We are at the beach house of our friends Larry and Laurie. They are in Italy for two weeks visiting their son, who works in Rome, and touring the country. We are here caring for their sweet, easygoing pup, Banjo.
The house is on Oak Island, a barrier island in the Brunswick beaches off the coast of North Carolina. It is an easy walk of about a block to the beach. But this house has something far more spectacular than a beach: a tidal marsh backs right up to the house. It’s like having a nature reserve at our doorstep. Egrets and herons traverse the marsh all day, using the streams of water that cut through as flight highways. Yesterday, sitting on one of the back decks, we saw a deer cross the marsh.
John and I start our day here at first light. He makes coffee and then the three of us – John, Banjo, and I – move up to the crow’s nest of the house to watch the marsh wake up and the sun rise in the distance. Later, we move inside, where we feed Banjo his breakfast and prepare our own. Then we get out Banjo’s leash for our morning walk. After the walk, John and I prep for a morning bike ride that takes us on a boardwalk that crosses the marsh, continuing into neighborhoods that back up to the Intracoastal Waterway. The early fall weather is perfect for being out in the morning before it gets too warm in the middle of the day.
My daughter, Mary, is here with us, taking time off from her job as an attorney in Atlanta. She is not an early riser and has lately been staying up to watch the Atlanta Braves squeeze out the Philadelphia Phillies for post season play. She enjoys sitting on the porch outside of her bedroom at night after we old folks have gone to bed, taking in a night sky that it’s not possible to see in Atlanta and listening to the evening sounds of the marsh.
A couple of days ago, we took a short drive down to the historic community of Southport, NC. Southport is known for a fort that was built there in the 18th century. The fort is mostly gone, but quite a few well-preserved Victorian homes remain. We had an early bite to eat at a waterfront restaurant before returning home to take Banjo on his evening walk before dark.
Mary and I took an afternoon kayak paddle one day, leaving in the heat of the day, as that is when the tide is high. Going at the wrong time would put us at risk of being stranded without sufficient water to paddle home. We take late afternoon beach walks. Sometimes we play Scrabble. Mostly, we sit in the shade of the house’s multi-level porches and look out at the bird life. Maybe we will see another deer.
When we’re not at the beach house, we are at Banjo’s house in Raleigh. Our rhythms in Raleigh are different but are no less enjoyable. We walk Banjo in Larry and Laurie’s historic neighborhood in the morning and evening and, in between, we take bike rides on the many greenways in the area. We’ve had brunch at neighborhood cafés and walked to two local craft breweries, snagging outdoor seating to avoid Covid exposure. We’ve taken little field trips to Chapel Hill and Durham and enjoyed a Sunday afternoon Choral Evensong at the Duke Chapel and strolls through the lush scenery of the Duke University gardens.
Larry and Laurie return on Sunday evening. By all accounts, their trip to Italy has been successful and they’ve had a wonderful time. So have we. On Monday morning, we will pack up and head down the road, cherishing fond memories of this adventure and of our newfound canine pal.