Nag's Head Pier
High surf under the pier.
I’ve been away from this page a little while, and am returning to it with an odd image, I realize – not a picture of mountain ridges, but of other shades of blue, from across two states, at the edge of another deep and ancient landscape.
Over this past summer I’ve made some significant transitions, including starting a Masters of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction through Goucher College, a two-year low-residency program that was the major impetus behind my shifting to part-time at Blue Ridge Country magazine, and in the coming months I’ll share some of my writing from that program as part of this blog.
In my writing, I’ve found myself exploring landscapes – landscapes of all sorts, small and expansive, natural and created, personal and universal. I’ll be exploring Appalachia in my MFA project through essay and reporting, and somehow these small landscapes will be fitting into that, though I’m not sure yet how. I’m writing this return to my blog from the stormy shores of Nags Head, North Carolina – my other mountains:
SOME YEARS AGO I interviewed a woman who had moved from the shore to the mountains of east Tennessee. She thought she would miss the water, but she didn’t, at least not inconsolably. “The mountains are my ocean,” she told me. Their ridges, one after the other, in shades of blue from light to deep, stretched away to the horizon the way the ocean does. The mountains comforted her just as the water did.
The ocean and the mountains are not that far distanced. Over millennia they have traded places, ancient seas washing over land we climb today, leaving the tracery of ancient bones, leaving towers of ancient stone. Where are the memories left, I wonder? Quarry a mountain and see the storylines in the colored layers of rock and old soil.
The rush of wind echoes in the rush of tides. Thunderstorms move in over water, turning it as deep green as the summer mountains.
We move and breathe and listen at the edge of a massive world. The water hides mountains, canyons, shipwrecks, migrations, the singing of whales, the dance of predators and prey, the black weight of the deep where there is no light, forests of sea plants, architecture of coral. It touches our hand in flashes – the silent, quick appearance of dolphins emerging from mercury; the perfect scallop shell; the tug at the end of the fishing line; the shock of cold waves on the body; the hurricane surge eating away the dunes.
We move and breathe and listen at the edge of a massive world. The blue haze and green canopies hide waterfalls, roots, overgrown cemeteries, long trails, the conversation of birds, the chase of predators and prey, the black deep of caverns where there is no light, rhododendron tangles, architecture of boulders. It touches our hand in flashes – the dark graceful bear separating from shadows; the piece of quartz dug from soil; the shot and the deer felled; hands dipped into the cold spring where it leaves the land; the fire that consumes the trees.