Brunswick Nature Park


I encountered Brunswick Nature Park a while back when I passed it leaving Brunswick Town. I had heard about the park in the past, but I had never explored it. As I hadn’t intended upon exploring it when I did, I wasn’t wearing the best walking shoes; but they were good enough for a quick look around so I decided to check it out.


Brunswick Nature Park is located in Winnabow NC, along Town Creek, on 911 acres of land. It includes three hiking trails (my biggest interest): The Long Leaf Trail (beginner level), the Live Oak Trail (beginner) and the Dogwood Trail (intermediate) and four bike trails, including an advanced obstacle course. Hikers are allowed on the bike trails, but I am sure you would want to be mindful of bikers and exercise both caution and courtesy when walking on those trails. In addition, the park offers picnic shelters, kayak launches and scenic overlooks.


I parked my car near one of the overlooks and decided to venture just a little ways onto the Live Oak hiking trail which is 1.44 miles long. The scenic dirt trail, marked by red dots on the trees, is not too difficult but you do want to watch your step. The terrain is a little more hilly than we locals generally encounter in our flat beach communities-which I love- and is strewn with branches, roots and all kinds of vegetation. I’m sure there are plenty of critters out there, as well. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw a gator sign on the way into the park (although he probably hangs out near the creek) and if I was a snake I would certainly choose to live there. Despite that, as I walked along the trail I found myself wanting to go deeper and deeper into the woods, there was so much to see and explore. Had I been wearing the proper shoes, and maybe had a buddy with me, I could have turned it into a very good hike. I’m certain that it is also a great place to watch for birds and other animals. I was fortunate enough to have my camera with me so I took advantage of that and snapped some pictures. At some point, because of my shoes, I cut the hike short and turned around. I walked back to the overlook, where a family sat by the water, and looked at the creek for a while.


My trip to the park was brief, but it was long enough for me to soak up some of the magic of the outdoors. I left feeling more relaxed than when I came and with a greater sense of well-being (that tends to happen to me outside) and it was also long enough for me to establish that I will go back to visit again when I’m better prepared, perhaps take a pair of binoculars and a picnic lunch. You might want to check it out, too, if you are in the area!


Pleasing sounds on a spring night

I love the sounds of a spring night. I turn off my TV and sit in the quiet listening to song birds, crickets and the occasional dog as they lift their voices to the sky. Throw in a couple of frogs and I’m in heaven. Lately, the lead singers of my outdoor concerts have been the birds. There are times when the crickets and cicadas rule the night, and in the summer, after a rain, the frogs take the lead and sing their parts. But right now, it’s the birds. I’ve actually pulled out my computer and launched investigations to determine which birds are making the sounds that please me so.  My current suspects are mockingbirds, the whippoorwillblack birds or robins, but I’m not an ornithologist so I’m not completely sure. It could be another species completely. Whoever it is, I find their songs delightful, and thank goodness. If not, I’d be losing my mind trying to rest as they pretty much dominate the acoustics of the sky.  Instead, their songs lull me to sleep.

I’m a girl who digs the sounds of nature. I find them comforting. When birds are singing, crickets are chirping and frogs are croaking, it feels like, at least for the moment, all is right in my world. As long as they don’t sound panicked, I kind of assume that a catastrophe is not immediately at hand. If it was, the animals wouldn’t be singing. They’d either be hunkering down or let’s face it, hauling ass. That’s a bit morbid, but you have to admit, there is usually more peace in chatter when it comes to nature than quiet. Chatter means everything is still operating as usual.

I do have other nocturnal sound makers in my yard besides the birds. There is a feral cat that lets himself into my yard every night. I know because I hear the cling when he squeezes himself through the gate which is always ajar in the morning. His visits are both exciting and antagonizing for my cats who race to the back porch and scan the yard to determine his location.  Every now and then, one of them will spot him in the darkness or he’ll come right up to the porch, and I hear them hiss or spit. Interesting that they challenge him because I feel like he could probably take either of my cats, but perhaps I do not give them enough credit. There is also the fact that they are separated by the screen. I know the feral cat is a he because I’ve seen him out there spraying everything. Otherwise, I’m not sure what he does in my yard , but he comes regularly. Might be trying to catch those birds.

