Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Sometimes I am amazed at how many shades of green there are. Bright green, blue green, yellow green, dark green.....and so many shades of variation among them. Sitting on our porch swing in the late afternoon we marvel at so many greens surrounding us. The live oaks, the different types of cedars, the yaupons, myrtles, and oleanders. Between, around, & above are vines of even more shades of green. Virginia creeper, briars, English ivy....and prodigious amounts of poison ivy.

It rained last night. This morning the leaves and branches are heavy with water droplets, and all is lush and vibrant.....and green in grand profusion.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Shrimp and grits and a bowl of cheerios....

We were invited to Amy and David's for a 'shrimp and grits' brunch....that was another new experience for me. Well, I have had grits before, I think in a waffle house in Georgia once..and shrimp is always popular in the Midwest....but together????

When we arrived we were welcomed into a kitchen full of pots and pans and cooking utensils of very serious cooks (yes, David does more than play the fiddle!) The table was set with bowls of grits and shrimp and bacon and sauteed mushrooms and wonderfully mismatched pottery pieces.

The food was wonderful...we had seconds all the way around. Baby Lachlan didn't seem to mind us feasting on southern fare as he ate his strained spinach and plain yoghurt.

Ahhhhh, the cuisince of the South, I guess I am a believer.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


It rained last night. Buckets of rain. As I woke up in my new (old) house, I thought, "Oh good, the rain will fill up the cistern." Actually, the old wooden cistern has been gone for 35 years. Prior to the mid 1970's all drinking water on Ocracoke was collected in cisterns from the roofs.

The oldest cisterns were wooden. Later on they were constructed of brick, then concrete block. The latest ones are fiberglass. Folks years ago were very cautious about water usage. During prolonged dry spells they were especially careful. Baths were infrequent, showers unheard of. Dishwater was reused to water the garden and fig trees.

We always had a cast iron pitcher pump on the cistern and in the kitchen. A conch shell rested nearby as well so you could dip water directly through the hatch in the cistern. The water might contain mosquito larvae, or even a tree frog, but it tasted mighty good on a hot summer day.

On your next stroll through the village notice the many old cisterns in people's side and back yards, many still connected to the roof by gutters and downspouts, even though we've had a municipal water system for decades.


Saturday, June 25, 2005

Artist in Residence (well, temporarily anyway....)

Ocracoke attracts artists....guitar pickers, writers, photographers, potters and a lot of wannabees. You can find them anywhere in the village..on the beach...

While attending Dale and Jaren's wedding on the beach this week, I noticed an artist up the beach a bit. Watching him paint was a piece of art into itself. With his palette held in his left hand, his right hand was capturing the beauty of the summer's day...the colors of the Solstice.

Oil on oil.

Color on color.

As the ceremony was ending, he too was wrapping up his work for the day...folding up the easal while balancing the painting. As we waited for him....I was caught up in the romance of an artist on the beach, I actually thought he was wearing a French beret (it turned out to be a ball cap!) When we were close enough to catch a glimpse of "our" artist, Philip actually recognized him as this week's renter in Lawton's cottage. He and his wife, Connie, are here for the week. She is an artist as well supplying the Village Craftsmen with her pottery.

We followed him to the car as he gently placed his painting into the back of his car (great place for drying oil paintings, he said!)

Conversation poured as quickly as the pouring of a French wine. His name is Ken McIndoe and he is a painter by profession. Over the course of the week, we have seen him about the beach and village....down at the water, on Howard Street, in the back yard...painting, always painting.

His work can be seen in a gallery in Bordentown, New Jersey. The name of the gallery is the Artfull Deposit (it used to be a bank!)

How nice to think that the summer beach on Ocracoke Island will hang in a gallery and maybe brighten up a long New Jersey winter.

