We all have favorite places–the ones that seem to call our names. And they call for many reasons and at different times of the year. Each one beckons when we need it most.
Since we’re in the middle of winter, perhaps it’s fitting to share one of my favorite places that is filled with natural winter wonders – Northeastern North Carolina.
It’s more of a region than one singular location, and it includes waves of migratory birds and people. I love the birds and celebrate those moments when I capture good images. Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge abound with a variety of birds and bear and other wildlife and offer photographers and nature lovers endless possibilities to enjoy a visit.
However, the northeastern part of North Carolina, especially Hyde and Tyrrell Counties, call my name for more than birds or wildlife. For me, it’s the love of the land and sea reflected in the rural landscape that does it.
From the weather-worn shrimp boats in Engelhard and Swan Quarter to the open farmland with lines and lines of crops to community churches and abandoned buildings and tools of both trades left for nature to reclaim — I cannot help but long for my next return visit. It’s more than “liking” these amazing subjects. I feel connected in ways I’ve only begun to understand. I must continue to visit and revisit and share this area while it remains as it is. We’ve seen it happen – barns fall, boats sink, and then the landscape changes into something that lives only in memories.
In winter, when most of the green is gone, what’s left are patterns in trees, leftover crops for wildlife, cold winds and so much to discover during the days of short light. Expect the unexpected. I have my favorite spots to revisit, but am still surprised to find new opportunities unfold (even though they’ve always been there for me to find).
This pull of the rural landscape is not unnatural to my own history. My father grew up on a farm on Long Island. He’s worked his whole life as a master craftsman on boats, building and fixing. Growing up, we spent time tending a very long garden (digging, planting, weeding, harvesting and enjoying the fruits of our labor). We also helped my father at his shop (sanding, sweeping, and anything else that needed to be done.) I’m proud of the work ethic he and my mother instilled in me and my three sisters. I’m thankful to be able to understand that the lives of farmers and fishermen are not easy; that they are filled with hard work and a love for what the land and sea provides. I recognize a passion for doing what does not come without effort or without disappointments. I recognize and admire the perseverance I see. And that’s what keeps me coming back to this special place. What follows are just a few reasons why.