And then there are my neighbor’s roosters, who do not simply crow at dawn, but rather anytime, day or night, whenever they feel the urge; although I have to say that as I write this, they are quiet as little baby mice.

I don’t know why I am so pleased by these sounds. I guess it is because they fill me with peace and a sense of connectedness. I don’t mind them at all whether they be wake-up calls in the mornings or lullabies at night.



Yesterday, I took half a day off work to watch my nephew participate in a Fun Run at school. I arrived moments before the race, just in time to see a young, athletic woman with a booming voice and a microphone announce each class.

“Mrs. Smith’s 2nd grade class is lining up for the race!” she boomed. “Let’s put our hands together for Mrs Smith’s class!”

The spectators clapped. The children ran to the starting line like a football team at the Super Bowl. They smiled and waved to friends and family. After the children were in place, we put our hands on our hearts and listened to the national anthem. Someone at the starting line held up the American flag. Then the race started. Loud music played over the speakers. The announcer encouraged the children, told them to have fun and directed them to stop periodically for water. I stood on the sidelines with my brother and my mother to watch for my nephew as he made his laps. I loved seeing the enthusiasm and excitement on his face, and on the faces of the other children. They ran with determination and some of them were grinning from ear to ear. Teachers and loved ones on the sidelines gave them high fives and snapped their pictures with cameras and cell phones.

A while back, I learned the term “emotional anchor”. It hit me that moments like the run- moments of freedom, support and accomplishment-are the moments when we drop those anchors.

After the run, I still had some time before I had to go back to work. I ate lunch with my mother then we walked at a local arboretum. As we leisurely strolled the paths at the arboretum, we discussed the topics on our minds. We took pictures of flowers and fountains and sculptures. We enjoyed the serenity of the Japanese garden and watched a woman and her child feed koi fish in a pond. We perused the flower beds to discover that the arboretum had planted clover, turnips, garlic and other vegetables and herbs.


We found two beautiful orange Adirondack chairs and relaxed in the breeze and the shade as we talked. “This has been so nice,” my mother said when it was time to go. “I don’t want to leave.”

I agreed.


As we left, she shared her childhood memories of the arboretum. When she was a child, the property that now belongs to the arboretum was her elementary school.

“There is where we had band.” She pointed to one door that now leads to offices inside the arboretum.“Over there is where the parking lot was,” she pointed across the way. “There were huge magnolia trees in the parking lot.” She looked around with nostalgia. “I had a wonderful teacher…I was happy here”.

More emotional anchors.

We hugged. She left to finish her day. I drove home, recharged and peaceful, to complete my work day. I will have to say that those four hours off were definitely time well spent. Anchors for me, I guess.


Everyday Adventure

Recently, I started subscribing to a service called “The Produce Box”. Each Thursday, I place a cooler on my front porch and a representative, who I have yet to see, delivers fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers right to my front door. Sometimes, I work from home on Thursday. When I am home, I usually find myself checking the front porch a couple of times before she actually delivers my food. Last Thursday was no different. Around 1:00 pm, I decided to check the front porch for my stash. I opened the door and stepped out to pick up my cooler, which was tucked into a corner right by the front door. I could tell by the feel of it that she had not yet come so I stepped back inside. I closed the screen and was about to close the front door when one of my cats, Mia, jumped onto the back of the couch; she craned her head to see out the front door and to smell the smells of the front yard. I have a screened porch on the back, and my two cats stay out there a lot; but the front door is usually closed so the front yard is a mystery to them.


Like most people, I have two sides. One side, creative Wendy, is my soul, my freedom. The other side, practical Wendy, is the one who holds down a full-time job and pays the bills. Now, at the moment that Mia climbed onto the back of the couch, practical Wendy felt like she needed to close the door and go back to work; but creative Wendy was empathetic to Mia’s desire to look outside so I decided to leave the door open for a moment. I stood there and looked out the door myself. It was a bright, glorious day with a brilliant blue sky. It was rather windy. A gentle gust of wind found its way to the front door and I breathed it in. It was a contradictory wind, crisp and cool like a soft winter but warm, as well, as if it were wrapped in the sun. A wind enveloped by the sun. Practical Wendy suddenly decided that I was getting a little doughy so it would be good to take a break and go for a short walk down the road. I stroked Mia’s little head, closed the door and put on my shoes.


