This story popped up in my dropbox this morning, and I thought you would enjoy reading it...Winter on Ocracoke. Of all the times I spent there, I truly loved winter the most. As always, thank you for reading.
It is winter on Ocracoke. It is my first winter on Ocracoke, and I really didn’t know what to expect. The shops are closed. The tourists are gone. There are no ghost walks or shows in the theatre.
The truth is, it is perfectly lovely. Somehow the rhythm of the seasons seems balanced here. Of course there is no snow, but the wind sweeping in from the Atlantic is chilly enough for me to wear my winter coat and gloves when walking the winter beach.
“What is it like in the winter?” is the question most tourists ask during the summer months. I always gave an answer, but it was not from my own heart. Now I know. Sit back, watch the snow fall (I do miss that as you know), pour an extra cup of coffee and let your mind wander onto a small island accessible only by ferry during the dark months of the year.
The ferries from the mainland, known as Swan Quarter and Cedar Island, only run twice a day; 10:00 in the morning and 4:30 in the afternoon. You can’t be late or you run the risk of reading and/or sleeping in your car. The 2 ½ hour ferry ride travels through the Pamlico Sound. Taking the late ferry, you travel in darkness with Orion to guide the way as well as the green and red buoys strategically placed so that there is no chance of being set adrift out into the sea.
Arriving on Ocracoke in winter is magical. The lanes and streets are quiet and dark as they are void of tourists. Shops are closed. Just a handful of restaurants and ‘motels’ stay afloat as a few duck and geese hunters travel here for their winter catch.
It sounds a bit like a ghost town, but far from it. There are still 800 folks living here with children attending school. The big difference from summer is that you know everyone now. The sound of carpenters fill the air repairing structures, shop keepers are doing inventory, writers of song and verse are working in their studios, and the normal jobs of a community continue on through the winter months.
I find myself in a wonderful pattern of life waking with the rising sun. My first thought was to get to the beach every morning to watch the sun come up as I do in the summer months. The truth is, it is chilly here. The Ocockers say it is cold, but I know better.
Coffee and a fire on the hearth greet me before I head out to the Mad Mag Studio to work in the morning. The trees of cedars, yaupons, and live oaks are still covered with leaves. The pattern of trees and sun dance upon the old floor in this ‘once upon a time washhouse’.
By early afternoon it is time for the beach walk. I head out the cottage door with my camera slung across my back. I am often greeted by dancing dolphins and seagulls. Once in a while I come across another walker, but it is rare. It is as if the beach belongs to me…there is just sand and sea. This pristine Cape Hatteras National Seashore beach is a protected sanctuary with picture book beauty.
There is always a trip to the Community Store as shopping is done daily here. I take my list, but change the menu once I am in the store as I can only cook what is available on the shelves. There is also the daily trip to the post office to get the mail, read the bulletin board and hang out with friends.
Evenings are for social activities…potluck dinners, listening to our local jazz band at one of the two restaurants open, watching movies with friends or just staying home reading by the fire. There are ball games as well, although the times are early as the visiting and traveling teams must commute by ferry. Sometimes the games are canceled because of high waves or wind.
There are meetings and book clubs as well. This past week there was a community meeting over ferry tolls and most families had at least one member in attendance.
The sense of friendship and community is validated in the winter as we chat over tea, over books, over each other’s cooking.
As much as I miss family and friends in the Midwest, these dark winter months have embraced me on my island by the sea.