This is a little late this week because, well, my grandmother turned 89 years old. And since I consider that pretty darn amazing, I chose to put off my blog post in order to celebrate her birthday with her.
Off the East coast on a small peninsula between Wrightsville and Myrtle Beach, a large bridge perched high above ground level, offers a birds-eye view of the homes and the beathtaking shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean. The small town just before the bridge carries the kind of peaceful simplicity that most of the city vacationers seem to take for granted. The shops, though externally weathered, are clean and well kempt. Here there are no big attractions, strip malls or water parks; only the essentials. Food, toiletries and other basic supplies can be purchased at the local Food Lion down the street. And a stretch of seafood restaurants along the strip, mostly made up of locals, serve some of the best crab legs on the coast.
For the last 15 years, my family and I have vacationed at this small corner of heaven called Holden Beach, North Carolina; a house only a stone’s throw from the ocean, harboring memorable moments, dodging unruly waves and crafting magnificent sculptures in the sand. The house is nothing special, located on a secluded little piece of the ocean we call our own. It’s the kind of place where tranquility and observation go hand-in-hand. Fishing boats in the distance create the perfect backdrop to my morning cup of coffee shared with the early beams of the rising sun. I sit on a tired rocking chair, watching wave after wave roll gently onto the sand, and do nothing but think.
Oddly enough, Shark Week always precedes our annual vacation, which isn’t entirely apparent in the way we manage to break every rule of avoiding attack: swimming at night, wearing navel rings in the water that apparently look like fish scales (so I’ve been told), donning bright colored swimsuits and making huge splashes while playing in the waves. Not even the boats dumping chum in the waters a few miles off seem to have much effect on our fun.
So when Shark Week started the first week of the month, pangs of excitement churned in my stomach, imagining the car climbing over the bridge, giving passage to our private paradise; away from all of the stresses of life.
My very first story materialized from one of the many moments staring out at that placid sea. As a matter of fact, it’s here that I decided to move forward with my writing; to complete the WIP I’d been aimlessly toiling away at for a couple of years. I was in my early 20’s, trying to get through the science program at MSU. My love at the time, was studying infectious diseases. Little did I know, it would prove to be insufficient to the growing need burgeoning within me.
I like to think that there was once a time in some world long ago, before money goaded us down dark and twisted roads, when people pursued what they truly loved. Perhaps in this era, artists weren’t known for starving and degrees didn’t dictate who deserved to carry certain titles. So many times I’ve heard people say, “Well I work as a ____, but I love to ____ in my spare time.” They’re called hobbies nowadays. Nothing more than sidekicks to what we do to survive. Don’t get me wrong, I believe people can have many passions in life. And maybe these passions take on more abstract forms that ultimately earn money too. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all pursue what drives us to get up and out of bed at ungodly hours of the day (because we love it that much), and not have to worry about how our 401K is faring in this economy? Some people do, and we refer to them as ‘lucky’.
Let’s go back to the beach…
Or paradise, as I like to call it. Sure I’ve been to tropical hotspots with arched palm trees hanging over crystal blue waters. They’re breathtaking. But not where I am struck with inspiration.
What is it about this place, with its murky shoreline (just itching for a shark attack), empty beaches, high sand dunes and weather-beaten houses that creak as they teeter on wooden stilts? Why am I so intrigued by the locals, with their laugh lines and southern drawl, while they tell fishing stories, sitting on barstools in a quaint little diner at the pier?
Why? Because this is the world where I pursue my passion without giving thought to consequence and risk. Every year I travel to this haven, escaping what has kept me from the things I love: my family, my writing, my peaceful moments in life. I treasure this place because it holds memories that I now weave into my stories; stories that I write because even though I still have to make a living doing something that I’m not so passionate about, I can flash to this world that welcomes my words in spite of my inexperience.
I couldn’t swing the time this year to join my family on the 20+ hour caravan ride through the back roads of the most serene countryside I’ve ever known. Although I know I’ll be missing out on a week of lounging on hammocks with my sisters, sipping fruity drinks while we laugh about everything that makes us spew most of it; daydreaming as I stare off at the ocean from my Adirondack chair on the shores; or gazing at brilliant stars in the night that are often dulled by the city lights back at home, it’s always there for me, beckoning my musings. Because I’ve written down every image in such detail, that no matter where I’m at, I can feel the misty spray of ocean water cooling my face as I bask in the warm rays of the August sun.
So recently, when someone near and dear to me asked where I see myself in 5 or 10 years, the answer was simple: paradise.
Where do you see yourself?