Choosing One Another Part II

A small portion of my quahog shell collection as displayed on top of a painting I created: Same shell; Different beauty …. like people.

Originally, this Part II was only going to be about my real life date, but I decided to include something else that occurred here on the Outer Banks which is much more important.

First:  The Date, Post Hook

A few weeks ago, I watched a stranger on the beach from inside the house, hoping to catch a glimpse of his face so I could accurately describe it to the police. The evening before I saw him walk onto a sand trail close to my house, a path which others have used as a public beach access even though it isn’t one.

A month before, while on my morning run, I stopped to talk to a neighbor down the beach road who asked if I’d heard about the Peeping Tom in Kitty Hawk.  The peeper had been arrested, then released out on bail until his trial.  I hadn’t thought anymore of that peeper conversation until the evening around 10 o’clock when I saw a bouncing beam of light on the sand trail leading down the dune toward the water.  What I wasn’t able to see in the darkened night was this man’s mutt dog and the reason he later gave for his late walk along the beach.  I kept my eyes glued to the pattern of light until I could make out a figure.  After some time, he returned to the small dune and began a trek back toward the street.  Once he neared my house, I turned on the back porch light as a warning (Of what? That I was armed with a psychotic cat?).

The next time I saw the man was the day after, in the afternoon, when he brought his dog to the beach.  Under the pretense of offering the terrier a bowl of water, “In case he’s thirsty,” I said, I made mental notes of this man’s hair and eye color, approximate height, and any other details I thought a crime scene investigator would need to solve the mystery of my murder.  After the dog lapped the bowl dry, the guy approached my deck and apologized for scaring me the night before.

“I saw you turn on the lights,” he said.

I told him about the Peeping Tom, and he remarked how lucky he was that I hadn’t called the police.  I asked if he’d seen my license plates.

“Texas,” he said.

I nodded, “I don’t dial 9-1-1.”

“So you have a gun?” he laughed but I remained stone-faced with my best Hook smirk.

There are no safety locks on the doors of my beach house.  The only true weapons are my body odor after a long run and Gatita’s fish breath.  When this man continued to stand on my deck steps, I invited him to sit.  I asked about the book he was reading.  Self-help.  He confessed to being lost in a life transition, even admitted to being full of fear.  I couldn’t help reaching for my invisible coach’s hat while I began asking questions, but after awhile I said I needed to get back inside.  Before he left, he asked me out to dinner.  I declined and invited him to come over instead because that’s what one does when they like a person’s smile who may or may not be a Peeping Tom / Date Raper / Murderer. I really did think that inviting a stranger over was far safer than getting into his oversized four-wheel drive. When he showed up at the house later that evening, I asked to take a photo of his driver’s license, then texted this to a friend so she could help the police identify my killer, too.

When I started writing this post, I thought it was funny how this first date came about. The bizarre topics he insisted on bringing up over dinner, however, were not but this wasn’t the only reason that I turned my face and presented my cheek at the end of the evening when he leaned in to kiss me goodnight.  I was almost as surprised as he was when I did that. Although I’d initially found him attractive, the longer we talked the more I realized that our core values were severely misaligned.  When he left Kitty Hawk at the end of the weekend, I wished him safe travels but never returned his calls or emails that followed.

I consider this first date a huge success, because it was a milestone / icebreaker / benchmark reminder. I knew that the combination Hook possessed of cool and smart and goodness to the bone could not be replaced, because each individual is unique. Still, I hadn’t realized how damn high he left that benchmark.

Second: Really Choosing One Another 

HDU_MotherTheresaWhen I arrived in Kitty Hawk three months ago, I sought out three things: a place to run, a place to meditate, and a place to write. The beach road became my running trail, a local yoga shop became my meditation place, and Dare county’s second Thursday literary open mic became a writing group to attend.

In the open mic nights, writers read short essays or poems and sometimes ask for feedback on works in progress.  In the last gathering, one woman said she wanted to read “a political essay” that she wrote.  In it, she faulted, one by one, all the groups of people she felt were responsible “for what is wrong with the U.S. today.”  This was her list:  liberals, gays, transgenders, the mentally ill, Muslims, millennials, Oprah, and if I understood her, basically the entire black community.  She said order would only be found “by Bible or bayonet.”  The order she spoke of was relative to the happenings at the University of Missouri, before the Paris bombings had occurred, before the Syrian refugees became the next fiery topic on social media.  When the woman was done reading, everyone except me clapped wildly.  At the first available break, I stood up and walked out, saying nothing to no one as I left and drove back to my beach house.

