Stop Two: a borderland with the biggest horizon you’ll ever see. A place where sand and salt coat everything in a sticky gritty sheen. A place where the hush of foam on the beach follows a contra-bass thump as water blown thousands of miles finally collapses with exhaustion on a wedge of sand. Our beach: Duck, North Carolina.
Sitting on a fingernail of sand that juts out into the Atlantic are the Outer Banks, a place that sounds like it could be near the Jutland Wastes, the Dune Sea, or Mos Eisley. These banks are a flimsy excuse for solid land, a place regularly scoured by hurricanes, shaped by wind, and generally in danger of being swept up in the Gulfstream current and scattered in the North Atlantic. They are subservient to water, with a broad shallow sound to the west and the unforgiving Atlantic to the east, and have long caught out ships who don’t see their low profile on the horizon or the waves breaking on sandbars until it’s too late. The Outer Banks are strewn with the wreckage of trans-Atlantic commerce come to a soggy end. The lighthouses there now provide as much scenic backdrop as navigational aid. For our part we stayed in Duck, a tiny town pinched between the sound and the ocean. Imagine the folly of building a community of tall and expensive houses on stilts in view of water from all sides and set in scrub brush on a soft sandy foundation and you can picture Duck. Yet people do it and happily they do for all the tourists like us. I’ve been going to the Outer Banks for years, my wife and I were married there, and now our children got the chance to set their memory with the feel of gritty khaki sand on your skin, the sounds of afternoon thunderstorms, and the feel of an outdoor shower while your inner ear still sways with the memory of tumbling in the waves.
For Number Two the experience included clinging to me like a koala as we stood in the waves, eating a brown crayon during the long drive down, and pushing around a plastic dump truck for hours. Here we see the simple joy of leaving the beach as soon as you arrive.
Child Harbat took the water more readily but was still uneasy at the prospect of swimming free in the ocean, instead taking short panicked bursts between parents with oncoming waves as motivation. I imagine this trip will be one small blip in the steady stream of incoming data that forms their minds. For me, my experience was quite different than it was in the pre-child days–more on that in the days to come. I’ll end with an image that neatly sums up this portion of the vacation: a brief escape from the noise and madness of children and family to enjoy a beer on the deck before the skies open up. What you can’t see in this picture but perhaps can imagine is the cloak of humidity, a sense of oneness with water that links the ocean, the sky, the clouds, the puddles, and your body. Drink it up.