We are small, human beings, that is. In comparison to nature and the universe, we are small. I am feeling this triviality sitting on the deck at 4:00 am. Thanks to the kindness of my friend Barb, I am here at her picturesque beach house on Oak Island in North Carolina. On this early morning journey, I hoped to wish on a falling star or celestial meteor.
The Perseid Meteor Shower did not disappoint. The shooting stars/meteors put on a spectacular show sharing the skies with a lightning storm that rivaled any Fourth of July fireworks show. Every time I caught one in my sights, I inhaled an “Ohhhhh” born from pure awe. I could see people walking the beach with headlamps looking for the perfect viewing spot. All they had to do was glance up.
On this spectacular morning, I look towards the shoreline with remains of the night on my right and pink and yellow dawn on my left. The feeling of insignificance is overwhelming.
About 2 miles west on the island, the devastation from tropical storm/category one hurricane Isaias is significant. Homes are left standing on two stilts, and the water is still pooled on streets and under houses. Here on the east end, the dunes are destroyed, and the deep tracks of displaced sand cover the roads. These east end residents and businesses are experiencing survivor’s guilt and are searching for answers to why. They will not receive it. Perhaps they can get some peace from the heavenly light show.
The dawn is breaking. The air is still. I can see people starting to walk the beach as the golf carts line up with the morning die-hards. The light show is over, and so the day begins.
Coffee is necessary on an early morning beach walk. I deliberately poured the coffee into an open ceramic mug. My thought is to ensure my stroll would be intentionally slow and smooth. I needed to soak in all these sensory triggered emotions. If I timed it right, I would finish the last sip of the coffee by the time I arrive at the pier. This mug will now serve its purpose for collecting shells on the return trip.
On the way back from the pier, I met a young woman, Kendra, who was feverishly digging in the sand.
“What are you looking for in the sand?” I asked.
“Sand fleas,” she replied. (Yikes.) “They make wonderful bait.”
Kendra revealed the sand flea packed within a sand-filled shell. He was the size of a 50-cent piece. She also had a homeless hermit crab searching for a shell. She asked me if I wanted to hold them. I politely declined.
Just at that moment, her fishing partner was reeling in a catch. She suggested I stay and see what he caught. Holy Cow! It was a baby, black-tipped shark.
“Would you like to touch a baby shark?” he asked.
I bravely reached out and stroked the baby’s belly. It was smooth and cold to the touch. He said if it were bigger, he would keep it and eat it. He soaks them in buttermilk to cut the strong ammonia taste. Who knew?
We said our good-byes, and I continued my excursion. Within 50 feet, I was rinsing off a shell, and just as I bent down, a crab washed up in the surf. He was a deliciously good-sized crab; sadly, I had no way of getting him home.
One last stop at the sea turtles’ nests. It looks like nothing happened overnight. The meteor shower and bright moon did not coax them from their nest to the vast ocean and currents that summon them to the sea.
As we make our way back to New York, faced with two weeks of quarantine, I fear for my sanity. No interactions. No Wegmans. No family. These memories will carry me through.
In the past week, I have handed my son to The University of Alabama, and in you, I trust to keep him safe and teach him more than what exists on the pages of a book. Amelia is almost through her MBA, and to you, RIT, I request the same.
We are small, but together we can be larger than life.
PS I also saw a momma stingray, caught on a fishing line, give birth to her two young pups on the pier. Momma and babies were safely returned to the sea.