Last year on this weekend, I was on my solo journey to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. That was a difficult trip because I knew while I was away, my husband would tell our sons that our marriage would be ending. But it was also a trip filled with beautiful sites, the salty breeze off the ocean, and new experiences even for a North Carolina native. I would never have guessed that this year, I’d be unable to do the things that seemed so usual last spring. Over the past two months with the impact of COVID-19 we’ve seen things we took for granted suddenly taken away.
I don’t know when we’ll be able to travel freely in the future, and I don’t know how comfortable I’ll be when things open back up. With so much time alone, soul-searching in the silence of my home, and Spirit-filled walks that are ambulating prayers, I feel I’ve been on a pilgrimage during the past 2 months. I’m so eager to be with others that it’ll be a while before I have the desire to go on a solo journey.
Now, I return to last year’s journey from a different vantage point. I see that we’ve survived the crisis in our family. I look back at all the milestones we’ve crossed including every family member’s birthday, the holidays, and almost 11 months of separation. It’s been a very challenging year but through the support of my faith in God and family and friends, I’ve survived.
In last week’s post, I likened the “Strong Women” to the lighthouses that I saw on that trip, lights that had helped me through unchartered waters. I remember climbing the steep, spiral steps of the Currituck Light House. I had to stop at each landing to get my bearings,, catch my breath, and talk myself into going forward. I don’t like heights and have a bit of claustrophobia, but my desire to get to the view at the top was greater than my fear.
At times while climbing those stairs, I had the same dizzy feeling I experienced the first months of our separation. Waves of anxiety would hit me out of nowhere and I felt panicky, like I couldn’t catch my breath. I’d have to sit down for a while to let the feeling pass. When I was driving, I’d slow down and get into the right lane in case I needed to pull off the highway. Eventually, I stopped having those feelings; it was a sign of progress.
On that sunny Saturday at the Outer Banks, I toured the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station to experience some of the history of the islands. On solo journeys, I often take time to visit local historic sites, something I never seem to have time for when I’m at home.
I learned from the volunteer guide that Chicamacomico is the Algonquian word used by the Croatan Indians that means ‘shifting sands.’ He explained,”Because that’s what all of the Outer Banks are– the winds and flooding are constantly changing this string of islands.”
I pondered that as I toured the grounds including the 1907 Midgett house, named for Cornelius Payne Midgett who was brother of the Keeper. Walking into that two-story house, I immediately felt transported back in time– but not just to Hatteras Island; I felt transported back to my childhood home.
I grew up in my father’s home place that was built in 1880 and had some similar furnishings. Later, I wrote about that experience in my blog post, “Shifting Sands at Chicamacomico”:
The grounding of the Midgett house seemed to be countering the ‘shifting sands’ of Chicamacomico. That morning, in spite of the beauty, the words ‘shifting sands’ had resonated with my own life– changes coming from strong winds and shifting tides. Coming inside my ‘childhood home’ had reminded me of that anchor of a strong family that had grounded me through my childhood. It was a reminder that family and close relationships would ground me through storms that occur, shifting sands that change the topography of your life.
Now, looking back to a year ago when I heard the words shifting sands, I see how my network of support helped to ground me through the rushing waters and blowing sand. My life doesn’t look like it did before, and the topography will continue to change as I move forward.
For all of us, COVID-19 has caused a real ‘shifting sands’ that have changed our lives forever. We’ve all tried to find ways to be grounded during this unchartered time. The picture of the china cupboard with pieces that were like the ones on my Grandma Smith’s table still makes me feel more settled. It reminds me of the aroma of country ham frying in the pan and Lousianne coffee perking in the aluminum pot on her stove. It gives me a respite of returning in my mind to a time that was simpler and seemingly, more certain.
Today, when I’m not able to travel to the Outer Banks, I can enjoy that time more than I could last year when so much was pressing in on me. Now, in my mind’s eye, I’m able to return and smell the pines around the Currituck light house and taste the grilled shrimp salad at the Ocracoke restaurant. I stand in the drafty living room of the Midgett House and imagine my living room when I was a girl and then walk into our kitchen with the red-checked linoleum floor.
I return to the feeling that no matter what happens in life, that the love and support of family and friends are a grounding presence when the sands are shifting in ways you couldn’t have imagined.
How About You?
How have the Shifting Sands of this time changed your topography?
While we’re sheltered-at-home during COVID-19, are their trips that you can return to in your mind’s eye with a new perspective?