I was one letter away from home: Washington, N.C.
The things we do – our choices and actions and events – they matter. They belie inner truths. And on that particular day I had planned on getting a hotel room after more than a week of sleeping in a tent and the van. I wanted a good night's sleep, a shower and some space to write, before moving on to see family.
Instead, I cooked pork chops over a wood fire. It would seem that despite my conscious idea of getting back to four walls, something deeper rebelled.
And that's where I met Douglas. I was setting up camp when we started talking. He's an artist, working to boost awareness and respect for the Pamlico River ecosystem.
“I'm not a conservationist. This isn't environmentalism,” he told me in the first few moments. “The river is for everyone.”
His plan, he explained, was to boost respect and responsibility and let the chips fall where they may. “Speedboat racing has a place on the river,” he conceded. “Though, maybe not all the time,” he qualified.
He's working on a two-year project that includes nature-based art classes for kids, a four-part piece of music he's writing, and a book.
Later, I went for a walk and found him teaching a group of children. They were sitting near the edge of the river, drawing the root system of a tree that was only partially submerged. “They don't usually get to see this,” he explained, “how a tree grows and stays stable in water.”
He spoke passionately about the river, and seemed to get emotional when he talked about the ecosystem. Immediately, I liked him.
The park rangers had said there was no one else camping nearby, and when I woke up at 2 a.m. I knew getting back to sleep would be impossible. So I strapped on a headlamp and set about startling all the deer in the neighborhood.
The river was quiet and the moon was full. Even without light, you could find your way around. When the sun finally came up, standing on the banks seemed like standing in a painting.
Douglas gave me his business card. It doesn't list an occupation, only: “Art Music Books”
I like that. I don't know what he “does,” but I know what he loves.