Of friendship and dolphin sightings...

A MEMORABLE PLACE

September 16, 2001|By Special to the Sun

A MEMORABLE PLACE

Of friendship and dolphin sightings

By Alexis Raymond Sweeney

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It is late morning when the dolphins surface. They burst from the ocean, stitching the waves like needles. Their sleek backs rise and fall in tandem as they trek north along the coast. Pressing our faces to the salt-stained window, we gawk at their ephemeral show.

It has been five days since we've seen the sun, and over a year since we've seen the dolphins. We have waited patiently, and finally we are rewarded. We pass around a pair of field glasses: the lens puts us, one by one, in the waves with the dolphins.

Every September, we visit Corolla, the northernmost outpost of the Outer Banks, as summer turns to fall. It is a quiet community made quieter by the passing of its tourist season. Many shops are shut down. The only peep from the lone movie theater is a recorded message saying it is closed for the season. The gas station sells T-shirts, key chains and beer coolers at deep discount.

Our nearest beach companions are scurrying hermit crabs and pelicans dive-bombing for food. Wild ponies trawl for food along the beach and amble into our yard after nightfall.

These are the sounds and sensations on which we string together our annual vacations. Ours is a group of friends, all transplanted to Maryland from various places around the country. Separated from childhood friends and relatives, we formed our own surrogate family. We are lucky to have met each other, and luckier still to have discovered Corolla, where, on clear nights, the Milky Way bleaches the sky with a streak of pure white.

In Corolla there are no boardwalks, carnival rides or high-rises. There is solitude and the overwhelming presence of nature. For exercise, we ride our bicycles along the flat, narrow roads or jog on the beach. For entertainment, we cast lines into the surf, point our chairs eastward, watch and wait. We talk.

We know that it may not always be this way. There will be marriages, breakups, babies. Our surrogate family will grow and shrink; some relationships will tighten while others slack.

We know this because Corolla has taught us about the authority of nature -- that whatever we may build or create is not nearly as captivating as the world outside our salt-stained windows; and that even a cloudy day can be warmed by the sight of dolphins, the sound of the Atlantic colliding with the shore, and the company of friends.

Alexis Raymond Sweeney lives in Columbia.

MY BEST SHOT

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By Rona Appelbaum,

Baltimore

Traveling by train after a visit to Machu Picchu, we stopped at an outdoor market in Pisac, Peru. Women and children wearing colorful native dress had arranged fresh fruits and vegetables on mats on the ground. Tented stalls were filled with woven garments, blankets, rugs and native handicrafts. Everyone was calling out to sell their wares.

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