After a long day of errands and general running around, we took a few minutes for a twilight beachwalk, a brisk two-miler down to the fishing pier that night-lights our southern view and back. The new-moon tide was high, with white-capped rollers racing nearly to dunes and beach-house stairways, forcing us to sidestep and dash away from time to time to avoid a thigh-high soaking.
I nearly stepped on it. I nearly kicked it away, thinking it was just a rock or a time-roughed oyster shell.
Instead, I picked it up.
There, nestled in my hand, was a near-perfect nautilus shell.
They're hard to come by, as the grinding surf generally destroys their delicate, chambered beauty, reducing them to shattered pieces before they can make their way to shore. It was, in fact, the first whole one I've seen outside of gift shop displays and maritime museum collections.
"Good," I thought. "I'll take it home."
Because home is where we're heading.
You know, the one in Galva.
But this is a hard place to leave.
The 26-mile spit of sand known as Topsail Island continues to be blessedly unknown to purveyors of things like fast food, name-brand lodging and miniature golf. The beach in front of our shabby-chic shoreline digs is nearly deserted, day after day, except for a few slow-walking beachcombers, solitary fishermen, happy, surf-playing kids, and, of course, us. The really good spring/summer weather is fully upon us, with the water finally warm enough for even chicken-hearted grandpa to take the plunge when a surf-saoked grandson insists.
Out back, the mockingbird who rules the edge of the intracoastal inlet that borders our yard, hisses and scolds with iron-beaked fury as nesting season begins, while mullet and shrimp fly from the water as we glide our kayaks through the marshy passages. Turtle nesting season is beginning, so my reptile-loving spouse rises early to walk and search and hope for the sight of a succesful "crawl," the term for the laborious process that takes the mammoth creatures from sea to nesting site and back.. Each day begins with glorious ocean dawns and ends with golden sunsets over the sound.
But it's time to go home. For awhile, at least.
And while we're gone, I'll miss the beach, the sunlight, the long, lazy walks and the wondrous sight of my youngest grandsons running and playing in the waves. I'll miss some of the people we've gotten to know, like the ones at the library who greet grandson John at story hour and forgive me for bringing back books filled with sand. I'll miss the ladies at the pier who taught me the truth about biscuits, and even the guy at the fish market, who never makes me feel silly when I ask a dumb question.
But it's O.K. We'll be back.
And meanwhile, we've missed you, too.
Our recent three-month stay on these sunny shores marks the longest time I've been away from my hometown since the first year we were married, when jobs, grad school and an overwhelming lack of operating capital kept us huddled and happy in our Lake Superior log cabin for an entire Upper Peninsula fall and winter.
I've been missing our big old house and even the myriad of projects and chores that await me. While I know the lawn has been well-mowed by good neighbor John, I can't help but wonder just how overgrown parts of our backyard gardens have gotten, given our ill-advised proclivity towards the kind of wildflowers and fast-spreading perennials that often require almost-daily attention with hoe, rake and shovel.
I miss the sights and sounds of the town where I grew up, even the rumble of coal trains rolling through in the middle of the night and the siren whistle that blows morning, noon and suppertime.
I wonder if my beloved 1994 IzusuTrooper will startle me by starting again after months of neglect.
Heck, I've even kind of missed the cat called Max, the mean-spirited ankle-biter who, no doubt, awaits me with fish-baited breath and updated dinnertime demands. But most of all, we've missed the friends and neighbors we left behind during this most recent southeastern portion of our bi-coastal living experience. We long to see your faces, hear your stories and renew the friendships that truly make home a place we love to be.
So I know we'll be thrilled to get back to Galva and catch up on everything, while plunging headlong into the life and chores and activities that wait for us every time. We'll make our way to visit the Minnesota crew, too, plus plan visits to people and places, and think and dream about the next time we hit the road again.
It'll be good to see what I've been missing.
And the shell I found last night?
I'll put it where I can see it.
I'll look at it. And remember.
And then I'll miss this place, too.