I live on a gravel road that is nestled between two areas that are quickly being developed. Developers are foaming at the mouth to get their hands on my road, but the residents have put up a fight. For now there is a moratorium on annexing our road into the city. I kind of like walking down the gravel road. It’s dustier, there are potholes, but when I walk down my road, I feel like I’ve put a little extra effort into my walk. It’s also different than the roads around me. The neighborhoods on either side are very cookie cutter, but my road is a little slice of  country. It is a mixture of double-wides and houses and everyone has a large yard. There are times when my large yard is a bit too much for me to handle. If the developers win, I will greet it with a mix of emotions. On the one hand, I probably should live somewhere that is easier for me to manage. On the other hand, this much space is hard to come by in today’s world.


You see things on my road that you don’t always see in other neighborhoods. One of my neighbors has a couple of roosters and several chickens. Frequently, I look into the yard to see what I call “the chicken posse” wandering around, pecking for bugs and seeds. They act very entitled to my space and provide no end of entertainment for the cats, who sit crouched and watching them with interest.


As I made my way down the road, I remembered a couple of houses with un-fenced yards where the people let their dogs run free. This drove me crazy when I had my own dogs-God rest their canine souls-a German Shepard mix and a lab mix. Best dogs ever. They spent over a decade with me. Sometimes, it was like dodging bullets walking them down this road. I never knew if one of the neighbors’ dogs would dart out to greet us and whether it would get along with my dog, who was on a leash. Once I had to let my lab off the leash so that she could run home because two jack russells came tearing out of their yard, nipping at her. I didn’t want her to get mad and strike back.

When I got halfway down the road, sure enough, a barking dog ran to the corner of his yard, not so much in an aggressive way but not entirely in a friendly way, either. It was more of a “Hey! Hey! What are you doing here?!” kind of way. I glanced up and regarded him. The thing about dogs is there is a way to handle them. You have to hold your own without challenging them. “Hello, doggie,” I said, glancing over, but I kept my pace and continued walking. His owner called him from the yard. I passed another house with a goat fenced in the back yard. All of the noise from the barking dog had gotten him worked up and he was back there bleating. Two houses down, another dog. This yard was fenced but the gate was open. Geez, people. This one approached me in a little more of a badass fashion. Same thing. I regarded him. “Hello, doggie,” I said and kept on going. He stood in the road and barked after me as I continued my trek.

I walked to the end of the street. There was a large yard at the end of the street that for years housed only a shed. “Suspicious”, one of my friends had commented when we had walked the road together. But now the shed had expanded. It had become a tiny house with a second story. I could see an air conditioner protruding from the window on the second floor and two adirondack chairs in the yard. Maybe not so suspicious, after all, I thought. Maybe just a person with limited funds who needed time.

I turned around and started back. Within minutes, I saw the second dog standing in the road, waiting and looking my way. As I walked towards him, he started barking, “Hey! Hey! What, are you comin back?!” I stayed the route. For a long time, he didn’t move. I wondered how this game of chicken was going to play out, but eventually he moved out of the center of the road toward his house. His movements were slow and subtle so as not to not lose face, but he never stopped grumbling.

Then past the goat again and the first dog, whose owner had gone inside. He/she stood on the edge of his yard with a friend, a little white terrier mix. Reinforcements, I guessed. “Hey! Hey!” they barked as I walked by, “Didn’t I tell you last time? Where are you going?” These two actually came out into the road and sniffed at my legs in between barks. Eventually, I left them behind.

I wandered back into my own yard. I wondered if my produce had arrived.  I didn’t know what time it was, but I knew my break was over. Practical Wendy had let creative Wendy out for a while to decompress, but now it was time to go back to work.

Birds and Bar Flies

Halligan’s is an Irish pub near my house. I‘ve been there a few times and I like it for several reasons. First of all, the food is delicious. My favorite dish is the chicken boxty. Chicken boxty is chicken, mushrooms and spinach over a potato cake in mouthwatering cream sauce. It’s to die for. Halligan’s also has an assortment of beer and they have a great outdoor seating area that faces a man-made pond surrounded by birds. There is a very large crane that hangs out around that pond.