Lou Ann


Friday, June 24, 2005

Crab Pickin'

The kitchen table was covered with old newspapers. A five gallon plastic bucket, teeming with freshly caught blue crabs, sat on the floor. Captain Rob was on the back deck steaming the first pot of our late night repast. We had all gathered around the table, adults and children waiting with knives, and melted butter, and paper towels, and bowls of water for our fingers. Cold beer and soft drinks completed the menu.

Soon enough the bright red, steaming crabs were plunked down in the middle of the table and all hands reached for one. (Actually, we then let them sit for a while because they were too hot to handle.) When they cooled a bit we began dismantling them and extracting the delicate, tasty white meat from the main body and from the claws.

We picked, ate, drank, picked some more, and told stories until well past midnight. It was definitely an island kind of evening. Lou Ann had never picked crabs before. Let's hear what she has to say about it:

It was late..after the Oprey...when Sundae and Rob realized that a large bucket of crabs was waiting for them on their front porch (now I never had that experience before either!) at the spur of the moment Sundae invited all of us over for the midnight feast. The bucket was placed dead center on their kitchen floor, and I could not help but stare at the blue crabs clicking their claws against the side of the bucket. It was void of emotion as Rob just dumped them into the pot on the porch!

It took a while for me to get the hang of pickin' the crabs (a lot of work for so little meat)...but it was fresh and tender and absolutely delicious. One of the stories told that evening was of a champion woman crab picker from North Carolina...75 pounds in one day...I can't even imagine!

When we were finished, well past midnight, the table was heaped with shells...crab juices had dripped down to our elbows and bottles were empty, and I had one more wonderful Ocracoke experience.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Windows Wide Open

The last several days have been simply wonderful -- sunny, pleasant and mild during the day; dry and cool at night. It has been perfect weather for sleeping with the windows open, feeling the night breeze on your face, even pulling the quilt up around your neck.

Yesterday at the bank, talking with the clerks about the terrific weather, Judy reminded me of a July 4th pony penning of years ago, long before Ocracoke became a popular tourist destination. It seems the weather was so unseasonably cool that one local lady showed up at the pony pen wearing her fur coat.

It has not been quite that cold lately (though sweat shirts and light jackets have been in evidence after dark), and the forecast calls for warmer weather coming right up. I suspect no one will be wearing a fur coat for the parade this July 4.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Solstice Moon...

Today is the solstice..followed by last night's full moon. It seems as if the island is full of romance. The past few days there have been several couples in the shop telling stories of their weddings on the sunrise or sunset. They come from North Carolina or Minnesota or Ohio.

Today one of our own island couples will be married at 2:00 on the beach. Jaren and Dale have the perfect island romance. Girl moves to island and meets island boy. They fall in love on the mosquito spray truck....sigh, don't you just love romance?

I hosted a bridal shower for Jaren on Saturday evening...come for Saturday supper, I said. No invitations necessary...just a call or two. It was probably typical of most bridal showers...we drank champagne and told "girl stories." The biggest difference was that most ladies were barefoot (or flip flops!) and arrived on bicycle.

So today at 2:00 we will all meet at the beach.... walk barefoot down to the shoreline...and with salt water and wind in our faces...share in their celebration. Congratulations, Jaren and Dale...may you live happily ever after.

Lou Ann


Monday, June 20, 2005

Brain Freeze

Hi! This is Amy. Not Philip's daughter - I'm the new Amy. I just moved here on Cinco de Mayo and boy howdy I LOVE it! In Ocracoke I've found my real home.

I made a comment earlier that Philip apparently found very "Ocracokish" so he generously asked me to contribute today's journal entry...

Just after lunch, I was working behind the counter and began having trouble with counting back change (we don't have one of those fancy machines that does the job for you). After a few perplexing struggles, I realized why I couldn't think...I still had my shoes on! I immediately kicked them off and got back to work. I haven't had any problems since.

Is this island great or what?