I did not take the time to correct this woman and explain that the U.S. was not “founded on Judeo-Christian values” as she had said.  The ‘Judeo-‘ came after WWII was over, and after the U.S. had turned away almost 1,000 Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler.  I did not mention that Oprah stopped doing a talk show almost five years ago, and that perhaps it was Dr. Phil she’d meant to deride.  Nor did I correct her when she said that blacks in the United States were now doing to whites what had been done to them.  I did wonder, though, if I’d missed some late breaking news about white men being lynched and left hanging in the wind until their families cut them down from tree branches. Finally, I did not say anything about how ‘Bible or bayonet’ was the value-system used to commit genocide on millions of Native Americans, the original people of the land we stand on today.

President Calvin Coolidge was the author of the “Bible or bayonet” phrase. Follow or be killed?  Don’t question the status quo?  That guy that I allowed to be my first date did not want people to question the status quo either.  I didn’t ignore his three phone calls and two emails simply because we voted differently.  He let it slip that slavery “wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be,” and he wanted to know “why people are complaining about things now when before it was okay.”

The woman at the literary function was angry that the black community was angry.  I was angry that she was angry about someone else being angry.  The circularity of this single emotion would be comical if it weren’t so destructive.

Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”

In my Wednesday night Dharma meditation classes, we are encouraged to try and understand the interconnectedness between us, so that we erase the “us vs them” scenario that continues to creep into our everyday lives.

The woman from the literary evening clung to her views as I clung to mine, neither of us choosing one another, both of us suffering because of it.  Maybe it would have made a difference if I hadn’t walked out.  Maybe my points would have been acknowledged, or maybe, maybe I misunderstood what she was really upset about.

Americans will begin celebrating a Thanksgiving holiday whose origins derived from one group helping another group to get through a winter and not starve to death.  So I leave you with these words:

We are compelled to choose one another, not by book or by sword but by the original innocence of good that is born into each of us; before we are taught something other than love and kindness; before we repeat the mistakes of our fathers and our mothers.   

I would also like it duly noted that I believe millennials are great. Translation: Please take care of me when I’m old.

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The Evacuation Sabbatical

HDU_Secondaryevacuation

Second book in my second evacuation pack. Should be interesting …

I do not think the words, “evacuation” and “sabbatical,” should ever, ever be tossed around together.  And while I’m on all the things that should not happen during a sabbatical, learning about coastal flooding would be another. 

I drove in from Texas seven weeks ago to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  I must admit to loving every moment of being here, even the heartbroken ones, even the ones like last night as pitch black descended, preventing vision of any kind as to how high the water was rising.  I’d forgotten to pack the flashlight.  Damn it.

I exchanged Austin’s 104 degrees for Kitty Hawk’s balmy, oh who am I kidding, moist, sticky 88 degrees.  Today, it is 66, winds are 12 mph, gusts are 23 mph.  If you lived in the Carolinas, you would know that gusts are important to note.  I do not live in the Carolinas.  I only sabbatical here, using sabbatical as a verb because when one is creating during a time of rest and relaxation, anything is possible.

This is my sabbatical; my writing sabbatical, my writing road-trip sabbatical, a writing road-trip evacuate-to-higher-ground-from-flooding sabbatical, apparently.

This has been a wild 24 hours and one I’m sure will end up in some book in the future, but I could have done without the surges.  Coastal flooding, according to the National Weather Service, is flooding caused by seawater pushed onto the shore by the wind. This is also known as a “storm surge,” occurring normally during high tide, but when there is a hurricane lurking even low tide can be dangerous.  Think about your relatives that you do not like who show up at your front door.  That is a storm surge.

The high for wind “gusts” was 26 mph. Wind blows your hair back into a natural, feathered look as though you were posing for a Wella commercial.  “Wind gusts” assault your thighs and cheeks with sand that only a few days earlier was lusciously between your toes.  This same sand can now poke your eye out same as any BB gun, along with the debris that flows in with the high tide.  Everything is not bigger in Texas, certainly not the driftwood I see floating by in chunks in Kitty Hawk.

