Ocracoke Vacation — Day Two, October 25

Last night the rain began, and there was lightning and wind, the exhilarating kind you hope to have at the coast while you’re there. So this morning there were puddles in the parking lot, requiring non-direct paths from room to truck to office to restaurant, like a ferry following the winding channel cut from point to point. I had breakfast, and after obtaining house keys from the realty office, I moved into my temporary home and began the day by which vacations henceforth will be measured.

I went to the variety store for groceries and then took an hour-and-a-half nap. My plan for the afternoon was to drive the beach, listening to some music I brought along for that purpose, but first I would visit some of the art shops. The rain was starting again as I left the house, and before I got to the main road it had become a magnificent deluge. Normally, I like that, but my kayak was still attached to the roof of the Titan, and the attachment system I’m currently using has straps that enter and cross the interior of the cabin. When it rains hard, water soaks into these straps and drips on the seat, or on me. On this particular occasion, each strap had a steady trickle of water streaming from it. I had to turn around and go back to the house and remove the kayak or suffer a very waterlogged truck interior. Almost instantly, I could not have been wetter if I were swimming. When the kayak was unloaded and towels were helping the seats dry, I went back inside to get a hot shower.

Trying again, I drove to the shops on School Road and began looking around. Many of the shops on the island have music sections, and I chose a CD by a local group called Molasses Creek. When I drove out onto the beach later, I put that one in the player and let the power and honesty of indigenous music teach me a deeper feel of this place.

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The Atlantic is more expressive on the Outer Banks than it is farther south. With another storm coming in, the Titan was a welcome platform for enjoying the coast. The insistent rain made photography a challenge, but the setting was darkly beautiful in a very exposed way. Some of the surf fishermen waited in their trucks until a break, but others fished on.

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Exiting the beach, I turned right and took NC 12 toward the north end of the island. This road will be closed soon for a months-long bridge replacement project, and I could see why. Five or six bridges looked old and battered, including the one with a sign that said “Molasses Creek.” I smiled while the music still played.

When it was time for supper I drove to the little take-out place I had seen called Thai Moon. Beside the road was a stand-up sign announcing a show tonight at Deepwater Theater. So after taking the Paeneng Curry home and eating, I came back to the theater and went in. It turns out that a special after-season show of the Ocrafolk Opry was taking place as part of the annual arts event called the Ocrafolk School. Featured artists were Molasses Creek, Coyote, other local singers, storytellers, pirate impersonators and historians. The evening was sublime! Without any actual planning on my part, I had been immersed in the sweet, cleareyed culture of a tiny community that honors its art.

At the end, we cleared the chairs from the floor and had a square dance — not the western type with brightly colored costumes, but the mountain or barn type that starts and ends in a big friendly circle. Frankly, I got quite dizzy from all that spinning around, but it was fun. I spoke with several of the musicians, thanking them for the night and appreciating their talents. They were exceedingly good singers, instrumentalists, and songwriters. The music was so genuine and organically drawn from the actual lives of these people. The song “Howard St.” is one of the best pieces of songwriting I’ve come across in a long time, and the performance of it was precisely satisfying.

I don’t know how to say how important music is to me. As one not gifted with ability to play, I am in awe of those who are. I very much believe in the power of the written (or spoken) word, but where their capacities begin to peak, good music is just getting started. That’s why I went to Ireland a few years ago, and to Memphis before that…to be there when real music was done. So I was very blessed to have the Thursday I did, and I wish already for some future chance to stand within earshot of Molasses Creek pouring through the blue-gray berries of wet Ocracoke cedars.

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Published in: on November 3, 2007 at 8:15 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It sounds like an amazing day. The photo of the stormy sky is really interesting…sort of a trinity, in a way. Isn’t there a special meaning to the number three? I see clear sky, rainy sky, and a blanket of clouds negotiating between the two. Hmm. Just thinking out loud…

    And I’m very curious about the music you’ve discovered. Between your description and the CD covers/titles, I want to know more!

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    Response from Steve:
    I like your description of the clouds with their three distinct looks.

    For the music check out http://www.molassescreek.com and http://www.coyotemusic.net.

    Molasses Creek features Gary Mitchell (guitar), Kitty Mitchell (bass guitar), and Fiddler Dave (tuba) — not really, he plays fiddle. They all handle the vocals. I would call it folk with bluegrass sympathies. They are super nice people, both on stage and all around the island going about normal life.

    Coyote is Marcy Brenner (mandolin, banjolin, etc.) and Lou Castro (resonator guitar (aka Dobro®), etc.). This has a sweet country/folk feel with some Ricky Lee Jones sultry edges to it. They seem to be gentle souls who spark to life in conversation and in the music. Their personal story is one of powerful love in the face of her cancer struggle and survival. The faith, courage, and victory they have ring true in the songs.

  2. I liked this blog. Alot. Thank you for inviting me along . . . even if only to read.

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    Response from Steve:
    I’m glad you liked it, Crystal. Ocracoke is really special, and I hope you go, sometime. Plan to…you’ll be glad.


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