Tuesday, August 08, 2017

ACCIDENTALLY ORIENTAL

Dragon in the canal in the center of Oriental

Before your mind takes you someplace strange....
this is a post about a place, not an ethnicity.
A place that I never intended to go-
much less spend a week.

What place am I talking about?

Oriental, North Carolina


Population:  ~ 900
Location:  East down highway 55 until you see water and sails.
Where the Neuse River meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Home of sea dragons, a gazillion sail boats, and very few cars.
Place where zinnias and dolphins may be found in equal measure.



A place I remember vaguely from 4th grade history 
but a place I have never been before or ever considered going.
Even my dad 
couldn't place it when I told him we were headed there...
until I told him it was 20 minutes from New Bern.

So how the heck did we end up in a place we never knew existed?

Well-it was an accident.
Not our accident so much as someone else's....
Someone accidentally severed the power line connecting
 Hatteras and Ocracoke Island and effectively shut down the southern Outer Banks.
The day before our two week vacation on Ocracoke was scheduled to start.
#OBXblackout2017 was trending for a while
and pissing off the northern OBX beaches who were fully open.
Watching this catastrophe unfold on social media was
harder than normal because we were all packed and ready
to relax for two weeks at our favorite place on earth.
Until that door was suddenly slammed shut.
Damn.


 Ocracoke wasn't available....
so we had to make some choices.
Stay home
or try somewhere new
(that might also suck).
Bridges to cross that lead to places unknown are not my favorite.


We considered a stay-cation for the interim
but quickly realized that it would be impossible for us to truly disconnect at home.
Our beloved church family,
the community gardens we're involved in,
the mail, the laundry
and the home improvement projects...
all those voices were going to be too difficult to ignore.

Vacation for our family has always been about slowing down
disconnecting from the rat race and the agendas.
We focus on seeing each other-something that gets harder as our kids get older.
Our best vacations have always happened
when we were AWAY from our actual real lives.
So stay-cation was off the table.
Assuming we could find somewhere else to be.


Small BnB cures most everything.
After a day of grief in Pittsboro 
(Small BnB is a great place for a family war counsel)
 we started checking the web for weekend rentals.
We were of two minds about it....
scrap the coast altogether and go to the mountains
or
get close to the shore in some other location
hoping that Tideland Electric would work their magic quickly and
we would be staged for re-entry.
Hopefully re-entry would occur in days, not weeks so decided
we preferred the coast.

We had two dogs, two kids and not much money.
After a careful perusal of our online options...
we realized that we only had two options on the coast.
One of those was this little house in Oriental.....
where the heck is Oriental?
At this point, it was just a spot on the map.
We'd get there and figure it out.
It was only a weekend after all.


You can rent this adorable cottage by clicking on this link.


We accidentally ended up in Oriental NC 
and decided to stay for a while.
We initially booked for 3 nights.
Then we immediately extended for 5 nights.
Then finally a week.
Why?

Because Oriental is a balm for chaos and stress.
In the midst of all the not knowing-
 when (or if) the power would come back on
 if the insurance would cover the cost
what our vacation schedule would entail....
we were able to exhale.
Our family was wrapped in a cocoon of comfort.
Everything we need is right here....

The things is....we like water but we aren't 'beach' people.
We like to fish, crab, watch the sunset.
We want to bike, walk, fish, float, dig, cook, laugh....
we don't want to lay out, visit a boardwalk or putt-putt.
We love the ingenuity and creativity
that develops around water communities-
places where people are scrappy and connected with nature.
We want to meet those people and chat for a while
about what matters to them.

Oriental meets almost all our criteria
in a well-appointed wrapper-
it could not be cuter, safer, more peaceful 
if it were created on a movie set.



By day two in this little town
we had settled into a regular rhythm:
walk in the mornings, 
bike ride in the afternoon, 
fish off the public docks in the evening.
The 'serious' fishermen in our crew


In the middle, we played with our dogs in the back yard or took naps. 

took a fishing expedition with a local


The back yard from heaven




Had snacks at The Bean

The ice cream counter at The Bean

Looked for dragons at every single house

A dragon lurking behind the hedge...

Found each dragon egg nesting site









After a week....the ferries to Ocracoke opened back up.
We made it on island in record time
and were ready to jump into the second half of our vacation
because Oriental had let us rest up first.
I found myself thinking:  
Was this accidental?
Or were we supposed to find this little spot
in this little time out of life?

I don't really believe in coincidence but I know 
that next time won't be accidental.




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