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

Sunday, December 15, 2019
In the Pink
I’ve heard and read so many interpretations of Advent. Liturgically speaking, these four weeks, roughly between Thanksgiving and December 25, are a time of preparation. Like Lent, Advent is anticipatory but seems mostly rooted in the somber. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, metaphors are easy to come by, as our days get shorter and the dark hours increase until the winter solstice when we swing ever so slowly forward into the light. No wonder the church calendar hooked up Advent, heralding the coming of the Light of the World with solstice festivals and a new year’s beginning.

Fast forward a couple thousand years to “the holidays.” So stressful, so pressured, as obligatory festivity and spending can tax even the most energetic and optimistic among us. Those who grieve and struggle suffer more during these weeks simply by the forced comparison of how they feel with how our society says they should feel.

Being by nature reflective and empathetic, I was pondering all of this when I realized “Advent” is the root word in “Adventure.” Now there is a word that excites me! Adventure holds an element of happy surprise, of something anticipated in the general but unexperienced as yet in the particular. And that something, the word seems to promise, will be wonderful. Adventure calls me to pack my suitcase, assemble my gear and make sure I am well rested and nourished so I can fully receive and enjoy what’s coming.

Advent…Adventure…the arrival of an out-of-the-box, beyond the ordinary experience. That idea resonates as I circle back around to the holidays.

I went down to the Pea Island refuge yesterday afternoon. It was warm but windy and I had mild expectations at best. Most of my photographer friends have been somewhere in the region in the past few weeks to observe the thousands of birds that over-winter here. After 43 years here, and countless trips to the refuge in every season, I have literally been there and done that. Yet I felt kinda-sorta obligated to go. After all, what kind of nature photographer would I be if I ignored one of our main seasonal wildlife events? Shouldn’t I at least go through the motions? (Can any of you relate this to the holidays yet?) So as I drove, I asked to be led to the image meant for me.

As I anticipated, there were tens of thousands of birds there. A couple who was leaving as I walked out to the tower told me of an immature night heron ahead I would likely have missed. I paused along the way to photograph ducks and swan and white pelicans in light that poked through a filtering cloud layer and then faded again. The earlier warm breeze turned to gustier and chillier wind. After I had been up on the tower for several minutes I realized I was the only person in sight. I had the refuge and all those birds to myself.

Finally it was time to begin the trek back to the car. Rafts of ducks got up in the distance – an image I have made before. But the adventure that awaited my own arrival was much more up close and personal. On the way out, I had stopped to photograph a lone merganser in the little turtle pond at the trail’s beginning. By the time I came back to the pond, the sunset colors intensified and reflected in the water below, silhouetting the merganser’s distinctive shape against a backdrop of intense pinks and purples. Here was an image fresh and new. I could hear the swan calling in the distance and a nearly full moon shone at my back in the eastern sky. The merganser paddled and preened, creating vibrant ripples. As is often the case, the most spectacular color happened after the sun sank below the horizon. Instead of full dark, I experienced the best light of the day and made my keeper-image there. While I had hoped for a sunset, the colors I received exceeded my expectations and became the day’s gift. The merganser was there when I came, there as I was leaving. I WAS THE ONE WHO HAD TO ARRIVE. I had to come, gear in hand, and alert enough to receive. Walking into church this Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent, I received even a deeper lesson. The color for Advent is purple – except for the third Sunday, when we light a pink candle as a symbol of Joy. Pink! Purple! Like the ribbons of color surrounding my merganser!

I have always thought of Advent in a passive sort of sense. Yes, we are to prepare but mostly we told to wait for the coming of…something. Someone. But what if we flip the dynamics? What if the main character in a story of Advent is each one of us? Who might be waiting for US to show up?

With that thought in mind, what would an adventurous experience with the God of Creation, the Lord of the Universe, the Light of the World look like for you? Not the same-old, been there, done that. Not the tried and true (as true and tried as it might be). Not the experience others have described which we might enjoy vicariously in word or song. No, what would Advent-Your Adventure (you see what I did there?) look like—for you? For me? Now? This year? What can we each bring to that experience? What if God is actually the One Who is waiting, and we are the ones who need to come?

Despite our criticisms of Christmas hype, the youngest among us have got something right. They know how to suspend disbelief. So for them, reindeer fly on a magical whirlwind journey that transcends time and distance in order to grant their deepest desires. We adults, so stressed, so cynical, so weary, so sure there is nothing new under the sun for us, might do well to dream just a little about Adventure and see if Advent holds anything fresh for our hearts.

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My first encounter occurred at the turtle pond, where this Merganser was paddling. You've heard of water rolling off a duck's back? See the water droplets?

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On the little pond's far edge a Great Blue Heron was patiently waiting.

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There was a Tricolor Heron, which I don't see that often here, beyond the pond at the first part of the walking trail.

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There were rafts of ducks mostly in the distance, and large flocks of swan too. I just loved this view of the lone swan in the midst of all those ducks!

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One fish (I assume it was the same fish) kept jumping out of the water three times in a row. I finally timed my shutter click to frame it in the air.

