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Discovering Ocracoke

This August, I went on vacation to Hatteras Island in North Carolina with my cousin and her family and friends - and that is when I discovered Ocracoke, the 9.6 square mile remote Outer Banks island that can only be reached by public ferry, private boat or plane.

Let me more specific.

I didn’t just discover the island.  I fell irrevocably in love with Ocracoke.

It happened quickly.  Our group took the ferry to the island to go to the beach.  Ocracoke is known for its beaches.  I opted out and browsed around a wonderful bookstore, Books to be Red, nosed around the outside of the Deepwater Theater that hosts storytelling and music shows – and then was delighted that the white, weathered, Methodist Church was open.  I went in and sat down.  

And that’s when it happened.

It seemed as though the present disappeared and I heard the ancient rhythms of Ocracoke.  It was as though the tourists, the bustle, the rented golf carts that whizzed up and down the main street of the village didn’t exist. 

I felt the island’s heartbeat.

Connected with its heartbeat.

I must have entered a time warp.  Before I knew it an hour and a half had gone and I came out of that church in a daze knowing something of great personal importance had happened.

Now I have to tell you that I come from island stock.  I was born in England but the majority of my ancestors come from Ireland – both are islands of course – if large ones.   But there is a line of my predecessors that come from the Isle of Man, a small wind-blown island between the north west coast of England and Ireland about three times the size of Ocracoke but nowadays, as a tax haven, infinitely more crowded.

It was as though the genes of my forebears were rising up and thanking me for taking them back to a relatively isolated island.

I knew I would be returning to Ocrocoke many times.

I visited the island three times that week.  In between trips I did research.  I already knew it was the home of Donald Davis, America’s foremost storyteller - a genuinely lovely man - who lives there with his absolutely wonderful wife, Merle.  But I found out that Ocracoke has a music and storytelling festival, a vibrant arts community, and a week-long Ocracoke arts and traditions school that is held every fall. 

I inhaled everything I could about the history of the island, the local dialect - which was so reminiscent of the accent in the West of England where I went to university – the food lore (figs are abundant on the island and there is a local plant that can be made into tea.)  I was transfixed by incredible stories of shipwrecks, bravery, pirates, storms, wild ponies and a selfless, loving, generous people who have survived against all odds perched on a magical island thrust out into the sea off the shores of North Carolina.

I left for home and planned my return.

The following week Hurricane Irene hit.

I sat glued to my computer reading weather websites, local blogs and watching webcams as Irene lashed the Island.  I prayed deeply and fervently for protection for all those who lived there and for their property.

I thank the Almighty that my newly discovered Shangri-La did not become Atlantis.

Ocracoke survived - as it had over the centuries. - this time with minimal damage and flooding.  (Although Highway 12 that goes from Ocracoke's free ferry across and off  Hatteras Island was severed in five places leaving Ocracoke even more isolated than usual, albeit - most probably - temporarily.)


When I think about my instant attachment to Ocacoke Island I am reminded of the book The Polar Express.

In that story, the first gift of Christmas was a bell from the harness of one of Santa’s reindeer.

Adults couldn’t hear it.

You could only hear it if you truly believed.

I feel as though I heard the bell ringing on Ocracoke. 

I felt the stories and the magic.

And I believe.

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Reader Comments (3)

We visited the island two summers ago and it was a fun-filled summer for the whole family. With 16 kilometers of beachfront, there's so much to do. We enjoyed reef fishing while the kids got hold of some seashells and went to the lighthouse.

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November 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSpencer

Her blog was always having a great topics. Great job!

November 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercustom essays

Dear Kimberly Accommodation - I'm delighted that you also loved Ocracoke.

Dear Custom Essays - what a lovely comment! Thank you!

Blessings to you both!


November 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterGeraldine

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