Going Down Home Timeline

May 2018 Third trip Down Home

July 2015 Second trip Down Home

October 2014 First trip Down Home

July 2013 to October 2014 Online research and interviews

July 2013 23andme results received

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tyrrell (and Dare) County, Day 4, Part A

Familiar strangers, a strange yet familiar landscape.

Until Thursday, October 16, it had been 44 years since I’d set foot in the soft sands of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  In researching a piece I wrote for Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments in 2002, and from vacation pictures taken by former co-workers, I realized that the Banks, as I knew them, were only a memory.

And so I felt a need to protect myself from the collision of memory and reality by believing that I could approach the beach on Rt. 64 and quickly head south into Cape Hatteras National Seashore without contact with the new.

That wasn’t the case, but neither did I feel a sense of loss about the built world that confronted me. 

I first stopped at the Outer Banks Visitors Center, where the man behind the counter, John Fast, turned out to be a retired Pennsylvania State Police officer who formerly had been assigned to my hometown, Bedford, PA.  John shared some insights into relocation to the Carolina’s from the perspective of a retired Pennsylvania state employee, which was an amazing coincidence of perspectives.

I asked John for a recommendation for breakfast in Manteo and he directed me to TL’s Country Kitchen, where locals gather, and where I happily ordered a Greek omelet with biscuits.  Eating at the counter, I struck up a conversation with Sucelia Hassell Fahey, a health care professional working on the Outer Banks who just happened to have deep roots in Tyrrell County. 

The lunch counter conversation had turned from infectious disease to genealogy.  I don’t know if we are kin, but Sucelia had pictures at home to share and we agreed to touch base in a few hours. 

I headed south on Rt 12 into the national seashore park, where the dunes have been replenished and re-vegetated over the decades to new heights, and the wide beach in mid-October was luxuriously empty, and reminiscent of the empty beaches I walked on as a child.

That empty beach restored my soul.  Truly.  I was able – through time and space – to have an exhilarating and solitary experience that I’d imagined could no longer be had on the Outer Banks. But it was fall, and miles away from the billion-dollar real estate investments to the north. 

It was perfect.  In fact, there were mirage-like places among the dunes more beautiful than I remember.  Those places seemed sacred.

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