Friday, March 26, 2010
Newspaper Column for March 2010
Make Memories That Are Worth Revisiting
Early morning, hot coffee and a good book…to my way of thinking it just couldn't get much better. Blissfully engrossed in my book while sipping coffee, something I read reminded me that a year ago a trip to Ocracoke Island was in the final planning stages. The May visit to Ocracoke would not be my first; and, with luck, not my last ... it’s such a pleasure to be on the island.
What makes you fall in love with an area is more than the beauty of a place, it's the emotional response it elicits from you, the way it entwines itself around your heart and mind, and the power it has to stir memories long after you’ve returned home.
I allowed my thoughts to wander from the page and return to the sights and sounds of Ocracoke. May’s cooler temperatures mean the island is still fairly quiet, making the off season a perfect time to visit. The beautifully wild seashore, thankfully protected from the ever-grasping avarice of man, invites contemplative walks and the leisurely gathering of seashells to the soothing accompaniment of the rolling surf. Something about the seashore that is so deeply restorative, so cleansing.
Inland, an ideal way to explore the little island village is by bicycle. No confining car- just two pedals, and one small - and truthfully - not very comfortable seat. It’s still lots of fun. The easy pace of cycling allows you to see, hear and smell little things that you’d miss in a car. Relaxation slowly overtakes you as you breathe deeply of the pleasantly salty air and listen to the gulls squawk overhead while your neck and back are gently warmed by a benevolent spring sun. Rambling down quaint side streets, you see clusters of flowers in sandy yards framed by picket fences; fences that were once fresh white, but are now quietly and charmingly faded. The timeworn homes, often decorated with flowering vines, are guarded by wind-twisted trees bent over the driveway. The older homes have a curious air of being out of step with time. As if the original owners might still be there, might tell you tales of the early days of settling the island, when hardy islanders lived with scarce resources and the vagaries of the sea ruled their lives. For the history buff, there is much to explore and appreciate on Ocracoke.
I remembered the poignant ceremony at the British Cemetery, the morning cool and misty as bagpipes wailed a musical memorial to the British sailors lost while helping protect Ocracoke's coast during WWII. I remembered visiting the colorful, overstocked variety store and the fun of picking out just the right T-shirt. I remembered the sand, sea, weather-stunted trees and the history of life played out on a small island. The memories seemed so real I was almost there again. I realized that of the places I had visited over my lifetime so far, this was one of my most cherished favorites.
The realization surprised me. Despite the passing of decades, my memories of childhood vacations in Wales, the country that neighbors England, were still very colorfully alive and well. Wales is a breathtakingly beautiful country. Mountains border rocky beaches with secluded caves, little-traveled country lanes run alongside fields where cows offer lazy “moos” and old stone farmhouses and castles look just like picture postcards. It was pure magic to a kid from the city suburbs. In my present-day early morning walks, I often see something that reminds me of Wales- a snail inching its way down the road snaps my memory a couple of thousand of miles away and more than a few years back, to when I walked along a country road in Wales closely watching another snail’s slow progress, fascinated by the silvery rainbow trail it left behind.
I sipped the last of my coffee. My thoughts had traveled from my book first to Ocracoke, then to Wales. Memories have such power. Do childhood memories seem so sweet because, as children, we gave ourselves wholeheartedly to the venture? As adults, can we jump wholeheartedly into adventures with a similar childlike abandon? If we can’t, don’t or won't, I suspect the memories we make today won’t be nearly as sweet as they could be when the years pass and we look back.
I had thought for years that there would never be another time and place like those vacations in Wales. There were other enjoyable holidays, but Wales reigned supreme. I’d like to think that one day I will again visit that beautiful land. But I realized with some surprise that the quiet sea-washed beauty of Ocracoke had also firmly claimed a place in my heart. Wales continues to hold a special place in my affections, and it always will. But Ocracoke has its place too. There’s room for both old and new.
The past may be wonderful, but it is past. The present can be every bit as magical. All you have to do is jump in wholeheartedly. What a pleasant assignment- making memories worth revisiting. Think I’ll get started on that one right away.