Saturday, July 31, 2004

Stories at Dusk....

Friday nights here are slow-paced. Sometimes the men play poker..sometimes there are dinner engagements or bike rides...but there are no malls to visit, no movie theatres to view new films..no K-Mart or Wal-Mart to occupy time.

Last night after supper we walked the sandy road to Blanch's house...she is Philip's cousin and has lived here on the island all her life. She is 83. We carried a lasagne casserole (compliments of Philip's cooking)...opened the white gate of her garden and up to the front porch.

Blanch's house is typical of the island...it is painted white with lovely green trim and a large pizer. The scent of gardenias was strong as we knocked on the door carrying our offering.

Blanch was delighted to see us as she had been cleaning, and needed the break as well as the company. Two fans were circulating the air in the parlor room which was filled with family photos and books including the census of Ocracoke for 1870 and the cemetery
records.

She is always interested in what we are doing..but truth be told, we are much more interested in what she has to say. Her mind is sharp, her memory is impeccable..the hurricane of '44..the black out of WW11. Last night the conversation wove around to children's games. She was animated as she began to tell us about the games she played here as a little girl. Some were typical...hop scotch, marbles, skipping ropes...some we had never heard of. Philip, with paper and pencil in hand, wrote titles and words as fast as they were spoken.

It was dark when we left. The almost-full moon was playing games with us..hide and seek through the live oaks and cedar trees. Blanch stood at her doorway and waved, "Wasn't this fun tonight?" she said.

Indeed it was, Blanch, indeed it was.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

The Show Goes On...

Every Wednesday evening the community of Ocracoke presents an old time Opry, the Ocrafolk Opry...this is a wonderful combination of music and stories...including haronica and madolin and guitar. The performers live and work on the island..running shops, waiting tables, saiing ships, caring for children. I first visited here three years ago and have not missed an Opry yet (well, almost!)

Last night Molasses Creek was off island...so there were a core group of folks in charge, Philip was the emcee (and storyteller)..and it was my great honor to tell a story during the second half of the show. I have told stories so many places for lots of years, but last night was so special for me. It was telling stories with new friends and family..there was five year old Caroline in her pirate garb singing with her Dad, there was 83 year old Roy with his harmonica and guitar and a bit of yodeling.

At the end of the evening all the performers go back up to the stage to sing, "I'll Fly Away." It was such a grand moment for me to stand with Philip and new friends and be part of the community. When the evening was over, there was pleasant conversation and bantering..the clouds were arranged as if in a quilt as we walked back home up the lane...Henry Glassie once wrote in the forward to his book, Irish Tales, it was a good night, a story or two, a song by the fire, enough so that when we meet in the morning we will remember....I will always remember last night.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Clams and Crabs..

So, it started out to be a lazy Sunday...sleeping late..breakfastlate...heavy clouds of rain. But just as the sun burst out, the phone rang..it was Rob iviting us to o clamming for the afternoon. I looked around an laundry and dishes and ironing and bills to be paid and a Sunday Passage to be written. Then I looked at Philip and we both said, "let's go."

Philip carried the clamming rakes (on his bicycle) while I brought the clam basket (also on my bicycle)..there were seven of us setting sail in the small sailboat, The Muddy Rudder.

We anchored on a bed of crabs and they skittered under our feet everywhere we walked on the sandy shores of the sound. We talked and clammed and swam and filled our basket. Now we just clean them and have clams casino tonight.

It has been a lovely day...we will share clams with friends, listen to Martin at the Jolly Roger, and ride our bikes home late tonight over the sandy roads with fresh scattered clam shells. As for the work, there is alway tomorrow.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Dripping Diamonds...

Soaking rains have canopied the island for two days. It was and is a much-welcomed rain as it has been dry for the past few months.

I have enjoyed watching out the window as folks huddle together under umbrellas making their way down Howard Street dodging puddles and low-lying limbs.

There is something so primitive about a cloudburst...folks rush into the shop laughing and talking about the rain...when did it start...when will it stop..good day for reading, shopping, napping.

As for me, I love the change from the hot, sunny days...I love to watch the drops fall from live oak trees and junipers and cedars and wild rosemary...like diamonds or crystals or prisms hung in windows. I love to hear it on the roof tops...I love to wipe off the seat of my bicycle with an old pair of socks I keep on the porch just for that purpose..I love coming inside to a cup of tea or fresh cookies or to someone I love.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

My special day....

Dear Friends, (I usually don't just write to friends as a journal, but felt like it for the day),
Today is my birthday, and I must admit I really enjoy my birthday...even the sun seems to shine brighter. (However, I won't go as far to tell you how old I am....)

I was thinkng back over birthdays in the past...I remember the year I turned 16 and my parents invited my ex-boyfriend to have dinner and a show with us at the outdoor theatre (I could have died of embarrassment!!!)
Or after my first year of college I spent my birthday in Oberaudorf in Germany where I worked as a bar maid...lots of the guest wrapped up small tokens for my birthday...or the year at Indiana University studying world economics and spending the evening at the local pub in Bloomington..there were birthdays with my children with their homemade brownies...birthdays at the 4-H fair (usually the pie eating contest!!....there were birthdays alone (I am strong, I can do this!!)