Sunday, June 19, 2005

A Morning Swim

The ocean was delightful this morning -- dark green, slightly cool, and chest deep between the outer bar and the sandy beach. Only a few other people were in evidence, far in the distance. Broken shells and seaweed lay at the high tide line. A large hulk of some unfortunate schooner lay exposed near the dunes, its hefty metal spikes and hand-hewn beams silent reminders of the craftsmanship and ingenuity that went into its construction.

Island life is sweet.


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Charming Blue Eyes

My daughter Amy stopped by this morning during breakfast. Lachlan was with her, dressed in dark blue shorts and a light blue shirt. It is difficult to not dress him in blue. His eyes are so arresting -- and he is such a charmer. He is walking all about now, negotiating thresholds, stepping over obstacles on the floor, even removing the hinge pin from my front door.

Captain Rob Temple (of the schooner Windfall) and his daughter Caroline sing a song, "Being a Pirate is All Fun & Games" [til somebody loses an ear, etc.]. The chorus "A Pirate, A Pirate!" is accompanied by a raised right arm and clenched fist. You've probably already guessed -- Lachlan has learned to pump his right arm up and down at the cue, "A Pirate, A Pirate."

Well, he does it most of the time....and, OK, he does bonk his head now and then, especially if he happens to be holding a toy when someone shouts "A Pirate, A Pirate!" But he is cute!


Friday, June 17, 2005

Dreamin' on the pizer...

It was late when we arrived home last night...there was a pot luck going away party for Charles, a young teacher on the island who will be studying in Oxford, England this summer...ticket taking for Molasses Creek...then riding our bikes home through the darkness on Howard Street.

The night was too beautiful to go inside, so we sat outside on the pizer (front porch). With the moon half full and the sky dripping with diamonds, Philip took out his harmonica for a late night serenade. The music of the tunes and the creak of the old porch swing were the only sounds to be heard on the sleeping island.

A good night for dreamin' on the pizer.

Lou Ann

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A Creative Invention

Yesterday a vacationing customer commented that she had taken her school-age son out of school for the week. However, as penance, on his return he was required to have built or submit plans for a simple machine or device, using common household items, that had a new or different purpose.

I built such a device today and hereby provide details for all of you folks who enjoy Ocracoke's isolated and relatively unpopulated beaches.

Find an old crab pot buoy and attach to it a thin but sturdy piece of line about 8 to 10 feet long. Tie a lead weight to the other end (a number of sinkers or a decoy anchor will work). At a local store, purchase a cheap mesh bag with a draw string closure and affix it to the top of the buoy.

Once you've found your favorite isolated beach take your device out into the ocean and drop the lead weight(s) to the bottom. Put your bathing suit in the mesh bag and pull the drawstring shut. You can now enjoy the surf and the waves as nature intended, without having to keep an eye open for the occasional park ranger.

How convenient is that?


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Qualitative Analysis

My apologies for not posting a journal entry for three days in a row. Among other things, we've had more computer and internet access issues (finally resolved).

If you only visit Ocracoke occasionally you may see the island as a wonderfully laid back and relaxing place to be (and it is!), but really and truly it is different if you live here year 'round. We would all like to be having a 12 month vacation but it's not exactly like that.

A lot has been going on here this week -- too much to take it all in actually. School graduation was this weekend. Seven seniors donned cap and gown to receive their diplomas. Afterwards one of the senior's parents hosted a festive party at the Berkeley Center. Needing a quieter evening, Lou Ann and I chose instead to sit on the dock at the Jolly Roger, share a meal, and listen to guitarist Martin Garrish entertain us.

Sixteen participants in Donald & Merle Davis' storytelling workshop spent Monday evening at our home enjoying fig cake and strawberries, and listening to stories and history of Ocracoke.

In between work and community activities, family and friends' lunch & dinner visits, and attending to other practical matters (like cutting the grass, repairing bicycles, and, oh yes, paying bills) a number of visitors make their way onto our front porch.

