This is the final piece of our four part series about discovering all that Arlington Place and Pamlico County have to offer. If you missed part one, “Peace By the River”, part two “Girls Weekend, The Arrival”, or part three “Girls Weekend, The Realization”, then be sure to check them out first. If you’re ready to learn more about building here then download our revised design and development standards.
“Let’s go,” Sarah said and lead the way down the boardwalk. She was the newest paddler, having just learned this summer, but the most enthusiastic.
Sarah threw her board in the water and deftly transferred onto it from the pier. I admired Sarah’s courage and openness to learn something new at 65, and hoped I would have the same zest for life at that age.
The creek was narrow here, so we paddled single file and I took the lead. None of us spoke and the only sound was the dip of our paddles in the water, the rustle of the river grass beside the creek and the occasional call of a kingfisher who flew back and forth in front of us.
I was grateful for the silence and scanned the sky and shoreline for wildlife. I pointed out an osprey flying high above and then a raccoon digging in the soft mud. The creek widened and Sarah paddled up beside me.
“This is much more peaceful than paddling on the lakes near Raleigh,” Sarah said quietly. “I’ve seen more wildlife in the first 10 minutes of this paddle than I see in an hour at home.”
“I know,” I said. “And it’s so easy to paddle here.” I glanced left at a new home under construction. “Just walk out your back door and go. You don’t have to load your board, drive on the belt line, find a parking place at the launch.” I sighed and knew I’d long for this place on my next paddle back home.
“You really love it here don’t you?” Sarah asked.
“Yes. I need to figure out how to spend more time here. Maybe I can rent something at Arlington Place for the summer and bring the kids.”
“Or you could always just move here,” Sarah said, never one to beat around the bush. “You could work here just as easily couldn’t you?”
My heart flipped. There was that idea again. “It crossed my mind for a few seconds last night, but Jim’s never been here and what about the kids? Would this be a good place to raise them?”
A mullet threw itself out of the water in front of the women and Sarah laughed. “Guess it depends on your definition of good. Did you notice that charter school across the street from the entrance to Arlington Place? Now that would be convenient.”
I hadn’t noticed that, and the idea of moving here ignited again. I’d have to do some research, bring Jim and the kids. What if this was my back yard? My hopes soared and then disappeared. Just because I loved this area didn’t mean my family would and what about my career? Could I achieve my full potential living out here in Pamlico County? Jamie and Bobbi paddled up beside me and I quickly quashed this idea. It was a pipe dream.
Jamie said, “Bobbi thinks she saw an alligator and she’s scared!” Jamie started laughing and Bobbi splashed her with her paddle.
“I am not scared,” Bobbi said. “I just thought that log had eyes, but I’m sure it was my imagination.”
It may have been an alligator, but I didn’t want to scare anyone and said, “I only saw one alligator in all the years I was here for camp. They’re pretty rare.” I noticed the light was more golden than when we’d left. “Come on. Let’s keep paddling so we can reach the river. It will be dusk soon.”
We paddled steadily now, and I was happy to feel my heart rate increase and the sweat trickle down my back. We passed a small marina and a boat ramp and quickly reached the mouth of Mill Creek. The four mile expanse of the Neuse River was churning from the southwest wind and whitecaps dotted the water.
“I’m not paddling out there ladies,” Bobbi said.
“Looks a little rough for me too,” Sarah agreed.
I looked at Jamie and knew she wanted to challenge the water as well, but instead I said, “Why don’t we take a break and sit here to enjoy the breeze.”
“That sounds perfect,” Jame said, and sat down on her board.
We floated and talked and time stretched out again. I felt the connections strengthen between the four of us. Here, surrounded by the peace of nature, we shared more deeply than on our 45 minute walks back home. I smiled and took a sip from my water bottle. The magic I’d felt here alone, was at work now too. The light changed from gold to orange and was the only reminder of time passing. I didn’t want the moment to end, but also knew that’s what made it special.
I stood and said, “I could sit here longer with you ladies, but I don’t want to paddle by that alligator in the dark.”
Everyone laughed, but Bobbi did stand up more quickly than the rest.
The shadows spread across Mill Creek on our way back and the sky softened to pale pink and violet. “What a perfect day,” I said.
“I know,” Jamie agreed. “We’ve gotten a lot in, but I never felt rushed like when I’m running the kids around all day.”
“The only thing we haven’t done is drink an ice cold beer,” Bobbi said.
“Well that’s a reason to paddle faster,” I said, and we sprinted the last 100 yards to the dock.
We put the paddle boards away and Jamie jogged towards the cottage. “I’m going to put the chowder on simmer and will grab some beers and chips and salsa.”
The rest of us went into the outfitters cottage and settled into the Adirondack chairs. Jamie returned with the bag of post paddle snacks and handed out the beers. We chatted about our paddle, and I teased Bobbi about her alligator sighting.
“I don’t know what’s more fun, the actual paddling, or the beer and stories when you’re done,” Sarah said.
“It doesn’t really matter does it,” I said, reaching for a chip. “I’d say we’re lucky to do both.”
We finished our beers, and collected our things to go inside and shower. I hesitated on the back deck of the outfitters cottage. “I’ll be in in a minute.”
My friends’ voices faded and then disappeared inside the cottage. I leaned on the deck railing and looked up at the stars. At home they were muted by light pollution, but here I saw thousands. My eyes adjusted to the darkness and I saw the milky way.
My heart filled with gratitude for the beauty tonight, and for the wonderful day I’d had with my friends. I took a deep breath, and there it was, the peace I’d experienced before. But this time, it was accompanied by the deeper connection I’d forged with the other women. We’d arrived as walking buddies and would leave as friends.
Peace and connection. That was available to me at home, but I didn’t access it as easily as I did here. Was it the water, the trees, the slower pace of life? How would my life be different if I lived here all the time? The wind rustled the leaves at the top of the trees and I pulled my hands into the arms of my sweatshirt to stay warm.
I imagined Hank and Sarah riding their bikes through the neighborhood and learning to kayak. Jim would easily trade in his golf clubs for a fishing boat, I knew that, but would he be satisfied practicing law in a rural community? And what about my career? Would I be as motivated to succeed separated from the frenzied pace of the Triangle? I quickly answered that question from data I often quoted in workshops, reducing your stress increases your productivity. Instinctively, I knew my family would thrive with more time together and a slower pace.
“Kathryn,” Sarah called from the cottage, “Dinner’s almost ready.”
“Coming,” I said. I took another minute to appreciate the stars. Part of me hated to leave in the morning, but another part couldn’t wait to get home and talk with Jim about my dreams of living here.
The smell of clam chowder and garlic bread caught my attention and I jogged towards the cottage. Through the open kitchen window I heard my friends laughing and I hurried to join them. I’d be able to enjoy tonight because my disappointment at leaving had waned and I was already anticipating my next visit to Arlington Place. This time with my family.