This year's birthday I am with Philip, and he has made the day special...breakfast was met with an antique butter knife wrapped with tissue paper and decorated with small hearts on my plate..there were flowers from my sons, from Amy and David, from Philip....bulbs for my garden..homemade dishcloths and baskets....there were phone calls from my Mom and Dad, my sister, my friend, Ellen....birthdays are for celebrating, and I feel loved and cherished on this day...

So, here's to another year...a toast to sunsets and walks..to friendship and love. Lou Ann

Monday, July 19, 2004

Roses, poems, and silver spoons...

July is rainbow waves of heat....summer lightning...cool white sheets fresh from the clothesline...lazy days with no school...and the month of my birthday. I share this birthday with my Grandma Rhoads who taught me how to plant green beans and grow African violets...how to make potato salad and oatmeal cake...how to stitich on a button and hem a skirt..I miss her.

Birthays on the island are colorful affairs. Last night was the community pot luck for those of us born in July. I feel honored to share my ruby gemstone with Sundae, Karen, and Marcie....all very strong women I am getting to know. Sundae made us crowns of roses and ribbons that we wore all evening...everyone knew we were the birthday girls. Other small gifts were presented during the evening...silver spoons, poetry....but it isn't about gifts...it is about friendship and community.

The food was wonderful from Philip's deviled eggs to island fig cake and everything in between. There were friends and relatives in every room conversing on every subject

I have decided to wear my lovely crown all week...and shouldn't we all own a silver spoon???

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Sunday ....

Ahhh, today is Sunday...we had a hearty rain and thunderstorm in the night. I had to wipe off the seat of my bicycle before riding into the village for early morning groceries.

It is lovely here on Sunday morning. The sound of the church bells welcome the walking parisheners.

Most of the cottages change hands on Sunday so tourists are packing up wet bathing suits, T-shirts with Ocracoke emblazened on the front, seashells, sandals full of sand and memories...I see them lazily drive down Howard Street one more time as they sadly strap the watch on their wrist and turn on the radio to see what news they have missed.

The new folks are arriving with fresh, new bathing suits and a clean car (it won't last long!!) They are just turning off the radio and unstrapping their watches...their 20 dollar bills are still crisp from the ATM and the family togetherness has begun.

As for me, I'm not coming or going...I just am..and I really like that. I

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Sails and Sunsets

Until last night I had never attended a wedding on a sailboat or attended one barefooted..but for one evening the Emily Post rules of etiquette and the wedding planners were dashed.

Joy, a wonderful friend of Philip, and her fiance, Joseph, chose the island for their wedding. Over the course of the week, family members flew and drove and ferried over (it is a lot of work to get here!!)...til all were gathered on the dock last evening. We all spilled upon the Windfall leaving shoes behind...A cooler of champagne was carried onto the boat. The bride carried a bouquet of local flowers picked on the side of the road and off dusty paths. Captain Rob and his first mate, Frank, hoisted sails as the wind carried us out into Pamlico Sound. When deep out into the water, the ceremony took place...six little nieces from four to fifteen read poetry of Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barret Browning and from the Velveteen Rabbit...The sun set as a crystal scarlet globe as we toasted the couple and sailed the Sound. The girls sang...it was peaceful...it was romantic...

A reception of homemade cake and visiting and stories followed. I don't think I will ever think about the Velveteen Rabbit again finding love...without thinking of a scarlet setting sunset and sails.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Dinner Party...

Last night we hosted a dinner party...friends of Philip's..new friends of mine. I love dinner parties here...they are casual (yes, we had barefeet)...they don't take too long in planning (we got home from the beach at 5:30)...and if you foget something (we did!!)...they will bring it!!

Karen and Dave arrived late (which was a good..see above) carrying clams casino. Dave is a park ranger for Portsmouth Island..a non-inhabited island (he takes his boat to work each each, thereby missing the bike traffic here on the island at rush hour!!) Karen works at a local island resort..although has been a teacher and now also home schools her daughters.

Our place was festive with new candles in the wrought iron chandelier over the table, lots of red wine and fresh caught shrimp from Danny's Seafood establishement. Philip steamed the shrimp and served them in a large bowl in the center the table...along with cole slaw and sweet corn (not the best, but nobody cared!!) and brownie sundaes for dessert. Amy stopped by to say hello and had dinner also!!

We toasted friendship and dinners and quiet times spent with friends..the talk was of island politics and folks and children...of all ages and those yet to be born.

We left the dishes and masses of dripped candlewax til morning. It was a lovely evening...strong stories, strong folks...oh, and all those clam shells were tossed into my garden so that I will remember the evening.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Sizzling Summer

It is hot here on the island...July hot..firecracker hot..dogs snoozing under old cedar trees hot. We have all the accomodations thought...air conditioning, ice cream, cool showers, and not to forget the ocean for a sweet/salty dip on these mid summer afternoons.

Growing up in Northern Indiana didn't give us much beach front, but we did spend summers for several years on Lake Michigan as kids. We rented a large house right on the water. Mom would start gathering food supplies in January in a small pantry and by early summer we had pancake mix and syrup (and other sundries) to feed a small army...well, we were a small army of six children!!

