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Outer Banks Guide > Outer Banks Blogs > Eve Turek's Natural Outer Banks Blog

Tuesday, October 13, 2020
The Gray and the Blue of October
An artist friend and I had a brief conversation yesterday, meeting one another’s eyes across a respectful space, resisting the usual urge to just give each other a hug. In about five minutes we ricocheted from worry to worry, over health, finances, the future, the present, and concluded that 2020 feels like that Groundhog Day movie but without any ending in sight yet, happy or otherwise. I suspect most of us feel what we expressed, how limbo makes us uncomfortable, how we hate the not-knowing, how we have mustered strength and resolve to face much in our mutual lives and how we will try to do so again…if we could only know what direction to take. Not once in our chat did we flit down, even for a touch-and-go, into joy.

I’ve thought a lot about our encounter in the ensuing 30 hours or so. Do you remember the old joke about half a glass of water? Pessimist says, half empty. Optimist says, half full. Efficiency expert says, looks as if you have twice as much glass as you need. Ha ha ha. Only today, I’m not truly laughing.

That conversation’s tone probably explains in a roundabout way why this blog is late. I say “late” because I try to write at least one a month, so you can live vicariously through my lens on some regular basis with whatever the Outer Banks is experiencing. Over the past weeks I’ve seesawed emotionally as much as our weather has. We’ve had “dog days,” hot and still. We’ve had big winds and big waves, enough to cause road-closing overwash on NC 12 on Hatteras and Ocracoke. We’ve had the heavy gray blankets of sky I associate more with winter than any other season, whatever the temperature, and we finally settled into what I think of as a fall pattern right about the time of the official start of autumn.

On the last day of summer, I got up in the dark and drove to the ocean for sunrise under overcast skies. I kept arguing with myself all the way out to the beach, alternating between half-empty and half-full thinking. Mostly I worried that I had given up sleep for nothing and would go into my working day even more tired than usual, and with nothing tangible to show for my effort. But the clouds parted in thin rifts just enough to scatter layers of shafted light down to the horizon about half an hour after the clock said the sun had risen. Waiting opened the gate to wonder and energized both my body and my soul.

Hurricanes aside, autumn is my favorite season here. There is a quality of light in mid-fall I don’t see except in fleeting glimpses at other times of the year. The clouds change seemingly overnight; they will change again in winter, but in fall we move from the towering thunderheads of summer to more of an atmospheric mix, as you will see in some of the photos below. I grew up in northern Virginia and my mother always referred to a certain hue of sky as “October blue” no matter when it occurred. I wrote a song years ago with the line, the gray and the blue of October. I started seeing October-blue skies in late September, very close to the equinox.

One of the photos you will see below I made not with my camera but with my cell phone. I attend All Saints Episcopal Church (in fact, I joined them officially this past Sunday but that is another story), and once we could legally gather outdoors, we’ve been worshipping in lawn/beach chairs, sitting masked throughout the service six to eight feet apart from each other. At the traditional passing of the peace, we wave, flash peace signs or the American Sign Language for I Love You. A tiny way I have been able to serve in these weeks is to make cell phone images for the church’s Facebook page. Near the conclusion of the service a few weeks ago, I noticed this huge cloud formation stretching high above all of us. I’d asked more than a year ago to be able to photograph angels appearing in the clouds, and here seemingly was an affirmative answer. Cloud watching is a favorite childhood pastime carried into adulthood, and taking a few minutes to look up almost always also elevates my outlook.

I looked up twice since our last blog to try to catch a full moon rising over the ocean. Clear skies all day at the beginning of October seemed to promise an unobstructed view come dusk, but by then an almost invisible layer of hazy cloud veiled the moon’s full rising. The best view rewarded patience. Come full dark, the moon rose above the low-lying cloud, bright enough to scatter a moon-path on the placid ocean below. Patience seems to be an ongoing lesson this year and I obviously need more schooling. I’m glad I waited the moon out.

The Great Blue Heron is a symbol of patience for me. Herons can stand without moving for a LONG time and then, at the exact right moment, down comes that sharp bill and up comes breakfast or lunch or dinner. Gotcha! After one Sunday service I continued to press pause on my busy life to stroll the boardwalk at Sandy Run park in Kitty Hawk. I asked to be led to, aware of, encounters or images meant for me and a few steps later I glanced to my side to see a Great Blue, silently standing under the understory of trees. I watched it briefly, said my thanks, and moved along so I didn't disturb its vigil. Days later I had an unexpected afternoon break between split shifts at the gallery and walked the Duck boardwalk behind Duck church, rewarded by another Heron's presence. Since I had an hour or so to spend, I decided to wait and watch it fish (meaning, watch it freeze in place). Another photographer came from the opposite direction. She stopped too, we acknowledged each other with a nod, and waited. And waited. Eventually we were all rewarded when the Heron suddenly plunged its head into the water and retrieved a fishy snack. Patience, patience. Yes, I know.

Since the sea oats bloomed so comparatively late this year, they were also late in turning their characteristic golden. I worried that the winds from Hurricane Isaias in early August might strip them to tattered stalks before they’d even been open a month. When that didn’t happen, I worried all over again about the winds in late September. (Have you been counting how many times the word “worry” or its cousins is showing up in this blog?) The sea oats are seemingly more resilient that I am. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words about the lilies of the field. They take one day’s blooming at a time. They don’t live in dread remembering the last big blow, or fearing the next one. So perhaps it is fitting that many of the images for this blog center around what folks think of as our characteristic seascapes, sea oats included. What the northeast winds did do was turn the sea oat heads brown almost overnight. Eventually the wind or the cold will scatter the seeds and bend and break the stalks, but their strong roots are what keep the plants alive and connected, and what will provide the spurt needed for growth in a new summer season.

Where are you rooted? What nourishes you now at a deep level? When I catch myself, as yesterday, as today, spending more time and attention to worry as a life-companion than to joy or hope, it’s time to examine my roots and anchor them again in all I have come to know to be true and nurturing for me. One way I find that deeper truth is to be in prayerful solitude out in creation. I hope you can do the same wherever you are. Another way is to share the gifts nature bestows when I pay attention.

In the belief that late really is better than never, here are some recent gifts of an Outer Banks late summer and early fall.

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Summer's Last Sunrise.

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My mother would have called this sky October Blue.

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Can it be there are Angels all around us?

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A bright October moon blazes over the ocean.

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The Great Blue Heron is a symbol of patience for me, as well as personal assurances of provision and health.

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The dunes after Isaias, more golden and lush than I expected, given their late blooming.

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The sea oats seemed even more golden as the golden hour of an August evening approached.

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Rarely do I set up an image. I like to receive what I find as a gift. But I created this for my show, to illustrate Giving Thanks.

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Sometimes I wait many years for this combination of conditions -- beautiful light, beautiful sea, beautiful sky.

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Same day, half an hour later. Notice how brown the sea oats have become now?

posted by eturek at 8:27 PM

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