There are people who can rush themselves to death anywhere but it is harder to do here in our mostly natural world. I often clarify that by saying that we have 158,000 acres of Croatan National at our back and we are bordered on the west by the White Oak River which has a mile or two of water that can get very quiet this time of year (see picture in post). To the south is the Atlantic Ocean and to the east you will find the marshes of Down East and the 56 miles of Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Fortunately or unfortunately depending our your outlook on life, you can count the area's big box stores on your fingers and not run out of fingers. It you want to go to Target, you need to go to Jacksonville or New Bern. I have been known to do my Christmas shopping at Ace Hardware or even Reel Outdoors. To get into a festive shopping mood, I might have to drive an hour to Neuse Sporting Goods and look at the decorated trees in their cleverly attached gift shop that entertains the ladies not interested in fishing tackle.
I like it this way and the peacefulness of the holiday season is one of the things that attracted me to the Crystal Coast. It is a totally different world than Northern Virginia where I used to work and sometimes try to shop during the holidays. Even in those days ten years ago, you will see that I have never been properly wired for Christmas shopping in malls. My first year down on the coast I did head off to Wilmington, our big city, but even then I avoided the crowds.
I always manage to come up with a few presents for loved ones, but Christmas is not about presents anyway. In addition to the religious significance that should define the season, it is also a time to be with family and friends.
That leads me to ask. What better place could there be to spend time with family and friends than the peaceful beaches of the Crystal Coast and our beautiful and still warm waters? I went kayaking on December 11, 2015, and the water temperature is still over 60F in the river. It was virtually the same temperature last year in December.
Our area has a number of nice trails that are a lot more fun to walk and certainly easier on your feet than a mall. You can hike our woods and marshes and Nature's peace will flow into you. Certainly if you take the time to walk some of our beaches like the Point at the western most end of Emerald Isle, you will find serenity that is hard to find anywhere. Even if you just sit a spell with some of your friends in our quiet surroundings, you might find that the holidays look a little different.
While you can never guarantee middle of December temperatures like this year's five straight days of seventy degrees Fahrenheit or better, we generally have more warmth than the interior of North Carolina this time of year and life on the White Oak River in December is pretty nice most years.
We look forward to Thanksgiving and the Christmas season because we long ago figured out how to escape the madness. Plenty of our family traditions like Rook and peanut brittle have followed us to the coast but little of the madness. There have been many magnificent Christmas trees over the years but this are just lighthouses for the memories.
One of the things that we have always told our children is that home should be a place where you are always welcome no matter what. I think that will remain true no matter what kind of home we have for the holidays. We have been blessed to have some wonderful homes over the years but even the humblest one was filled with love for family and friends. Our coastal home might only have room for a crab pot tree instead of a big balsam fir but it is accessible by boat and we will be in good shape if the North Pole melts and Santa has to take to a watercraft.
As usual we are looking forward to having some family at our sides over this Christmas holiday and even if they all cannot make it, they will be here in spirit and that includes those all important family members whose influence shaped our lives before their spirits left their bodies.
It has been over eleven years since we had a Christmas with my mother who was the last of our parents. Her footprints are still with us even though she never walked in this house. We will never forget that one Christmas when all of our parents laughed with us and gave the grandchildren their first taste of Rook in the family room in our Roanoke home. That magic memory will never leave us.