Romancing a Storm

HDU_Evacuationtable

CLICK to see enlarged, blurry photo: Contents of an evacuation backpack except for the freshly poured glass of Proseco. Don’t judge. Or go ahead and judge, after you’ve evacuated …

Two days before Hurricane Joaquin hit, I went shell collecting.  Rains beat down the dunes so much in the previous days that walking the beach meant straggling one leg higher than the other for long distances.  Uncomfortable yes, but worth the ache as strong tides brought in huge concha shells. I call them “concha” because that is the original Portuguese name, but some of you may know them as “conch” shells.  Those who say conch might also be the same ones who think Joaquin was chosen to be politically correct. Seriously? It’s a Hurricane.  Joaquin is a name.  They needed a ‘J.’  Don’t worry, the brown people won’t hurt you.

The cottage owners said we hadn’t seen the worst, but as I had zero experience with a storm of any nature, I thought that meant we might see more rain.  I didn’t think that meant I should make ready an evacuation backpack.

The day before, I saw gulls trying to fly away.  The most they could do was hold steady and see where the wind took their wings.  It reminded me of watching a gull on the shores of Busselton, on the far western edge of Australia, south of Perth.  I’m not sure why, but I guess I assumed birds had some extra special wind connection with storms, that they could still leave as they needed. But I also thought, well it’s Australia and things are different, maybe birds can’t just leave. Here in Kitty Hawk, though, if the birds were having a hard time getting out, what was it going to be like for me and my spastic cat?

Almost as a joke, I began to create an evacuation backpack, really getting into it, talking out loud to Gatita, “Should we take this? How about this? Oh, tuna, we’re going to need some tuna for you, you bad girl!”

Evacuation refrigerator: Only one of those bottles of Proseco is full.

My fake-turned-real evacuation backpack:

  1. One reading book wrapped in leftover toilet paper packaging
  2. A homemade first aid kit with hydrogen peroxide, band aids, cotton balls
  3. A year’s supply of contact lenses; Contact solution
  4. One pair of running shorts in addition to the clothes on my back and a creamy white zip up jacket. My mother would be aghast if she knew I brought something white which would show stains.
  5. Toothpaste and a new, unopened toothbrush
  6. Three hotel bars of soap
  7. Three types of chewing gum
  8. Coffee cup with my niece’s toddler face on it.
  9. Hook’s camping blanket & his Texas Tech University field station bag
  10. Eyeglasses and one pair of reading glasses
  11. One menstrual cycle’s supply of OB; A year’s supply of Advil

    HDU_Evacuationluxury_RuddyTurnstone

    CLICK to enlarge: Sandpipers painted by Hatteras Island artist, Stephanie Kiker, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

  12. A 2-year old miniature bottle of Tylenol with three tablets of aspirin
  13. One hair brush used to scratch my itchy back & Gatita’s itchy face
  14. A small Tupperware container filled with a six-week collection of heart-shaped shells from the shores of Kitty Hawk
  15. Cash, Passport, Sunglasses, 3 jump drives, 2014 & 2015 tax papers
  16. Four writing journals from the last two years
  17. One luxury: An 8×10 ceramic painting of sand pipers
  18. Grocery bag full of good stuff for 1 human & 1 cat
  19. Computer bag full of cords & crap
  20. One finicky feline

Items forgotten: Dental floss, hair bands to keep my big hair off my hot menopausal neck, and a flashlight.

HDU_Evacuationdinner

CLICK to enlarge: One evacuation dinner.

Already, I have written this adventure into Ava and Daniel’s story.  Who knows if it will stay there, if it will make the final editing cut.  And, I have returned to my evacuated cottage from the one up on stilts and from where I write this blog as the winds pick up to a ferocious speed of 26 mph with rain added in for ambiance.

Maybe I should have been more aware of the weather dangers in this part of the U.S.  But, that would have required me to do some research outside of the eight hours I spent on the internet trying to find lodging that would accept a cat.

I understand now the beauty and danger of water.  At 2:07 pm yesterday, I spoke to the owner’s son who said they were turning off water in the first four cottages.  I was in cottage #8 and had yet to shower. Oops. I scrubbed myself with soap and water as though both might be scant for days. When I was through, I saw the owner walking outside surveying the rising water.  I poked my head out the front door to ask, “When should I be concerned?”  The water was significantly closer than just thirty minutes prior.

“You should be fine,” he said but we agreed on a white parking stripe close to my cottage.  If the water reached that white stripe, I was to drive the Jeep to the other side of the cottages which were three feet higher above sea level.

“But you won’t see that until around midnight,” he said.

Thirty minutes later, the owner stopped by, pointing at the white line with water covering it.  “It’s there,” he said.

