Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Unplugged paradise

My husband and oldest son on the crowded shore.

I'm freshly back from a week-long camping vacation on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. A stretch of islands sometimes only a football field's length in width, it's a beautiful place. Look to your right, you see the ocean and sand dunes spattered with golden yellow sea oats. Look to your left, you see the flat, smooth expanse of the sound stretching out as far as you can see.

It's an intense place too, where hurricanes rip open new inlets and sand dunes constantly blow over the road. An afternoon shower floods the two-lane highway. The noontime July heat is brutal, the thunderstorms and flashes of lightning deafening and blinding. And it's a controversial place where the National Park Service closes beaches to pedestrians and drivers and the locals cry out because of the loss in revenue from tourism and fishing. Development continues, and new large homes on stilts are being constructed and squeezed into properties that before merely were sand.

Me and my oldest son on top of the lighthouse.
Since my childhood, I've been camping on the Outer Banks. Last week's vacation was the first time since I've become a mother that I returned to one of my favorite places on the planet. Some of my best memories of my childhood come from vacations on those islands. Throughout the stay, I'd occasionally feel the odd pangs of emotion as I realized I used to be in my children's place - but now I am the mom.

And so I spent a week, without internet connection and electronics, enjoying falling asleep to the sound of the surf and the insects, and the occasional thunderstorm. Gasping in cold showers, glimpsing my toes through the clear ocean water. Reliving my childhood memories and reveling in the sparkles in my children's eyes as they chased ghost crabs and surfed the waves.

Out in the clear, calm water, the waves were so gentle I felt comfortable taking my 3YO out with his water wings.

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