during any precipitation, so you can imagine it during a torrential downpour such as this. And just to keep things interesting, there was a tornado watch for northeastern North Carolina until 6 p.m. Yikes. Seriously. YIKES. There was a whole lot of praying going on! I’ve never been so glad to finally pull into a parking lot in my life.

Just as I was getting my heart rate back to normal, and I was checking the news for any word of a tornado, I realized this condo is on the fourth floor and there is no such thing as a basement on this entire island, since it’s basically a giant sandbar! Ah, peaceful life at the beach. Not every day, apparently!

So here’s wishing you a terror-free week, or at least safe passage in spite of fears that may come.

He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is much in the world to make us afraid.  There is much more in our faith to make us unafraid ~Frederick W. Cropp

There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.  ~André Gide

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. ∼ Plato   

Rodanthe: Finding Quiet

Remember how I said after living in France for a few months everything back in the states felt so LOUD? Well, we found the quiet. It’s here in Rodanthe (pronounced Roh-DANTH-ee, which I just learned). . .

The NOT crowded beach at Rodanthe in November
The NOT crowded beach at Rodanthe in November

In fact at this time of year Rodanthe is practically a ghost town. We’ve rented one of maybe 60 condos in this complex, but we usually see no more than five or six cars here at any one time. It is beautiful and roomy, though . . .

Ah-h-h-h-h! Room to stretch out and unpack!
Ah-h-h-h-h! Room to stretch out and unpack!

. . . which is a nice change after the tiny place we rented in Alexandria, that was barely larger than the bed. Plus, we have this view of the Atlantic from the deck (and the living room and the master bedroom, which both open onto the deck):

The Atlantic from our deck
The Atlantic from our deck the evening we arrived

Sunday was a bit cloudy but no rain, with temps in the 60’s, so we went for a walk on the beach.

The walk to the beach
The walk to the beach
Beach at Rodanthe
Beach at Rodanthe

Here’s one of our neighbors . . .

Beach-walker
Beach-walker

Mornings here so far have been blue-grey . . .

Blue Dawn over the Atlantic
Blue Dawn over the Atlantic

But evenings? Wow! We can see the Pamlico Sound from the kitchen window, but it’s blocked a bit by other condos, so we walked across the street to really see this:

Fiery Sunset over the Sound
Fiery Sunset over the Sound
Sunset over Sound
Sunset over Sound
Sunset over the Sound
Sunset over the Sound

I could not stop taking pictures of this sunset. I promise these sunset photos are not enhanced in any way. These are the actual colors.

We’ve finally unpacked the car and reorganized everything. It was feeling like we just kept cramming more into every corner, which is NOT a restful feeling. So now we’re able to relax a bit, walk a lot, and admire the sky in all its moods. I’m loving the warmth and the peace, but three weeks in Rodanthe will be long enough, I expect. No one to laugh with here, at least not so far.

I hear it has been crazy cold in Fort Collins this week, so my heart goes out to all of you experiencing winter before winter even officially arrives. You know how fond I am of cold! So here’s wishing you warm blankets, toasty fires, and steaming cups of . . . well, whatever you enjoy drinking steaming hot!

 

Fun and Games in Alexandria

The week in Alexandria visiting Chelsea went by in a flash, but we managed to fit in lots of fun, beginning with the fabulous birthday dinner at Chart House mentioned in the last post, followed on Sunday by the not-nearly-so-fun watching the Broncos get trounced by the Patriots. Ouch.

Vermilion EnhancedMonday, we all had to work, but David and I had time for a walk down King Street and lunch here . . .

. . . where everything was so picturesque I snapped away like the tourist I am . . . .

Vermilion, Alexandria, Virginia
Vermilion — Alexandria, Virginia
Vermilion -- Alexandria, Virginia
Vermilion — Alexandria, Virginia
Vermilion -- Alexandria, Virginia
Vermilion — Alexandria, Virginia

See what I mean?

Tuesday night we met Chelsea and Will and his parents at Los Tios Grill, a fabulous Mexican restaurant in Alexandria (technically “Tex-Mex-Salvadorean”). WOOHOO! The one thing nigh near impossible to find in France is Mexican food, and I LOVE Mexican food. Forgot my camera, but I was pretty busy chatting and enjoying my dinner and margaritas. Yum. And bonus, spunky-charming waitress who kept us all laughing. Love nights like that.

Thursday night Chelsea had invited a few friends to meet us at Top Golf . . .

Chelsea at Top Golf
Chelsea at Top Golf

. . . which turned out to be super entertaining. It’s like a driving range, but not so boring–and a pub, but not so sedentary. Perfect combination, if you ask me.