I grabbed the fake evacuation backpack, my computer bag, and the grocery bag, tossing all of this into the back of the Jeep.  Gatita was the last to go.  The winds were rough now and the sound alone frightened her.  She’d already hissed at me twice and I hadn’t lost my patience.  I want an award for that sometime before I die.  She was afraid, hell, so was I and I’m supposed to be the one in charge.

I couldn’t know that this probably wasn’t anything serious.  I’ve never factored in needing to evacuate anything, ever, in my life.  I helped my husband to die – to die!  I hiked the jungles of Chiapas where Jaguars sleep. I’ve slept outside in the Outback where dingoes can eat your face, and I’ve tried to order good coffee in Greece. But, I have never had to run from rising waters in a coastal town.

Evening of October 5th, 8 pmEST

The weather folks said they would call off coastal flood warnings at 4 pmEST then they extended that until 8 pmEST. Now it has been pushed to tomorrow, Tuesday, October 6th at 6 amEST. I can tell you what I was doing at 6 am this morning: Taking photos. The only reason I was up was because I hadn’t fallen asleep until 1:38 am, waking up at 3:47am, pulling myself up from the couch after 5 am when the storm broke at 25 mph winds. Yesterday, I didn’t know what that meant. Today I find it intoxicating, helping me to appreciate storm chasers and their addiction to the exhilaration of danger.

Gatita and I will not flood where we are at this moment, back in our original cottage #8.  I say this but I truly have no way of knowing as the toilet gurgles like it wants to regurgitate out whatever clear water is in there.  I’ve had to halt my normal water conservation tactics of yellow/mellow, brown/down and instead flush the toilet every single time I use it for fear that it could back up.

A master escape artist, Gatita figured out how to unbind herself out of the pink harness which was held down by a heavy chair. This was by far the scariest sight during the whole ordeal as I thought for a moment that she'd gotten outdoors.

CLICK to enlarge: A master escape artist, Gatita figured out how to unbind herself from the pink harness and leash which was held down by a heavy chair. This was by far the scariest sight during the whole ordeal as I thought for a moment that she’d gotten outdoors during the storm.

FROM GATITA:

This crazy fool was going leave me here alone in the cottage for five days.  Why did she bring me here at all?  My only reprieve is to hide underneath the bed and no, I’m not sorry that I swipe at her forearms when she tries to reach me.  She has this ridiculous pink (I hate pink!) body thing on me that she calls a “harness” which I secretly call a hard on because that’s how pissed I am.

When she grabbed me, it was to take me outside. Was she insane? She could barely stand up.  She covered my head and body with the master’s wool blanket that has pictures of fish and leaves and chipmunks.  I tried to chase the chipmunk once.  I’m not a horse, but that didn’t stop her from grabbing the back of my neck, preventing any type of escape.  She had to struggle against me the moment she opened that cottage door because the wind slammed us sideways.  And damn it, she didn’t leave the truck door wide open.  Is she slow witted?  I should have swiped her face then!

She packed me last. Apparently that’s how important I am.  And so what if I screamed for the first and last hours of being in the new place. I needed a comfortable spot to take a dump and she took me where the wind moved the frames of the windows  And she has the nerve to say:

“Okay, good, you stay there while I finish unpacking the Jeep.” 

Screw that. I followed her back to the door. Okay, so what, yes, I was afraid to be alone.

“You can’t come. Stay here kitty, please!”

You stay you wretched wench. You take me out of a comfy home, drag my hairy body across Confederate states.  Yeah, you think I don’t see colors?  And bring me to humidity followed by rain followed by water followed by wind.  In what human universe is this fun?  Then you try to tie me to a cottage chair and think that will hold me.  Are you high, woman? 

And, you freak out, holding your hands to your chest, because you think I somehow learned how to unclasp the lock on the cottage door.  If I knew how to do that, I would have left weeks ago! There is no amount of tuna that will make up for any of this.  And screw your Cast Away moment when you found ice in the freezer.  Get a life and stop trying to “treat me” to new adventures.

From Rosemary Again

I packed for one night and was able to return to our cottage to gather more things. When I returned for the second evacuation supplies, I brought Kurt Vonnegut’s, Breakfast of Champions.  I didn’t read his book or the first one I brought either. Instead, I tortured myself with back-to-back Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park: The Lost World and wished Tea Leoni dead before her first scene ended.

Safe and sound here in Kitty Hawk, not really, but what can I write except that which is happening in the moment.  And yes, the storm is unbelievably mesmerizing.

What would be in your evacuation pack?

Evacuation backpack -- a starter kit at least.

Hook’s backpack: Now my official evacuation starter kit.

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