This is the third 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”, or part two “Girls Weekend, The Arrival”, 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.
“Oh my goodness I’m full,” Jamie said. She leaned back on the couch and rubbed her belly. “That vegetarian chili was amazing.”
“Yes. And I want the Mexican cornbread recipe from you Bobbi,” I said. I walked across the screened in porch and sat on the couch next to Jamie.
“Happy to,” Bobby said. “Just don’t tell my husband I know how to cook,” she said laughing. “We’ve been married twenty years and I try to keep his expectations low in the cooking department.”
“It’s hard to get motivated to cook for two,” Sarah added. “I never had that problem when my son’s were home because they were so appreciative of whatever I made. I still miss them, and can’t believe Tom will be a father himself in a couple months.” Sarah rocked in the rocking chair and stared thoughtfully into the dark woods behind the porch.
For a moment everyone was silent. I watched the flame on the candle in front of me, bow and twist in the breeze. We’d scoured the cottage for candles and then brought them all out to the porch which was now bathed in a soft, buttery glow. Jamie took a deep breath beside me and settled deeper into the couch. The only sound was the rhythmic creak of Sarah’s rocking chair and the wind in the tops of the trees.
Bobbi broke the silence, “So. What’s the plan for tomorrow?”
I tensed, worried there may be disagreement about what to do tomorrow, but we easily agreed to start with coffee on the porch and then decide on the rest of the day after that.
Sarah ran her hands through her short grey hair and said, “I’m beat. It’s way past my bedtime.” Bobbi and Sarah agreed and stood to go inside.
“I’m going to stay up a bit longer,” I said. “See you guys in the morning.”
Once the others were upstairs, I retrieved my computer from my duffel bag. I hadn’t wanted to work when the others were around, but needed to respond to a couple emails from my clients. One had had a day long interview for a senior vice president position and another had led her first workshop. They’d emailed updates and I wanted to give them feedback.
I connected to Wifi, put my feet up on the coffee table and got to work. After fifteen minutes of typing an owl, perched nearby, called to its mate. Their deep, throaty call and response was calming and better than the classical music I usually listened to when I worked. I finished the emails to my clients, and quickly responded to an inquiry about my coaching services.
The computer screen went dark and my eyes readjusted to the candlelight. The breeze picked up and I wrapped a throw around me to ward off the chill. I stared at the computer lying on the coffee table. That was all I really needed to do my job. That and my phone. My business had started with local clients but now they were spread across the country. I rarely met them in person. I could work anywhere. Even here, nestled in the trees beside the river.
My heart rate picked up and I sat up straighter. How come I hadn’t thought of that before? My mind raced with the possibilities for a millisecond, but they were quickly extinguished by the complications of making a change. I had a husband and two children to think about. No need to waste time on that idea. I untangled myself from the throw, picked up my computer and headed inside.
We passed Pecan Grove, just before the bridge into Oriental. The marina was full of sailboats, their empty masts, bony fingers pointing at the cornflower blue sky. The weather was perfect today and I had the car windows down to let in the cool, fall air. I drove across the bridge into Oriental and pointed to the far side of the river, explaining to my friends that Beaufort was in that direction.
After Jamie and I had gone for a run around Arlington Place at sunrise, the four of us had relaxed with coffee on the porch for several hours. Sarah journaled, Jamie and I read a book for our book club and Bobbi caught up on her magazines. Every few minutes someone would ask a question or make a comment and we’d talk about food, marriage, our work, our favorite show on Netflix. The morning flowed easily and soon our plan for the day had materialized: walk around Oriental and visit the shops and art gallery, and then have lunch at one of the restaurants by the water.
We entered Oriental and I was shocked. “What in the world is going on?” I said. “There were only a couple cars around when I was here before, and that was in the middle of summer. Why are all these people here? I may not be able to find a place to park.”
I noticed Bobbi was busily typing on her phone. “Ladies, we’ve hit the jackpot,” she said.
“What do you mean?” Sarah asked. “I was hoping for a quiet walk around the village but it seems there’s lots going on.” Singing voices and the sound of a banjo wafted through the air.
“Looks like we’re here for the Ol’ Front Porch Music festival,” Bobbi said. “I’ve got the map here on my phone. Take a left at the next intersection Kathryn and we should find a place to park.”
“What in the heck is a front porch music festival?” Jamie asked.
Bobbi was reading from her phone, “There are 25 musical groups performing here today on front porches scattered throughout town. Looks like a mixture of bluegrass, folk, jazz, gospel.”
I followed Bobbi’s directions and found a place to park. “So, you guys up for some musical accompaniment on our walk?”
There was a unanimous yes and everyone got out of the car. The unexpected pleasure of finding this music festival enlivened me and I almost skipped as we walked to the first front porch. We stopped and listened to the bluegrass music and soon I was tapping my foot. Sarah and Jamie linked arms and did a do-si-do and Bobbi shook her hips in time with the music.
What fun to come upon this by accident and to be able to share it with my friends. I watched the others, thankful the worries about how everyone would get along had subsided. I knew this weekend would be just as restorative as my last visit to Pamlico County, but in a different way. Being here with my friends gave everything more intensity. The silence was deeper and the fun more exuberant. I couldn’t help but wonder how it would feel to be here with Jim and the kids and I mentally reviewed my calendar to see when I could bring them.
Jamie interrupted my thoughts. “Come on you guys,” she said looking at the schedule. “There’s a jazz group playing in ten minutes and only a couple blocks away. I’ve heard them before and they’re great.”
Jamie started off towards the next front porch and the rest of us followed. There was a decent crowd but it didn’t feel congested like the festivals in Raleigh. I noticed that people meandered to their destinations, often stopping to shake hands and talk with someone. It was as if everyone here felt like me, happy to be in the moment and no need to rush.
We arrived at the porch with the jazz group and sat on the grass to listen. I leaned back on my elbows, closed my eyes and lifted my face to the sun. The syncopated rhythms washed over me and I breathed in the crisp air blowing off the river. Some children laughed as they blew bubbles behind me on the sidewalk and the smell of kettle corn permeated the air.
There was definitely something special about this place.