He did not say anything and listened to the weight of the surf falling on the hard wet sand in the night.
— Ernest Hemingway, The Garden of Eden
Each day of the past week, I sat on a deck on Pamlico Sound in Frisco, North Carolina, watching wind puff across water. Monday and Tuesday, the wind came toward us, from the southwest. It was unbroken by buildings, trees, or islands; it blew across the sandbars that edge the sound way off in the distance, then across miles of open water till whitecaps pushed against the wall that holds the sandy yard of the vacation house we rented.
We couldn’t sail those two days. The wind was too stiff for our small wooden boat.
Wednesday the breeze shifted. I sat on the deck with my coffee, in the lee of the house, and watched. Instead of frothy chop, the water was mirror smooth downwind of the seawall. A couple of meters out from the wall, where the wind was deterred by houses, grass, and our spit of land, the water wrinkled now and then when a small breath of air scooted across it from over the house. The dimpling began at the first point of contact of the moving air, then spread across the water like a fan until the breath blew out.
A few more meters out, the surface of the sound stippled in the breeze that was able to make its way around the houses and over our narrow peninsula. Even further out, the dimples deepened. Their edges sharpened as the wind steadied and was able to get to the water without structures in its way.
Near shore, I watched an osprey fish, holding steady in the air overhead, above the rooftops, looking, hunting for something to eat. Then the bird dove, fast like a bullet, and kersploosh! it splashed in the quiet morning. It emerged, sometimes with its quarry in its claws, sometimes empty-handed, and it shuddered in flight to shake seawater off before climbing overhead again to watch.
Every day, I sat there and I thought, “I brought my laptop. I could blog.”
Then I continued to sit and watch. I felt for the wind on my skin. I listened to the sploosh of a small fish jumping, to the spray of minnows jumping to escape of an underwater predator. I smelled salt and the sulphur of decaying sea grass in the sound.
Now, it is our final day of vacation. We have sailed nearly every day. I skippered the boat a couple of times, and have been humbled by the sport of sailing. To think I could learn in one week was naive — but that’s a different blog post. Or maybe a diary entry.
For now, I brought my computer to the Outer Banks on vacation thinking “I’ll have time to blog! I’ll want to blog!” What really happened is that I wanted to sit and be. I drank coffee; I watched wind on water. I read The Garden of Eden again then started Before the Wind. I wrote with ink on paper. I swam in the clean crisp waves of the Atlantic with our kids. I napped. I drank wine at lunch.
And when I didn’t feel like doing, I didn’t.