One of the great things about living in NC is that we have sporadic spring days in the middle of winter. It can be 30 degrees one day and two days later it will be in the 70’s. A few days later, it might be freezing again. When random spring happens, we all head outside; we go for walks, ride down to the beach or sit on a patio somewhere having dinner and drinks with friends. If you don’t watch it, the fluctuating weather will make you sick, but it’s usually worth it.  

One spring day in winter, I met a friend at Halligan’s. We sat on the patio and ordered food and beer. I can’t remember what kind of beer I ordered that day, but it was probably something like Blue Moon or Bud Lite Lime (don’t laugh, they’re very tasty) or a cider because those are what I usually drink. Or a ginger beer. It could have been a ginger beer.

After ordering, I sat talking with my friend. As we caught up, I noticed a fly buzzing around my glass. I waived it away but it kept coming back. I had only had a couple of sips when I noticed the fly in my beer, flailing and fighting for his life. I sighed. “I can’t drink this now,” I said then wondered what to do with the fly. On any other day, you could have handed me a swatter and I might have flattened him, but on this spring winter day, as he scrambled for his life in my glass, it just seemed senseless to watch him drown.  At least when they get flattened, it’s like they died in battle. There’s no dignity in drowning in wimpy beer. I picked up the glass and walked to the edge of the patio. I poured the fly onto the grass and watched him lay there in the sun. When I returned, the waitress was at the table with my friend.

“I decided to try to save a fly’s life, if you can believe that,” I said, “but I think he’s going to die, anyway. He’s not moving”.

“He’s probably too drunk to move,” laughed the waitress.

“Maybe he has alcohol poisoning,” I said.

“I’ll get you another one.”

She took my empty glass and returned with a fresh beer. My friend and I sat on the patio and finished our food and drinks. “Let’s walk over to the pond before we leave”, said my friend, “maybe we’ll see that crane or some turtles”.


There is a little bridge that crosses the pond. As we headed for the bridge, we saw a row of white coastal birds sitting on the rails. At the time, I thought they might be herons, but after a little research, which consisted of me googling on my phone, I convinced myself that they were a type of bird called white ibis. We crept very slowly toward the bridge so that we would not scare the ibis. I was able to take a few pictures of them as we moved closer, but eventually they moved away from us.


We were not alone for long, however. A group of Canadian geese on the far end of the pond noticed us, probably noticed my friend’s to go box, and started swimming and honking their way across the pond. One fat goose, in particular, acted like he’d never eaten a meal in his life. My friend succumbed to the pressure and pulled some bread from the to go box.  We pulled off just a little bit of bread and threw it in the water, but we quickly realized that the fat one was a bully who ran off the other birds and gobbled up all the bread for himself. Survival of the fittest. We devised a plan to throw a decoy piece one way for the chubby goose then throw another piece the other way for the other birds. Once we felt they had been given an adequate snack, we closed the box. Some kids appeared on the other side of the pond and the geese quickly kicked us to the curb.


As they swam away, I marveled at the day, at how the sun reflected off the water and reflected the images of the geese onto the water.  I felt so blessed for being able to take advantage of the day.  


Since that encounter, I’ve read that you aren’t supposed to feed bread to the birds. That’s a bummer. I guess in the future, I’ll have to keep the bread to myself. It’s going to be really hard to say no.  

Cape Lookout


My first visit to Cape Lookout was born from spontaneity. I’d previously had other plans for my weekend, but they fell through. Prepared for vacation but with nowhere to go, I sent my friend, Becki, a text for advice. She’s a bit of a traveler so I figured she would be a good resource.

Have you ever been to the Outer Banks? I wrote. I need a little trip and was thinking of driving up.

Yes. she answered. They’re beautiful.


If  you’re looking for a lighthouse… she continued, One of my favorites, Cape Lookout, is right near me. You could drive up and stay the night.

Ok!  I responded.

Happy to see that the weekend was salvaged, I drove to Becki’s the next day. 

The Cape Lookout Seashore is 56 miles of undeveloped barrier islands in North Carolina. It consists of the Core Banks and Shackleford Banks and contains the Cape Lookout lighthouse and the wild horses of Shackleford, among other natural treasures.