Over the weekend Craig & Betty Sue Garrish were back home for a visit and they stopped by to say hello. Betty Sue had lived in my house when she was a teenager and was amazed at the transformation. We chatted about old times, children, and grandchildren. Craig and Betty Sue's daughter, Ashley, is in college in Boone, NC, studying chemistry and criminology. Betty Sue mentioned that Ashley had had a class in Qualitative Analysis.

Of course, none of us knew what the heck Qualitative Analysis was. But we did remark on how dramatically life can change in just a few generations. Our children are studying for college degrees, even Ph.D.'s and we are discussing their progress on the porch of a house built by and lived in by simple folks of a bygone era who may not even have been able to read. Not that their lives were any less rich or meaningful (or vice versa, for that matter) -- just that times have changed and life is definitely different.

Maybe it was Quantitative Analysis. I certainly don't know.


Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Best of Both Worlds

Imagine my surprise to discover that the gentleman staying at my rental cottage next door to the Village Craftsmen is the author of a book I had read recently, "The Riddle of Amish Culture." Donald Kraybill and his wife, Fran, are spending the week at "Lawton's" and finding the house and the terrific weather much to their liking.

I had not only read Donald's book; I had thoroughly enjoyed his writing style, his breadth of knowledge, and his sympathetic portrayal of a unique American cultural group. In fact I have frequently quoted from his book and recommended it to a number of friends. Lou Ann and I invited the Kraybills to spend an evening with us and our family. It didn't even take any pleading to get my book autographed!

In his final chapter Donald writes about "the other side to freedom." "Although the Amish are not free to do some things," he points out, "they are free from many others." He goes on to catalog a number of contrasts. I list them below (with my comments from an "island perspective"):

"The Amish are not free to buy the latest car, but they are free from the frustrations of commuter traffic." [Howard Street is definitely not the DC beltway.]

"The Amish are not free to buy the latest convenience, but they are free to enjoy the convenience of walking across the driveway to their work." [Please read yesterday's journal entry.]

"The Amish are not free to travel on airplanes, but they are free to have lunch at home with their families." [I have lunch with family & friends nearly every day.]

"The Amish are not free to buy the latest fashions, but they are free from the anxiety of what to wear." [We often work barefooted at the Village Craftsmen!]

"The Amish are not free to watch television, but they are free from endless commercials." [I don't have a TV, but every one I've seen has an "off" button.]

"The Amish are not free to pursue many occupations, but they are free from the constraints of boring jobs and administrative policies." [How could an island job be boring?]

"The Amish are not free to make up their faces in the latest styles, but they are free from the pressure to present a "perfect" face." [There's not too much fancy makeup sold on Ocracoke.]

"The Amish are not free to discard the traditional ritual of Amish funerals, but they are free from worrying about who will support them in time of grief." [Ocracoke has a strong tradition of visiting grieving families, bringing food, and attending neighbors' funerals.]

So as I read Donald's assessment of Amish culture I felt blessed to live on Ocracoke....with both the freedom to be an individual & to be creative, and free from most of the anxieties and frustrations of modern life. To me, at least, it seems like the best of both worlds.

Friday, June 10, 2005


After a few days of unpacking...and getting settled back into island life, I have now started back to work at the Village Craftsmen. Most days I need to arrive by 9:00 in the morning. I have two choices each morning....should I walk on the clam filled street down to the shop..or should I take the overgrown pathway? Either way I have figured out that if I leave the house when the church bells begin at 9:00, I can be in the shop by the time the last bell is rung.

It's all in a morning's commute!

Lou Ann

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I think I'll just go in and carve a bird....

It was a typical Thursday here on the island...a morning walk on the beach, shell collecting, and the first swim of the season. At first the water was cool enough to catch your breath, but after we got used to it, it was absolutely beautiful. The sky and sea were all shades of sapphire and turquoise. Of course we couldn't stay long as there are always chores to do and errands to run (even on your day off!)

