One year ago today I moved from suburban Atlanta back to my hometown, Hatteras Island, North Carolina. I lived in Atlanta for 14 years and, although I loved my job and my friends there, I was never really happy. There was always a nagging sense of missing out, of being on the outside looking in at other people who were living the lives they envisioned. Even though Atlanta is a very pretty city as cities go, I hated the suburbs, the traffic, the urban sprawl. I wanted to come home to the sandbar. There was never enough open space in Atlanta, nowhere to go where I could be alone. Too many people, too much noise.
Before we moved, I wondered if moving would make me happy. What if I uprooted my kids, forced my husband to leave, left my friends and my surrogate family, went through all the hassle and expense of a move and got to the island only to find out that I still had that nagging emptiness? What if the dark cloud followed me to the beach?
I needn’t have worried. I was thrilled the day I moved here and I’m thrilled now. Part of it is the family connection. My parents and my brother, his wife and baby are here. I’m getting to see my nephew grow up, which I would have missed had I stayed in Atlanta. You don’t have a relationship with someone you see once a year.
But for me, what really fills me up and makes me feel whole is being out in nature. I’m sure it sounds cliché, but I need to be outside every day, and not just anywhere. I need to be in wild places. I need wildlife, sunsets, places that have never been landscaped, places that are the accumulation of wind, water and weather. I get that every single day here.
This past year I’ve had so many beautiful moments it’s hard to remember them all. Last fall I stood on the beach on brisk, breezy days and watched the cormorant migration. Thousands upon thousands of birds flew over my head, parallel to the beach, headed to South America for the winter. I wondered how there could possibly be that many birds in one place, and then more kept coming. I’ve seen sunsets with colors so intense you’d swear you’re looking at a painting. I’ve walked the beaches all year long, finding bright green hunks of sea glass and bright white branches of coral.
I watched tiny sea turtles crawl to the sea just minutes after hatching. I’ve watched the ocean change through the seasons, from steel gray and churned up like a washing machine in winter, to a turquoise so clear and bright you wonder why anyone bothers going to the Caribbean. It’s just as pretty here. I’ve taken the paddleboard way off the beach, almost a mile, and watched dolphins leap out of the water 15 feet away from me, so close I could see the battle scars on their skin, while I sat on the board with my mouth open in wonder. I’ve ridden my horse through tide pools, cantered down the beach into the wind, watched the sun rise through two Thoroughbred ears.
I am enchanted by this place. I belong here. Something about the energy wave or the vibration or whatever you want to call the thing that makes you call a place home- this place has it and I feel it. You would have to drag me off this island kicking and screaming.