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?
12 thoughts on “Revisiting the Shifting Sands”
Such a lovely essay Connie!
Thanks so much. Best to you and Heinz!
Dear Connie – There is always so much wisdom in your posts! You have reminded me of faith in the LORD which is built on solid ground. As the lyricist reminds us “all other ground is sinking sand.” I am thankful for you and especially how GOD has sustained you, nurtured your soul, and given you guidance and affirmation during this new season.❤️
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Thanks so much for your kind and gracious response. I love how you’ve reminded me of the words of that old hymn–I’d forgotten about sinking sand and think now of it being similar to shifting sand.
God has sustained me and I know that will continue as I step forward into a totally new chapter. Thanks so much for your support, Barbara.
Best to you,
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I’m so sorry to hear of the sad transition in your life. I hope that you are doing as well as possible? I like that Barbara reminded us of the hymn “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.” I think that’s why this “pandemic” isn’t phasing me…because my hope really is only in Christ. About the time you were in NC at the Outer Banks, I had just arrived there inland a month before. I helped Daddy take care of Mamma 10 months before she passed. She was certainly the one that led me to learn how Jesus can carry us through!
Thanks so much for your support–and also for following my blog!
I’m sure taking care of your mother at that critical, end-of-life-time had many moments of despair as well as hope. There is such depth to being with someone so dear to you as they face transitioning to their eternal home, and you face life without them.
Christ is the source of all Hope–and during tough times, like you faced while caring for your mother and being with your father who was losing his partner, like I’ve faced in the past year going through separation/divorce, we see how our faith is what carries us through.
Best to you, Cindy in whatever path life takes you down–looking for God’s goodness along the way.
So lovely! a wonderful mediation for now.
Thanks so much, Emily.
You’ve taught me a lot about ‘shifting sands.’ Watching you move forward gives your old Aunt a great example to follow.
Best to you.
There is a benefit to being able to revisit our travels. There is not a day that I do not reflect or ponder a segment of a previous of the varied cruises that we have taken. Each of the memories are secrete individuals that stop to visit and relive the beautiful sites and the history that allow us to wonder and wander about to re-construct the experience. Yes, I feel that each of them becomes a minor meditation for seeking the meaning of the past, present and future. This was a nice mirror for you. Thank you for sharing.
Sorry for the delay in responding.
I love how you say that our memories allow us to “wonder and wander about to re-construct the experience.” That’s beautiful!
Going back is how we derive our meaning in what it meant in the total tapestry of our life–in as much as we can understand that.
Here’s to you being able to enjoy your previous journeys and find more of their hidden jewels.
Best to you,
Lovely story, Connie. Although we’re not able to travel at the moment, It’s heartening to have memories of those times of exploration and learning. And I have no doubt that you developed both resilience and resourcefulness, during your solo travels, that will help you to navigate through all kinds of shifting sands.
Thanks so much for reading. Yes, I look back over the years, those times of traveling alone and what I learned from the people and places in my path. I’m glad we’re able to benefit from past experiences in this strange present.
Best to you as you navigate whatever sands are shifting in your life, Julia.