"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Exploring Home

The joy of exploring is that every place is unique. I mean, of course it is, right? But some places are just a bit "more unique" than others. Yes, I hate the phrase, too, usually, but in the case of Oak Island it's true. This is a beautiful area, our little corner of North Carolina and the adjacent bit of South Carolina. We have a cute little coastal town in Southport, a wooded lake-filled town in Boiling Spring Lakes, a "charming Southern city" in Wilmington, and plenty of barrier islands filled with vacation homes. All of those places are nice, really nice, but they are very much like other places I've seen. Oak Island is different. It's barrier island like the rest, but not really. It only became a real island once the Intracoastal Waterway came along. It's full of vacation homes, but not really. It has a permanent population of around 7,000, making it one of, if not the, most populous town in the county. Oak Island is the name of the island itself but also one of the two towns on the island. So you can come and be on Oak Island but not be in Oak Island. The place has the worst and best identity crisis of any place I've ever seen. It's nuts and those of us who live here are generally nuts. We've come from all over and settled in the weirdest town we could find. It makes for interesting politics, but it also makes for a place someone like me can feel at home. Make of that what you will.

One of the coolest features of our island is that it's split down the middle (well sort of. It's not the middle and it's only kinda a third of the island that's split) by a water feature with lots of names. See, identity crisis central. Officially on USGS maps it's called Montgomery Slough. No one knows any Montgomery around here nor what a "slough" is, so it is NEVER called that. It is most often called Davis Canal or just "the Canal," as in "I can't believe I just saw a dolphin in the Canal!" But it isn't a canal. At all. My favorite name for it is Davis Ditch. It is a ditch, no matter how you slice it.

Here it is from space.

That thicker body of water at the top is the Intracoastal. Oh, did I mention the other oddity about our island? It runs east-west rather than north-south. When you look out to sea here you aren't looking toward Portugal, you're looking toward Cuba. Makes for a glorious sunset with the sun dipping right into the sea without having to go to Florida or the west coast. But shhhhhhhhh, don't tell anyone. Anyhow, that thick bit of water on top is the Intracoastal and the big blue at the bottom is, of course, the Atlantic Ocean. That bit roughly in the middle with no streets is the Montgomery Slough/Davis Canal/Davis Ditch. A lot of it is marsh, but it has navigable water at the top and sometimes at the bottom. It's open to the Intracoastal at its west end and makes a sort of "U" at the east. Today we went around that "U" in our kayaks for the first time.

The majority of the canal is narrow and at low tide very shallow. The southern leg is mostly too shallow even for a canoe or kayak at low tide, or even anything but high tide in many places. Today, we happened to be out at high tide and made our way around the "U" to explore a part of the canal that we'd never seen before in 20 years living here.

First off, let me say how unbelievably happy I am to have the tides affect my life. I've always been a tide geek. Dad and I would pick up a tide chart first thing upon reaching the shore when I was growing up and visiting south Jersey. Now I find I really don't need one. I see the tides each morning and afternoon or evening at least on my way on and off the island so I generally in a very general way can guess when its going to be high or low tide or if the tide is falling or rising. This makes me very happy.

So, we set off at high tide, slack high tide as well, which was cool as it made for easy paddling both ways.
Today was a glory of early spring weather -- sunny, warm and calm. The marsh smelled marshy and we could hear the surf a couple blocks away. Fish were jumping and a Great Blue Heron decided to follow us and check in from time to time (but never long enough to have his photo taken). We paddled up to the end of the canal and decided to take advantage of the tide to go see what lay around the bend. I find its ALWAYS best to go see what lays beyond the bend. ALWAYS. Just a word of advice. Anyhow, around the bend was new and off we went.

We didn't find anything surprising, really. It isn't like we expected to enter The Land Of The Lost or anything. It was a small, well, ditch, that ran behind some nice homes, some with docks, but a surprising number without. Some of the docks were dilapidated. We were happy as the Lovely Miss Lisa is a huge fan of dilapidation (no jokes about what that means for her fondness for me, please) and while she wasn't with us, we enjoyed thinking how much she'd like it.

A Dilapidated Dock

A Rather Nice Dock w/ crab traps
We stopped to smell the roses, which on the canal means pulling up everyone's crab traps to see what's inside. Nothing was. We paddled under a few walkways, under a few docks and low-hanging trees, because paddling under low things is fun. We don't know why, it just is. We simply enjoyed the day, enjoyed a new view of the old home and enjoyed a couple hours out on the water as father and son.

As we were beginning our trip, John commented that it had been a long time since he was out on the water. It had been a matter of months. To him, that's a long time to not be "on the water." That makes me proud. He takes paradise for granted. Well, not for granted completely because he truly loves it and uses it and wants to be out in it, but he just accepts that this is home. For me, it's still a dream I hope not to wake up from. Each time I come home across that bridge and see the ocean, THE OCEAN, I feel lucky and blessed and like I somehow cheated life. I get to live here. I hear the ocean every morning. I used to wait and wait months for that sound, for that smell. I'd go kinda bonkers during the winter at Penn State. it was just too far away from the sea, I think. But now, I'm here and my son doesn't even know it's not normal.

Life Is Good.

No comments:

Post a Comment