Friday, September 11, 2015

A Clear Blue North Carolina Day

It ain't France. It ain't the Bahamas. But, friends, it's a lovely week here in the Outer Banks--warm but dry, with blue skies, drifting clouds, gentle breeze, warmer-than-normal ocean temperature of 79 degrees.
Yesterday I tested my inflatable "boogie board," surfing the waves as they crested over the sandbar 50 yards offshore. Again and again I rode the surf to shore on my bright yellow surface-submarine, exhilarating in each successful run.
Then, as the waves calmed, settled into a comfy beach chair with a good book: "Nineteen Minutes" by Jodi Piccoult.
I am staying in the Barrier Island Station resort in Duck, North Carolina, as I have done almost every September for more than 20 years. There was a lively crowd here until Wednesday, two days after Labor Day, when 90 packed up their SUVs and left. Back to work? Kids back to school? Or just the threat of impending thunderstorms?  In the end, it only rained for a few hours during the night.

Now there's only a smattering of beachgoers, me, two pelicans, and the mighty ocean. A fisherman yesterday mentioned seeing a fin in the water. So today, with few people around and no lifeguard, I skip the swimming, and walk the beach.
It takes me 2 1/2 minutes to walk from the apartment over the sand dunes to the ocean--375 steps. It's 20 minutes to the Corps of Engineers' research pier and back, gripping the sand with each step.
The sand is warm, soft. I revel in the chance to feel wind on my face and walk among willets and sandpipers. Beige, almost-transparent sand crabs scatter like flies on a picnic table when you wave your hand. I search the piles of gravel for whole scallop shells that survived the pounding of the surf. Dig in my toes and let the saltwater wash over them.
Late this afternoon, a troupe of dolphins put on a show. Act I: a dozen or more, feeding offshore, gracefully arcing over the chop, the setting sun glinting off their fins. Occasionally a mad dash across the surface, throwing up spray--predator or prey? Could this be what the fisherman saw?
Act II: "splooshing" awkwardly over the sandbar into the deep trough closer to shore. So close. The small crowd of spectators somehow swells--how? Did they hear about it on the radio? 

Act III: a more violent feeding frenzy. Groups of dolphins now, thrashing hard. Broaching the surface in pairs, nipping perhaps, tangling in each other's tails. Competing? 
The curtain falls. Sunset.
One more day in this seaside paradise before my return to the hustle and bustle of home. Go gently, mighty ocean. Go gently, and grace other shores.

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