We made the usual stops....the community store, the bank, the post office and the island recycling center. It is often full of treasures for the taking, but today it was hot and steamy so we just dropped off our own bottles and cans and visited with William Nathan who works there. As we were leaving, we called out, "Don't work too hard in this heat." to which he promptly replied, "I think I'll just go in and carve a bird."

Next time you visit, make sure you hunt up some of his wood carvings, maybe you will even find the one he did today!

Lou Ann

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Busy Few Days

The Ocrafolk Festival was a huge success. Lots of great music, storytelling, and crafts -- all by talented folks, both islanders and friends of Ocracoke. Lou Ann helped with the children's program and hosted a poetry reading; I shared a few island stories. led the square dance, and played auctioneer.

On Sunday night a number of musicians and vendors stopped by my new home to wind down the weekend. It was a fitting end to a musical weekend, but understandably low key (everyone was happy, but tired).

Yesterday was for catch-up. Cleaning, organizing, washing, installing kitchen cabinets.....until 5 o'clock. After an hour's rest (the hammock on my screened porch may be my very favorite possession!) we entertained visiting off-island friends (OK, they brought the meal.....but I baked the fig cake).

So summer seems to have begun. We're busy, but it's a good busy -- family, friends, music, food, and fun. Life is good.


Saturday, June 04, 2005

Festival Weekend

On the Live Oak stage Bob Zentz was teasing a melancholy tune from his squeeze box while his musical partner, Rick Lee, was making his fingers do a slow dance on his keyboard. On other tunes David Tweedie joined in on his fiddle, as did Michael Stanwood on the dijereedoo (sp?). These were only a few of the talented musicians who performed under the ancient gnarled live oak trees on the School Road.

At the same time other musicians and storytellers entertained on the Howard Street stage, and vendors displayed their handcrafts along the lane. This evening at 8 o'clock we will gather at the schoolhouse for a traditional Ocracoke Square Dance, and tomorrow all of the entertainers will join together for an old-time gospel sing. In the afternoon we'll bid on crafts, jewelry, and music at the festival auction fund raiser. At other times Sundae Horn, Louise Kessel, Gail Fox, Kathleen Fogarty, Lou Ann Homan, and friends will host activities and stories for the children, and Clyde Jones will be creating his enchanting chainsaw critters.

There is too much going on to list it all. But if you are not here this weekend, maybe you'll think about planning next year's vacation for the first weekend in June. It's a fabulous festival!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Water, Water Everywhere

I left the island early yesterday morning (hence no journal entry for Thursday) to pick up Lou Ann in Norfolk. It was raining when I pulled out of my driveway, and it poured all the way to the airport and most of the way back home again.

It was hard to believe how much water was standing on Howard Street when we returned. Lou Ann commented that eating dinner on the back porch, with raindrops falling from the roof, and listening to the cacophony of tree frogs, toads, and birds, felt like being in a tree house in a tropical rain forest.

Mostly the rain has stopped, though the sky is overcast. We are all hoping for clear, sunny skies, and dry ground tomorrow for the Ocrafolk Festival.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Newsletters & Festivals

A reader, commenting on a recent post, said "we just wait for your news and observations...and you do a wonderful job..." and then asked me to "hurry up and do the newsletter...." For those journal readers who may not be in our database, or for some other reason may not have received our recent email, I did post a newsletter recently.

Actually, the newsletter (a copy of my eulogy for Charlie Morris O'Neal) was published on May 2. However, because of numerous internet problems, I wasn't able to send our email notice out until several days ago.

You can read this newsletter here:

It will be several weeks until I publish another newsletter. If you are not already on our mailing list, and would like to be, you can go to our web site ( There, on the blue panel on the left you will see an "Auto Join" button. We'll be happy to add you to our database (and rest assured....we never share email addresses or other personal information).

In other news, workers will be here today to set up the Howard Street stage in our parking lot for the Ocrafolk Festival this weekend. If you are planning to be on the island be sure to take in all the music and crafts this Saturday and Sunday. It is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy some terrific local and regional music, storytelling, and handcrafts.