A view of the White Oak River

A view of the White Oak River

There are many reasons for living in a particular place.  The place can feel like home. You perhaps have found a great job in the area.  Sometime a location can be close to friends or an easy place to engage in your favorite activities.

Then there are places we go to for more than employment or fun.

Areas like North Carolina’s Crystal Coast are often more than just a place to plant your roots.  They are among the rare spots where the human spirit can find a renewal in the cathedral of the natural world.  Within their blue sky boundaries are often homes which offer more than just a place to live.

Sometimes by quiet waters under a cloud-tinted blue sky, you will encounter a place to find yourself or even heal your spirit.

Throughout my life I have found that natural beauty on my doorstep has helped me survive the challenges of our increasingly over connected modern life.

The wildness of a deserted beach, forest or open stretch of water lets us disconnect from our modern world and reconnect with the world around us.  The peace of an empty beach lets us listen to those quiet inner voices of our own which are often overwhelmed by the noise of modern society.   That walk away from the world and into wildness also prepares us to hear the voice of God.

That it is far easier to connect with God when we have unconnected ourselves from much of the world should not come as a surprise.   We try hard to divorce ourselves from the world when we go to worship in a church.  The sanctuary of a church gives us separation from the world.  That distance between us and the everyday world gives us a chance to contemplate and worship.  We need the separation because the world has become a noisy, demanding place where multiple things and people continually vie for our attention.

You can find the same separation in the wildness of many places.

Over the last sixty plus years I have found many challenges that have reminded me how little control that we actually have over our lives.  There are times when we just have to put our trust in a power that it is greater than us.  Those who think they are master of all their world just haven’t lived long enough to face a real obstacle in their life.

When the world seems to be collapsing around you and yet the voices of concern that you are hearing from those close to you make no sense,  then a walk out beyond the homes along the beach or  a paddle out to the oyster rocks can clear your mind and help you understand the path that you need to take.

Over the years my favorite places of retreat have changed as we have moved.  At one time I found solace on the rocky coast of Nova Scotia.  A few years later, a hillside overlooking the wilderness behind our farm came to be the place I escaped.  When we moved to Roanoke, Virginia, I created a network of trails on the high mountainside behind our home.  Now that I live along North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks, I’ve found that I can find the solitude that I need in a number of places that have no walls.

My current favorite spot is far out on the Point at Emerald Isle.  It requires a hike of over two miles just to get there.  The effort is well worth it.  Before the fishermen come in their trucks in the fall, there are few people who are willing to spend the energy to reach the place that I have come to cherish.

Each time that I arrive there, I am reminded that we humans might try to control our world, but our efforts are at best sandcastles in the waves of time.  That I can walk this stretch of beach and see with my own eyes the new land created between my trips makes the experience I find in the wildness of this beach that much more powerful.

John Muir says it so eloquently on page 256 of The Yosemite.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.