Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Cottage by the Sea, Part Two: Islands are nature's circles...or something

I visited Ocracoke Island for the first time in September 2006. One of my dearest friends, Kelly, asked me to be her maid of honor and the wedding was on Ocracoke. Don't know where Ocracoke is? Neither did I at the time. It's part of the Outer Banks in North Carolina, an island only accessible by ferry. It's the island where Blackbeard died and is known for figs (the Fig Festival is in August). If you were a fan of The Lonely Doll books as a child, the author, Dare Wright, was also known for her photographs of Ocracoke and set one of the Edith books on the island (the one where Edith and the bears go on a holiday). At the time of Kelly's wedding, I had just relocated to Virginia following Hurricane Katrina. Leaving New Orleans (where Kelly and I met; were were roommates in college) was simultaneously the best and worst decision I have ever made. New Orleans is the only place I've lived that I've felt was a home; such is the life of a military child. It's the most vibrant city I've ever been in. However, I know now, and probably knew then, that if I stayed much longer I would never have moved forward in the way I needed to. I probably would have left later, a bit more broken from what was going on in the city.

A month before the wedding, I started my new job working for a start up ed tech company, moving into the first of many roles I would fill for the company over my 10 years there. I started as a support team member, one of those roles that is both incredibly rewarding and incredibly soul-crushing at the same time. There are only so many polite ways to ask a person (who is paying for a service you provide) if their computer is turned on or if they've clicked on the very large button that says "send" (you know, the one staring them in the face at this exact moment). This would all come later; at that moment, the moment where I drove my car onto the ferry to Ocracoke for the first time, I only knew I was enjoying a new adventure, getting to know my co-workers, and finding a place to live that was not the guest room at my parents' house. I was slowly dealing with the stress of Katrina: the evacuation, the three month "exile", the nastiness I encountered on the road as I worked to bring in a class for the university, the garbage pile outside my apartment that grew and grew and grew, the punch to the gut every time I picked up an application and read another essay from a student who lost everything. I had no real support network left in New Orleans but I had started the slow process of building one in Virginia (a process that would take a long time and I would argue, is still ongoing).

All of this was swirling around in my brain when I boarded the ferry the first time. Of course, Ocracoke has the ability to remove the mainland from view very quickly and not just because you eventually can't really see Hatteras from the island. Cell service is spotty at best so it's easy to disconnect because it won't work anyway. It was nice to be able to focus on my friend and the wedding and nothing else. It had been at least 2 years since I'd seen Kelly but, as I knew we would, we fell into our jokes and stories and friendship the way you do with your best friends. It was the perfect event to end 2006 (so to speak). I didn't get to experience all of Ocracoke on that trip but I completely understood why it was the perfect place for the wedding and why Kelly and her family continue to come back.

I didn't make the connection between 2006 and 2017 until I was driving down NC-12 earlier this week to catch the ferry for a return trip to Ocracoke. As I passed the pun-tastically named houses and dinosaur and pirate themed mini golf courses along the way (no, I didn't stop at either although I wanted and yes, they are separate mini golf courses), I realized that the last trip to Ocracoke was at the start of a new part of my life and this trip is at the actual end of that new start. The universe has an incredible sense of humor. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I'm currently experiencing the life of a chick lit novel heroine so what better thing to do than to read way too much into something AND go on a trip to an island which is the actual premise of dozens of novels within this genre?

I can, because I'm me and I'm female (and we do this sort of thing all the time), read a lot into this.  I have successfully completed phase one of being the quintessential chick lit heroine. This phase includes wallowing, binge-watching Netflix shows, baking for no reason (or to make the people in your life happy), crying, and a trip to a winery on a Monday. Completing phase one allows me to move on to phase two: the connection phase. This phase always coincides with a journey of some form and during this phase, the heroine reconnects with people she doesn't often see in person (like Kelly and the rest of the group in Ocracoke). Additionally, the improbable events will begin any day now. Improbability in chick lit novels usually leads the heroine directly to phase three where the pieces begin to fall into place and the new path is forged by our plucky heroine. Improbability takes some time; I could be in phase two for awhile.

Ocracoke did not solve my problems but it was the break I needed. I have spent far too much time in my apartment over the last few weeks. More importantly, this trip provided a few of the things I desperately needed at this exact moment in my chick lit heroine life:
  • A road trip - literally nothing is as good as driving along scenic routes listening to music and having an Icee at 10:22 am.
  • Conversations that were about everything but also nothing. Kelly and I had so much to catch up on and may have retold some stories more times than needed. I would have to ask the others if this was annoying or charming. I'm going to guess charming.
  • Planned for Kelly's next artistic project...seashell and driftwood art. There is definitely a market for it in the Outer Banks so really the only thing left is to come up with a delightfully punny name and harvest raw materials. We were able to create a list of possible items Kelly should create: jewelry, wine racks, name plates for beach houses, spice racks. Everyone helped with this part. Kelly now needs to let the shells speak to her, as one does.
  • Learned the importance of appreciating YouTube video humor from a 12 year old. The 12 year old and I also agree that Rocket Raccoon is the best and that super hero movies where the super heroes are too "super hero-y" are the worst. 
  • Considered the possibility of my next art project being a book entitled The Feral Cats of Ocracoke. There's an audience for this book somewhere.
  • Laughed a tremendous amount.
  • Went to the beach. I'm not a huge beach person but it was incredibly satisfying to walk along the beach. Kelly was able to start collecting her shells so now it's just a matter of time before her sea art is the next great thing. I also got slightly sunburned despite my wearing sunscreen so the world is working in the way it is supposed to. 
  • Discovered that skinny jean shorts are a thing. Imagine the most hipster dude you can conjure in your brain, hack the skinny jeans off just above the knee, add an ironic statement beard, and the beach night out equivalent of a deep V-necked shirt (so a collared version) and you have the one person I never thought I'd experience while visiting an island in the Outer Banks. 
  • Began planning our 40th (we're so old) birthday trip. This was countered by being asked, not carded, but asked if we were over 21 at dinner one night when we ordered beers. Only Kelly and I were asked so there's that. We've identified a large number of things we don't want to do so we're off to a good start. So far the list of possible trips includes: the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, somewhere in Canada, and my suggestion of a trip to Mexico to visit Frida Kahlo's museum. We have work to do.
Sometimes you have to revisit a place in order to truly move on to whatever is next in your life. That is the lesson of this phase of chick lit heroine living. That's how you get closure.

The first photo of my book project - they look like Pumpkin's less pleasant cousins.

Some inspiration for Kelly - I feel like the fish/mermaid plant holder would be better with a topiary in the shape of a mermaid or fish head.

I am not participating in Record Store Day this year for reasons. Happy 10th Anniversary to RSD!! You can relive my past RSD adventures here or go out and make your own by visiting your local record store today.

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