David at Top Golf
David at Top Golf
Chelsea and her friend Jen at Top Golf
Chelsea and her friend Jen at Top Golf

Chelsea has almost zero previous golf experience, so she was just thoroughly having fun.  But after Jen soundly beat us the second round, I started thinking, “Game On.”  And although Jen’s shots continued to be absolutely beautiful and straight, she very kindly missed a few of the targets during the third round (and, okay, the counter cheated her out of a few points, too). Anyway I managed to score highest. Be very impressed. So instead of a highly unflattering shot of me, I’ll show you this . . .

Sunny's highly erratic performance at Top Golf!
Sunny’s highly erratic performance at Top Golf!

But now really look at it, and be sure to admire the impressive consistency of my scores. Sheesh. Truly stunning. After my first six balls, as you may imagine, I was NOT HAPPY. At all. Interesting that once Chelsea reminded me to just relax and have fun, I started nailing the targets. Disturbing that I needed that reminder while chatting with friends and drinking Man-Mosas (Mimosas with a bit of beer to cut the sweetness–better than they sound).

Which brings me to today’s little lesson for Sunny: Perfectionism does not create perfection. It just sucks the fun and life out of whatever you’re doing imperfectly.

Here’s wishing you a joyfully imperfect week! (Unless you’re the Denver Broncos. You Broncos can feel free to be as perfect as you’d like!)

Thanks, Chelsea, for the fun and the wisdom!

Rentrée

La rentrée — the return: So . . . we’ve returned to the states, but we haven’t completely reacclimated yet. France lingers on in our habits and preferences. I really miss speaking French and the excitement of small successes like actually carrying on a sustained conversation in French for an hour and a half. And I keep wanting a tartine for breakfast, which is just toasted day-old baguette with my favorite Noirmoutier butter and Bonne Maman 4 Fruits confiture (jam), but . . . yum, and so far, unfortunately, impossible to find. David doesn’t seem to miss that, but we do miss the rhythm of life in France. And we really miss quiet. Everything feels WAY TOO LOUD. We spent the first night in Boston and had dinner in the hotel, where so many people seemed to be bellowing across the restaurant at each other, we finally paused our attempt to have a French-style quiet conversation, and just looked at each other and started laughing.

The next morning we caught the Dartmouth Coach up to New London, New Hampshire, and heard the entire two-hour conversation of a couple FOUR ROWS in front of us. Sheesh.

Then we spent a couple of nights here . . .

New London Inn Front Corner

New London Inn Sign. . .  where one of the waitresses was so loud, I kept flinching when she talked. We really need to toughen up! We’ve been loud-talkers for years. How many people used to flinch when we talked? Yikes. Strange to be on the other side of it.

Aside from that, though, it’s been good to be back. We were able to help David’s mom with the final steps of getting the lake house closed up for the season, like clearing out fridges, freezers and cupboards. Then we spent three nights at their new winter house, where we could be handy for hanging pictures, towel rings and rods, curtain rods, etc., and help will all the other little settling-in tasks that seem to take forever.

I was afraid we had missed all the beautiful New England fall foliage, but the leaves were not all down. Woohoo!

Fall Maple

The original plan was to spend three nights in Brooklyn, but we cancelled that to be of more help to Helen. Very busy few days, but fun to be there to see it come together.

Friday morning we hit the road and drove down to Alexandria, Virginia, to see Chelsea. Beautiful tree-lined turnpikes most of the way, with lots of gorgeous fall color like above and this . . .

Scenic stop along the New Jersey Turnpike
Scenic stop along the New Jersey Turnpike

Now we’re back in very picturesque Alexandria . . .

Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria, Virginia

. . . where wonderful old red brick walls are everywhere.

We had a stunningly delicious dinner here . . .

Chart House Enhanced

. . . to belatedly celebrate Chelsea’s birthday, and we’ll have the rest of this week here with her. More about that later, I’m sure.

So life goes on. There’s a watercolor in the cottage we’re renting this week that seems to be a loose rendering of a landscape, maybe dunes with seagrass–it’s hard to tell–but the first morning as I woke up, I found myself looking up at it from a different angle and so clearly saw the face of a young woman in a hat, her chin partly hidden by her right hand, I was convinced I had been blind the day before, and that was really what the painting was meant to be. Yet from the original perspective, she slips away. From somewhere in the middle, though, I can see both, and that’s when the painting is the most interesting of all. It made me wonder what life might–or maybe will–look like from a slightly French-flavored American perspective.

I’ll let you know. Now if I can just stop flinching.