The dawn is striking. I open the door and look out to sea. Pale silver sky with patches of rose and blue streaks connecting like a jigsaw; sea oats lacing the horizon, air: a perfect balance of warm and cool.
Like a lullaby, the sweet, rhythmic sound of ocean enchants me in my drowsy, half-awake, half-asleep state. For a moment, I think I must have died in my sleep and entered heaven. Then I remember: I’m on vacation at the North Carolina Outer Banks.
By midmorning, the picture parallels the dawn in beauty. Sky is now deep blue with a few white clouds scattered about. Millions of lights dance on water.
In the yard are clusters of scarlet daisies with yellow-tipped petals. From the corner of my doorway I notice a perfectly spun work of art, a silken hammock holding a garden spider. Here even the insects appear amiable.
I hear seagulls screeching, crickets chirping in the weeds, the roar and crash of waves against shore. A continuous breeze blows through open windows and doors.
The house smells of cedar wood. All the glories of nature encompass me. Surely heaven can’t beat all this bliss.
Deciding to take a walk, I say goodbye to the plump garden spider at the entrance of Oyster Catcher Lane. She seems to be hanging there in her web just to meet and greet passersby. At least she makes me feel welcome.
With no idea how far it is, I head for a pier in the distance. My husband and children are busy when I leave. He is fishing; they are digging in the sand.
I walk and walk, but never make it to that pier. It must be farther away than it looks.
Growing tired, I turn around and head back. But where is our house? It’s in a remote area with no observable landmarks; that’s where it is.
Commercialism has not found its way to this place. No condos or hotels built. As I walk, I notice that every staggered cottage looks the same. How endless the stroll seems.
I hunt for my family to no avail. Did I pass our house already? No other souls around on this deserted beach. Which way to turn? Have I passed our place or not?
An imaginary sign with two arrows pointing in both directions. Left or right - take your pick. You’re lost either way.
Heaven turns into nightmare. Not only do I pray, I cry out to the only One who can rescue me. Walk, pray, cry - walk, pray, cry. No other choice. Keep walking…and walking.
Finally I come upon some fishermen and ask where I am. “Sanderling,” they say.
But where in Sanderling? Then the early morning garden spider comes to mind. Her web has been spun over the wooden sign, Oyster Catcher Lane. I ask the fishermen if any of them know where Oyster Catcher Lane is. One of them points right.
So fatigued that I’m not sure if I’ll ever make it back, I feel like wallowing in self pity, like howling in the sand and letting the fierce waves wash me out to sea. Angry and hurt that no one cares enough to come searching for me, I collapse at water’s edge, doubting I’ll ever make it back. Maybe this is the Twilight Zone. Or limbo. Or worse.
I sit by the sea for a long time, scolding myself. Finally the pity-party is over and I pull myself up and continue walking.
After what seems like an eternity, I spot the children clam digging, and my husband out fishing again.
The lecture from my husband was worthwhile. He’d learned in Boy Scouts to always, always look at the big picture.
Look all around you and pay attention to the panorama: a faded purple flag fluttering over the porch, a twisted tree planted between a gray house and a peach house, two striped beach towels hanging on a rail to dry, a friendly garden spider suspended over the sign, Oyster Catcher Lane.