Emergent: Getting Out and Coming Back to Life

by | Jun 24, 2021 | Around Town, Online Exclusives

With the gift of a free summer, I’m seeking reconnection with myself and the place I call home.

This summer will be different. Not only am I open to all of the wonders and options that a COVID-shutdown has kept hidden for over a year, but I’m now unemployed. In the pursuit of less stress, improved mental health, deeper connections in my relationships and to the world in general, and more time with my children during their summer break, I recently resigned from my job. Suddenly, there are sizable chunks on the daily calendar to fill with any manner of activity.

I feel like a man coming out of thick smog, emerging from something depressing and unhealthy. Emergent – that will be the theme of the summer and this digital space. Emerging from the negative and welcoming back moments of full and positive potential. Together we will explore places that provide life-affirming opportunities for wellness and serve people’s thirst for self-improvement. It’s time to get out and live a little.

Make Peace Street Topsail NC

On this day, I’ve parked my car at the end of some random road on North Topsail Beach that ends on the soundside. It would be the perfect place to launch a kayak as the road ends in a little patch of gravel that pitches right into the water. The nearby houses are quiet, maybe people are at work or it’s too early for renters to check in. It’s a beautiful morning. I’ve just spent the last hour swimming in the ocean and looking for shells. My suit is wet, I’m sitting on my beach towel to keep my car seat from getting soaked and the floormat is a sandy mess – I’m a beach bum for the morning, and it feels wonderful.

My car windows are down, and I’m studying the surface of the water. It’s serene and glassy. Once in a while, the still surface is breached by minnows on the prowl causing small ripples that extend out towards the sea grass. The birds are chirping and flitting, hidden for the most part. A light wind is stirring the sea grass and leaves of the stunted shrubbery. There are two Adirondack chairs on a small waterside patio off to my left that are facing west, surely a magnificent place to watch sunsets and fireworks from the park. But now they are just sitting there, awaiting the next event, witness to nothing except the passing of the quiet morning.

Topsail Beach NC

I’m killing time while my kids are at Ecological Marine Adventures for summer camp. It will be taking place three days this week, from 9 to 12 each of those days. That gives me around nine hours in one week to sit on the beach, swim, park-and-ponder, run, walk, explore, read, listen to audiobooks and feel tension ebb out of me like tidewater. Meanwhile, my kids learn about these amazing ecosystems and creatures that inhabit them. They make friends and enjoy their young counselors, catch small fish and crabs, swim, tromp through marsh mud, all while not looking into computer screens and iPhones.

Back in the car, I know the kids are just south of me, under these same clouds, breathing deep of this same sweet air. This whole region abounds with beauty and magic, and this kind of moment is accessible 24/7 at the end of any road.

When it’s time to turn the car around and head back to pick them up from camp, I glance at the street sign to figure out where I’ve been sitting this whole time and the name on the sign gives me the chills. Makepeace Street.

Do you know of a special place to visit that renews your spirit? Maybe a business that specializes in healing and personal growth? An activity that brings you inner peace? Drop me a note so the kids and I can enjoy those same experiences and share it with the wider community. We’re all connected, so show me your way.

About the author

Mike Johnson

Mike Johnson

I am a previous winner of the Piccolo Spoleto Fiction Open, two-time winner of the SC Fiction Project and former editorial director of Men, Ink. I was also a Cape Fear Dad columnist for the Wilmington Star-News. I live in Hampstead with my wife and two children.
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