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The bird in front here is an immature, or juvenile, Night Heron with a Snowy Egret on the farther branch. I have the folks who were leaving as I was walking in to thank for telling me where to look. Third Heron species of the day!

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As wonderful as all these were, everything got even better as sunset began. Here, one of the raft of ducks that took off en masse in the distance are silhouetted against a golden sky.

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The sky colors changed from golden to pink, and these Snow Geese flew practically overhead.

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By the time I reached the turtle pond, the post-sundown color was at its peak. This is actually among the last of the images I made; I went to my car and walked back with my wide angle lens instead of my telephoto.

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But here is the image I came for, without knowing in advance what would become the Gift. Merganser in the Pink, reminding me how much I need to look for and hold onto Joy.

posted by eturek at 10:11 PM

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Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Foam Floes and Rainbows
The other evening the nightly news weather gal announced that day, December 1, was the beginning of meteorological winter, as compared to astronomical winter, which of course begins at the winter solstice, around December 21 each year. Funny, I think of winter as starting in December, too. I place Thanksgiving firmly in fall, despite the weather, and link its gratitude for a bountiful harvest with the other blessings of autumn. But come December, it feels like winter to me, as the skies shift into their own winter wardrobes and I lug my lighter clothes upstairs and haul out goose down and fleece and warm woolen mittens. (Even warm woolen mittens aren’t enough to keep my cold hands warm, especially when holding on to my metal camera body and tripod, so I splurged on extra warm photographer gloves last January and they have already come in handy this season.)

November seemed like one long nor’easter. The winds blew and the sea roared in the beginning, middle and third week of the month before everything calmed down by Thanksgiving week.

By the third week, the beach was awash in foam as days of relentless multiplied sets of breakers sent lines of foam onto the beach. I’d gone to Avalon pier in the middle of the month and I went again near low tide on Saturday as the storm reached its peak winds, with gusts upwards of 60 mph at times! It was hard to climb out of the car, much less stand in place in the wind. Sunday morning after the early morning service at All Saints Episcopal Church, I went to Kitty Hawk pier at high tide. Wow, what a difference. I have witnessed many a storm, living here my entire adult life (43 years as of last May), but what I experienced that Sunday morning topped anything I had photographed before. The waves were breaking, not as water, but as pure churned whipping cream, and the foam was piled feet high everywhere I looked. I am so glad my schedule let me experience it!

Meanwhile, the same winds that were pushing foam up the beach emptied out the Sounds, pushing the water way westward. When it came back, it came more slowly than it does in a fullblown hurricane with its sudden shifting of winds. Seeing the dry Sound bottom is always startling.

November and early December gave us dramatic sky-shows, too, from vibrant full moon rings against a mackerel cloud sky, to the conjunction of a new moon with Jupiter and Venus on Thanksgiving night, to beautiful sunsets in between.

On Monday, the clouds were so compelling that I went to the ocean after some late afternoon errands. I wasn’t out long before the clouds in the west obscured the light that had called to my heart, and the rain bands I saw in the north began to close in from all directions. By the time I got back to the truck I was damp with the sudden sprinkles that quickly turned into moderate rain. But those clouds! It was not fully overcast so I decided to wait the rain out and within minutes, the sun broke through a rift in the western clouds while it was still misty-raining in the east. Rainbow conditions! Sure enough, a bright rainbow appeared over the sea, its ends tantalizingly close to shore. Then the light faded and I headed back to the dry of the truck and began driving toward home. But oh! Those clouds! On impulse, I decided to wait a little longer and see if squall number 2 would give a second rainbow, and it did! What an afternoon! Two double rainbows! I felt very blessed indeed.

Pete and I spent yesterday afternoon indoors, at a matinee of Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Mister Rogers. More than before, I understood his commitment not to ignoring the hard places and hard times we experience, even as children, but to finding ways to acknowledge the complexity of our feelings as valid, and then letting negativity go in favor of a deliberate lifestyle choice of peacefulness, compassion, gratitude, and love. Not at all an easy endeavor for any of us, Mister Rogers included. But I suspect he would have headed outside into an Outer Banks rainsquall to wait out the rainbow, too.

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This is earlier in November. Northeast winds, late afternoon light at Avalon Pier. Beautiful.

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By a week or so later, when winds were at their peak, I could see why foam was beginning to build on the shoreline.

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Still, I was not prepared to see this the next morning. Foam lay feet thick well up the dunes.

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In fact, the waves were breaking as pure foam!

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Here is another view of that foam.

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In such winds, you could easily believe Calm could never come. But a few days later, this was the sunset on the Sound.

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See that star under the new moon? Now look to the right and down, and you can see another, much fainter. Those are Venus and Jupiter, on Thanksgiving evening.

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Here is Rainbow #1.

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Even though the full arc faded, I was blessed to photograph the southern end's reflection in the wet sand--and with Sanderlings!

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I tell folks often, photography both teaches and rewards patience. Rainbow #2 proves my point! Definitely worth the wait.

posted by eturek at 1:47 PM

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