The morning that we visited Lookout, Becki, her husband, Jason and I drove to Harker’s Island, where we caught a ferry with several other passengers, including two dogs, for the three-mile trip to the island. One of the dogs was rather young, not well-trained, and clearly a dominant so I offered to trade places with his owner to keep him separated from the other dog. I sat on the back end of the boat with one group of passengers and the more laid back dog, a golden retriever, who made rounds getting his head rubbed when the waves weren’t too rocky. Becki and Jason sat on the front end with some other passengers, the dominant dog and his owner.

As we passed the barrier islands, we strained to see wild horses. I knew from a previous conversation that Becki was also looking for whales. We did see some horses in the distance, but what we mostly saw that day were pelicans, thousands of them. I’ve never seen so many in my life. Pelicans breed on barrier islands so perhaps it was mating season or maybe the fishing was just good that day. In a way, I regret not taking pictures of them, although I have the feeling that the picture would not have done them justice. I guess I sensed that in the moment which is probably why I chose to savor it instead of fumble with my phone. The next time, I will be prepared.

When we reached the island, the ferry driver, a young, handsome,  weathered man, helped us off the boat. We thanked him and asked him when he would return. He was a man of few words, but I detected a hint of the Carolina brogue in his voice.

Once our feet hit the sand, Becki and Jason were in their element. They had visited the island several times before. “We bring everyone here,” Becki laughed. They knew exactly where they wanted to go. We headed down a walkway toward the Cape Lookout lighthouse, a old lightkeeper’s residence and a dilapidated work building. We were visiting in the off season so the buildings were not open, but we climbed onto the porch of what appeared to be the residence and peeked through the windows.


I turned around and drank in the view of the ocean from the porch. In my mind, I could see the lightkeeper sitting on the porch watching the sea. I wondered what it was like to be a lightkeeper. Was it a lonely life or a life of freedom? Probably a bit of both. A romanticized vision sprung to my head like something out of a Daphne du Maurier novel. I imagined a story of a shipwreck or a ghost lingering around the lighthouse. 


Next, we approached the lighthouse. It was majestic with its large stature and clean design. At 163 feet tall, the lighthouse is brick and painted with a black and white checkered pattern to indicate direction. The black diamonds point in a north and south direction while the white diamonds point east and west.


I could see how it could withstand the hurricanes that often pelt the Carolina shores, not to mention countless adventures with pirates and wars throughout the years.


I so wanted to go inside and climb the 207 steps to its gallery and see the panoramic views from the top. But that would have to wait for another day. As we walked away from the lighthouse toward the beach, I looked behind me to see it adjust to the landscape in the distance.


We walked the beach with the remainder of our time. We saw horseshoe crabs, shells and even an entire shark washed up on the shore. We walked around the shark and investigated it in an effort to determine its cause of death. We found a wound on his underside that almost appeared to be a bite.

“These waters are a little different, “ my friends offered, “sometimes you see things here that you wouldn’t see on the beach at home”. They explained that the island sits a little further out in the ocean and is in closer proximity to the Gulf. The water is rather clear, very warm and offers a long fishing season and a wide variety of species.

When it was time to meet the ferry, we headed to the dock. We sat with our feet dangling over the water while we waited for the ferry. As we rode back to Harker’s Island, I understood why Becki and Jason have been to Cape Lookout so many times. There is much to explore. I will be back myself when I can gain entrance to the buildings and climb to the top of the lighthouse.

I think I was born with salt in my veins


I think I was probably born with salt in my veins. My father, a middle child of five boys, was born and lived at Carolina Beach, NC with his family during the 40’s, 50’s and part of the 60’s. During that time, Carolina Beach was steadily becoming a hot tourist area, but it was also still a very small town. (It’s still a small town during the off season). All of the locals knew one another, and to listen to my dad talk about his childhood, he had a lot of freedom to run around and explore the island with his brothers. My dad can talk for hours about his youthful adventures on the beach, from fishing trips to body surfing to hanging out with other local kids and watching the tourists on the Boardwalk. He even had several conversations in those years with Robert Harrill, the well-known Hermit of Fort Fisher.

