(Please note this imagined day is a departure from non-fiction).
I am glad I am finally getting to guide you on this sail over to Bull Island, and take you around an amazing place, Ed. I made this offer to you years ago, and it is finally happening. Our time together has been occasional, mostly at recreation therapy conferences, so this opportunity to make this trip is long awaited for me – I hope for you too. I am going to let you sail Kingfisher over, and I will sail a borrowed boat. These are my home waters. With the northeast wind we should have an easy sail. You being an old Navy man, and a sailor to boot, we will glide over in our separate craft. We have been friends for years, and have never sailed together, so this is great.
We are out in the Bay now, and with high water we can cut across the shoal in order to make the turn into Bull Creek. It is a great place for dolphins – did you read my piece called Procession? No? Well, I must confess I have only read some of your writings. I know you have a passion for writing, and are working on a third book. Congratulations on getting your second book completed in February! Anyway, I was sailing across here one day late last summer and had an amazing interaction with a pod of dolphins – wait, here they are! They are joining us for the cruise across into Bull Creek. Heh, didn’t you write something about angels recently? You wondered if they could have fins as well as wings. What do you think is happening here? Surely this is a wonderful start to our trip.
Look ahead in Bull Creek, Ed – those are not white crab pot buoys but white pelicans! What glorious birds – this is your first time seeing them? Wow. But more is to come. It is nice running down this deep waterway, isn’t it? A great historic anchorage. The lore is that this was a prime spot for pirate vessels in the day. I’ll show you on the island the tabby foundation of a watch tower used as a lookout for pirates and other marauders. Don’t know what tabby is? Can’t wait to tell you.
OK, easy on the landing here, hotdog. How about drop that sail so we can keep Kingfisher afloat for the sail home. All right, not bad for a mountain dweller kicking the rust off his sailing skills. All secure now, so let’s shake a leg since we have many places to explore. We have been on walks before. We never have explored Ocracoke together – a favorite place for both of us. You remember my Ocracoke dream, right? What a place to sail – you did so, didn’t you? We have made a few hikes together in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and last year went to Grotto Falls during the symposium. I remembered on one of those hikes a participant sought you out for your wisdom and counsel. That sure has happened a lot over the years. When I visited your mountain cabin, we walked around your rural neighborhood. And then there were the walks around San Francisco. I have always loved both the mountains and the coast, as you have, but we chose different poles to live. We have a shared love for the natural world, and your homestead is in a great location.
Live oak trees are really unique, aren’t they? Fantastic timber for wooden ships. Your US Navy in 1799 had a contract with a past owner of the island to produce timbers for two frigates. Can you imagine the men using felling axes to bring those huge trees down? In my first book I referenced Audubon when he observed men working on a Florida hummock. Do you remember that passage I quoted? No? OK, do your homework and I’ll quiz you later. I know, I have enjoyed giving you a hard time over the years. You keep reminding me of one incident that really got you when we first met. The memory is hilarious. And then there was the little fun Annette and I had with you when we introduced you to “Bushman” in San Francisco. You almost needed a diaper that day. Maybe it has something to do with us both being raised in New Jersey.
What was that burst of multi-colored feathers? Why, the gaudiest bird around – the painted bunting. Never seen one before, not even at your bird feeders at the mountain cabin? Well, another bird to add to your list. We are going to head on and make our way to Alligator Alley. I was here guiding a group from the Upstate a week ago, and the sunny day had those reptiles basking. Multiple digital cameras were firing away. There is the first gator, in his usual sunning spot in Pool 2. There will be more on the way – see those?
There has been a really huge alligator residing in a pool down the LIghthouse Road, but we haven’t seen him in several years. There was a big one last week for the Upstaters, but not the legendary alligator known as Alligatorzilla. And today, no sign of the giant. Sad to miss him, sad that this ancestor is probably deceased. The Circle of Life. Heh, Ed, the Circle of Life was the favorite presentation of your many conference sessions, wasn’t it? Well, we have had quite a circle here, with the island devastated by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, dead trees everywhere, and many gators frozen to death that December. And now you see life has returned with many alligators, and the regeneration of the maritime forest – it is beautiful, isn’t it? It will be something in another fifty years.
Speaking of the subject of death, I was dressed this past Tuesday at work for a funeral. A marvelous woman who worked for the Institute of Psychiatry by the name of Donna Jenkins lost her battle with cancer. It would be hard to meet a more loving and caring woman than Donna. Yet you have, haven’t you? Your wife Annette, also my friend. She and Donna were definitely kindred spirits. Surely they both had hardwired in their DNA to love and care for others, through their voices, their touch, and their spirits. They have been angels for many hurting children, and adults. And both experienced cancer; fortunately, Annette won her battle. Well, speaking of angels, your last blog, the very last one you posted, was called Angel in Asheville, wasn’t it? I had quite an experience that Tuesday, Ed. On the same day of the funeral, I received word of the sudden and unexpected death of a very good friend and colleague. I was reminded of something I heard you say (and write) years ago that continues to resonate with me whenever a “coincidence” arises. “Coincidence is when Spirit chooses to remain anonymous”. I learned later that the idea did not originate with you, but no matter, you brought it to my awareness. You know, that is just one example of your pointing me in the direction of matters spiritual. Of course you didn’t know this, or did you?
We are coming to a magical place, the Boneyard. See the eagle overhead, it is flying toward our destination. I have spoken to you about the Boneyard, and you have seen some photos. It is much more than words or pictures can capture. I am so happy to be your guide, for this is surely a place of spirit. When we were at the ATRA conference in San Francisco (was that ’96?) I would walk in the early morning and explore the city. I found this incredible little park, bubbling with running water around the inscribed words of Martin Luther King, and was struck by the synergistic power of the words and place. I wonder if a favorite MLK quote of mine is carved in those stone panels, do you know it? “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope”. I observed that you found this park too, and as you were (and are) a practitioner of T’ai Chi it was perfect: there were many other disciples of moving meditation arrayed around the park terraces. Probably not coincidence we both found it independently. Nor that we both have found the discipline of penning words of our own.
These are our last steps as we get closer to the approaching sound of the ocean waves. We have a short climb down the old dike, and here we are. I am so glad you made it. This is a most special place, and I think to experience it properly I will leave you alone for a while. Feel to enjoy it as you wish. It is deep here, and I want you to mine its depths. I will take a walk to the north.
Before I go I must make another confession. I have not read your first book, To Carlie-With Love-From Grandad. As you know, I will become a grandfather in the next few weeks. I know there are messages in your book that are for me, and it seems like a good time to take it in. I believe your book is just one example of your angelic duties, that is, the many, many people you have taught, touched, and helped in your life. Your books will continue to serve that role going forward. Yes, Ed, I will be ready for a quiz in a future encounter. Also, before I forget (this happens more these days), please tell Carlie (and her family) that I will guide her around this island when she is ready.
Well, I will leave you now. I know you feel at home already. The ocean is a home for you too, isn’t it? I will return for the rising of the full moon, always a fine moment wherever but particularly profound rising out of the ocean. The refuge is closed after dark, but you have special permission to be here this night. In fact, you can stay here as long as you like. Back to the Circle of Life, I want to tell you some stories, like about the amazing cycle of Caretta Caretta, the loggerhead turtle. I know you like hearing about the mysteries of planet Earth, and I want to share how these female reptiles return and crawl up these beaches, dig their nests, and lay their eggs. Among other stories, I want to tell you about the Sewee Indians who lived here at the time of contact. Maybe their voices will speak to us directly tonight, as well as other Native Americans who preceded them.
I will see you in a little while, Ed.