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Travel Log: A Coastal Encounter with “I AM”

March 27, 2009

Over the past week, I traveled to one of my favorite places (or at least a small corner of it) … which is North Carolina.  For years and years, I have wanted to move there and “just write.”  On this particular trip, I had another mission in mind though, and that was to get my head clear of the congestion that has plagued me for the past few months.  And VOILA’ … as I stated one day on my Facebook, when I got past those “confounded Bradford Pears” … my head began to clear, my throat stopped being sore and my glands (the ones in my neck) seemed to start shrinking.

Miracle of miracles … I’d say.

For our Spring Break, we spent a couple of days in Myrtle Beach at the Springmaid Resort.  You will recognize the name Springmaid as “makers of linens (bedsheets, pillow cases, etc.) and this resort was established many decades ago as a perk for the Springmaid employees to have a vacation spot at the ocean.  Mighty nice of them, huh?

The spot where the resort sits is actually referred to as “Springmaid Beach,” and its at the far southend of Myrtle.  The Springmaid campus now includes several hotels, a  collection of bungalows, indoor swimming pools and I think even an RV site.  It was pretty nice, and we found it on Hotels.com the night before we left for Myrtle and paid about $50 per night.  I’m sure it was about three times that amount regularly.   Come to find out, after we got to Myrtle … every hotel on the strip had a great price this particular week as most rooms were $50 or less (some even as low as $27).  It was a “snowbird special” according to the signs, and lucky for us, it was mostly “snowbirds” visiting the beach this week.

But also “just as lucky for us” the beach was gorgeous!  It was a bit cold, so I felt a little bit like a Kennedy at Cape Cod wearing a sweatshirt whilst collecting my shells and walking near the ocean’s edge.  The temp stayed between 50-60 but still, the sun was shining, the breeze was gentle and I was able to breathe it all in … and it helped immensely.

The only down-side to this beachtrip was the high price of food.  You have to pay too much for convenience (someone cooking for you) and too much for atmosphere (dining by the sea) and too much (way too fun) for basically fried fish called Calabash.  We should have just opted for bologna and bread or peanut butter and bananas and the whole trip would have been quite frugal.

After a few days at Myrtle, Jack and I started back to Lumberton, NC where Christie lives and rather than take the “highway” … we opted for the “backroads” (as I am prone to do) and followed the coast to my favorite little spot called Southport, NC.

We tootled along the way, driving through those coastal neighborhoods made up of folks who have obviously retired with some “real nice” bonuses.  I have aspirations of living there when my movie scripts sell, or my novels become best-sellers.  As is our usual practice, we stopped at some “second-hand” stores to look for sources of inspiration. My souvenirs usually come from consignment or Goodwill stores, as I find an article and write some short story about the person who may have worn or used it.  (what I call Shirt Tales)

Once in Southport, (a quaint little village by the sea) we headed to the small park where the  seagulls gather along with tourists and a few locals who just like to sit on the benches and swings and watch the shrimp boats come and go, or the lighthouse flicker across the bay.  Jack played on the rocks down by the water while I just sat in the yard swing, resting.  Behind the small park is Bay Street, lined with historical homes with great front porches and stately oak trees with moss dripping from the branches.  To the left of the park, is a fishing pier where two or three older men are sitting on the wooden stools with fishing poles anchored in the PVC holders, and a 5 gallon bucket at their feet, to hold and carry the day’s catch. 

The park benches and the swings are covered in seagull poop … and the yard is full of seagulls, just sitting and sunning in the grass.  About every third bench or swing, a person or a couple is sitting … and just watching, thinking … breathing … just like me.  Sounds nice, huh?

I look back over my shoulder to the village streets that actually run right up to this port park. There is a bank, a realty office, a library and museum of sorts, an ice cream shop, art gallery, drugstore, and a few other tourist type shops.  At one time in history, this little burg was probably something like what we envision Mayberry or Mystic (from Mystic Pizza) to be … small town where everybody knows everybody … not very “touristy” at all.

Then I see the street sign that caught my attention several years ago.  The street is called “I Am.”  Ironically, it is a narrow street that leads from the port park to the main street of the village. It runs between those stately southern manors previously mentioned.  Finding such a street sign, one has to wonder, “who named this street.”   Was he (or she) someone (like me) who could not help but think of the great “I AM” as he sat on his porch or the swings looking out over the ocean.

I wonder too … if the street was named “I AM”  because it was at this particular place … spot … that someone had a transformational moment and came to the realization that GOD is everything to him or her.  Maybe it was someone searching for the meaning of life … searching for purpose and had run to the water’s edge hoping for some clarity or perspective … and there he stood, looking toward Old Baldy (the lighthouse on Baldhead Island), and he heard God’s voice say, “I AM.”

When I think of the contrast between this particular spot, and all that encompasses a vacation to Myrtle Beach … I am humbled and in awe at the same time.  A few miles south, is the Grand Strand filled with dining places, gambling places, naked places and places to encounter all sorts of distractions from life and purpose.  Here in Southport, except for a few trinket shops and some uniquely-themed delicatessens, you have this park, on the port, with some yard swings, and a gentle breeze … and street sign that says, “I AM.”

Which place is more likely to clear the congestion from one’s head?  Alas … maybe one needs the contrast to be able to stand on the street “I AM” and actually take a deep breath to understand it all.

Let me invite you to Southport!

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