By early July supplies and children were all packed into our car, I was always in the middle of the back seat to entertain the younger siblings...songs and stories..Dad would always give a quarter to the first one of us to see the water. I think he started the game a hundred miles short of shore to keep us all busy and looking.

Our summer days were long and lazy...just books to read, suntan oil to spread, and games to play long into the night. Actually, I think I have had enough writing, I'm off to the beach now to cool off from this sizzling summer!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Ghostly meanderng in Haiku for Tuesday

mariner footsteps
gliding through clam filled pathways
just looking for home

sails of ivory
silent in Pamlico Sound
dressed in white linen

shadows of shipwrecks
distant voices pierce the night
bones under my feet

shiftlessly she walks
the old woman down the lane
missing her finger

home to back yard graves
wind whistling in live oaks
turn on the porch light

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Phantom Silence

I never really gave spiders much thught. Well, actually, I was bit by one when I was ten or so..my whole face swelled up and I had to see the Doctor and take medicine for days. My friends and broters and sisters were amazed every morning that I was still alive. I went to sleep at night thinking it would be my last sleep and tried to stay awake (I thought you could only die if you were sleeping.)

It isn't that there are more spiders here, I think, it is that I have the time to notice them, although the are everywhere. Their webs thread through trees like hammocks. When caught in the sunlight, they are silver and gossamer...they make mosaic etchings...they cover pathways and bicycle seats. In the darkness they shimmer under moonlight and make dark, ghostly paths more hushed.

I guess what I am saying is that it is good to sit on a porch swing at the end of day and to just think about spiders.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

A Stirring Breeze

Treehouses.

It is not a subject most folks think about. It seems other things get in the way..such as what to make for dinner, or the price of gas, or the Presidential election, or choosing a fingernail polish. Maybe the subject of treehouses just doesn't show up in adult conversation. I mean, when is the last time anyone asked you, so..been in any great tree houses lately? But here, where I am living for the summer, it is quite normal. Actually the following statements are pretty matter of fact...should we have lunch in the kitchen or in the treehouse?...if you need me, I'll be in the treehouse..I'll be ready to go as soon as I dry my hair up in the treehouse...now where did I leave my book, oh, up in the treehouse.

Now this isn't just any treehouse. I once lived in a small room over a garage that wasnt much bigger. This treehouse has skylights and porches with swings and shelves and windows and little picket fences around the porches. It nestles in a large live oak tree with a limb that grows right through a small part of the floorboard of one of the porches. It is cool and shady in the day and the night brings on the magical world of darkness with stars and fireflies right at your fingertips. It is a place to read and swing...a place to think...a place to hide..and a place to share thoughts and stories with someone you love.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Midnight Moonlit Meandering

Last night there were five of us..dressed in jeans and sneakers...on our bikes...on a typical full moon ghost hunt. It was midight. I felt a little bit like a teen agers on a snipe hunt. Of cours, we knew we wouldn't see the headless pirate Blackbeard walking on Springer's Point...but just in case, Philip carried a stick. He said it was to brush away the cobwebs on the pathway, but you can't fool me.

The moon had not quite risen as we stowed our bikes by the fence and followed the narrow pathway into the woods down to the water. It was a fairly long hike (well, at midnight, hikes seem longer)..passing the grave of Sam Jones and his horse..they say there are other graves there, but they are unmarked..victims of shipwrecks. Occasionally my foot would catch on a root or a limb would brush across my face. Single file we walked. The view was breathtaking as we reached the sound side of the island...the lighthouse in the distance, the moon hovering over the woods, we huddled together..sharing stories, filling our souls up with the beauty of the night..expecting a fleet of pirate ships to round the corner, come to shore, roll out the kegs of rum, and celebrate the full moon with us.

We walked back with moonlight on the pathway. We never did see any ghosts...but did they see us?












Thursday, July 01, 2004

A Bouquet of Larkspur

Deciding we needed a lovely bouquet of flowers this morning (we have company coming!) I got on my bike and rode into the village to the florist shop. It is tucked in behind the community store, the fudge shop, and right on the harbor. It used to be the grocery store, then a bait and tackle shop, now the florist/Victorian antique shop.

The door was open letting in the mornng breezes from the sound. Chester is the owner of the shop. He was born on the island and also works as the local funeral director. His shop is small with two coolers filed with larkspur and delphiniums and sunflowers. I chose my flowers carefully...colors of pink and blue and purple. He carefully wrapped them in tissue paper tied with a yellow bow. I was cautious as I eased into friendly conversation. It didn't take too much as Chester was in the mood to talk and tell stories. He was born and raised on the island..his shop, Annabelle's, is named after his lovely Victorian grandmama. He shared stories of the mailboat from years ago and he told me he is impressed by Philip's dedication to stories, the real stories. As I left, Chester was stil sitting in the overstuffed chair, covered wtih a worn blanket, behind his small desk..I wound my way down the dock through the sea gulls with my lovely bouquet..a new Thursday tradition has begun.