I have very early memories of the beach, of being held by my father in the ocean as he taught me to relax and not be afraid of the water. I remember riding out on the beach in his 4-wheel drive Bronco, always an adventure, and sometimes one in which we either got stuck or had to pull someone else out of the sand. When my brothers and I were very young, our parents would drive down the beach and find a pool of water left over from the high tide. We played in the pool while my dad sat up his rod and reel and fished off the beach.

I inherited a love of the ocean from my father. I also inherited his light hair, light eyes and fair skin. For this reason, my relationship with the beach has been complicated. It was further complicated when both my mother and one of my brothers developed melanoma, and when I developed a basal cell carcinoma on my face in my 30s. All of us survived our skin cancers, but the scares made me aware of what I really knew all along, that I had to be very careful in the sun.

As a small child, my mother kept me in sunscreen, but I cannot tell you how many times I got sunburned as a teenager and young woman. I spent many summer nights battling pain as my sunburns brushed against the bed sheets; I  experienced chills from sun poisoning. There were times when I didn’t wear sunscreen, convinced that I could eventually tan. There were other times when I did wear it, but forgot to reapply when I lost track of time because I was having so much fun. Once I accepted the fact that I would never tan, I wised up. I stopped going to the beach for a while, but then later, I figured out how to handle my predicament. I started going later in the day.

The sun is hottest from 10am-4pm so now I generally go around 4pm when the people who bask  in the hottest part of the day start to leave. I call it the shift change. When it gets close to dusk, I call it swimming with sharks. On the rare occasion that I go earlier, I limit my exposure to a short window of time and cover myself with sunscreen. I could write a separate blog on sunscreen, I’ve learned so much about it, and probably will at some point. I have lots of tips.

Despite this quandary, I still love the beach. I enjoy swimming in any body of water, whether it be a pool, a lake or the ocean. I imagine if I’d been born in the mountains I’d be writing this gushing article about mountain streams, but I’ve grown up by the ocean so the ocean experience is my favorite. To me, the ocean truly feels alive. It is alive. The tide comes in and goes out. The waves pull me toward them then they wash over me. That sense of floating and bobbing over the waves, being a part of that moving life force, is a thing I crave. I love the game of the ocean, the one where I stand in the water and debate each wave as it barrels toward me. Do I go over this one or duck below it? If I duck below it just before it hits, I can feel the power of its force right above my head. It’s right there, but far enough away that it doesn’t hurt me..but right there. Afterward, I’ll head to the beach to dry in the setting sun, the salt evaporating on my skin. I’ll read or just sit there and think while I dry,  and in those moments I am filled with peace.

I’m the kind of person who has a constant dialogue running in my head. I’m sure a lot of people are that way. Once, I heard that women’s minds are like noodles. We have lots of ideas in our heads and they are intertwined. My mind is definitely like a plate of spaghetti noodles. One noodle for my job. Another one for work on the house then another for what needs to be done in the yard. Another noodle for finances and writing projects, books I’m reading, concerns over how I’m going to stay in shape in my forties.  Another for my relationships with other people (and each of those relationships has its own noodle) along with many other responsibilities and goals.

Last year, I had an experience on the beach I have never had before. Well, no, that’s not entirely true. I believe I have had this experience before, but very briefly and not in a way that I fully recognized or could articulate. I was sitting on the beach drying off after having been tossed about by the waves. I remember looking around and listening to the waves crash against the shore. Seagulls pranced in front of me, begging for handouts. Pelicans dove for fish in the distance and the sun was beginning to set with vibrant colors of blue, pink, orange and lavender. A child played in the shoreline and people walked by contentedly. Suddenly, I realized that the chattering in my head had ceased along with any actual thoughts. I’m not sure how long it lasted, probably just a few minutes, but for just a few minutes, I stopped thinking and was simply present. My mind sat back and allowed my soul to be part of the beach.Once I realized what had happened, I snapped out of it. I looked over at a friend who sat reading in a chair beside me and said, “You’re not going to believe what just happened to me”.

I believe this is what we live for. We live for the moments when we can shut out the chatter of our lives and just be one with God’s universe. We know there is something much much bigger than the day-to-day routine. I believe it’s a precursor to eternity. Maybe it’s even practice for eternity. Just remember to wear sunscreen.