My husband and I started preparing to move from our Virginia home of thirty years, the house where we raised our children, and from the community in which we had friends, in January 2016. Eight years before, we’d bought a vacation home on Hatteras Island (HI), NC. In Northern Virginia, we increasingly felt like strangers. Leaving HI was becoming harder and harder. It’s where we felt we belonged.
Our son and daughter were grown, in their late twenties, and embarking on their chosen careers. The first four months, we spent packing and shutting down our thirty-year-old construction business. Decisions of what to take with us, give to our children, discard, or put into storage were arduous. In the meantime, I tried to write, but the immediate needs of our move prevented me from putting words to the page.
Our vacation home didn’t have enough space for our belongings (including our coats, clothing, tax records, Christmas decorations, etc.). Since it had been built as a rental with small closets and no coat closet, we needed to build an addition to accommodate our stuff. That’s what we did for a living but couldn’t build it while living in Virginia. We could have hired someone else to build it, but it would have cost three times as much and (yes, we’re up on our skillset) it wouldn’t have been built as well.
By May, we were moved into our HI house, had our Virginia home on the market, and completed our building plans. We submitted them to the county, which were approved, hired a helper for my husband, and started building in June. For income and to get to know our community, we serviced pools and spas for vacation rentals (the big tourist industry here) three times per week. The other four days of the week, we built our addition. By July, our Virginia house sold—our bridge burnt—but we had no second guesses. I had the opportunity to submit to an anthology, but not only was the theme one in which I had no experience, I also had no time to write.
The building went agonizingly slow, but by October, when the rental season and our jobs dwindled, I saw light at the end of the tunnel—a cliché, but one that especially fit on HI. Environmental colors here are more brilliant than any place I’ve ever lived. Shoals (underwater sand bars/dunes) reflect light, which surround the island from all sides. Sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. I’ve tried to capture the colors with a digital camera and my iPhone, but I’m always disappointed. The colors aren’t true. I take a picture and view it in my camera while holding the camera against the sky of the picture I just took. The camera doesn’t capture what I see.
That glimmer of getting through this transition enabled me to write a holiday short story for WWK. Just before Christmas 2016, we obtained our occupancy permit and moved our stuff from storage into the addition. Since the temperatures had dropped, I was glad to have my coats and sweaters back. Part of the addition was a new office—for my writing. Our physical transition had finally ended, even if it had taken a full year. We still have a lot to learn about the island and living here, but I also feel it will contribute to my writing. My time is once again my own.
I’m still frustrated because I can’t capture those colors, but I’m also comforted because that digital contraption can’t do what I can do. No device can replace a human, and there is no substitute for the human experience. It’s divine.