Sunrise at Nags Head, NC

We just returned from a trip to Nags Head.  I’ve never been to the Outer Banks before and, as I have a bit of an obsession with border spaces it makes perfect sense that barrier islands are on my list of places to visit.  (I like to go to places like “the southernmost spot in” or “the furthest expansion of”.  I am also dying to visit the Four Corners monument and would also love to make it out to Key West.  For a variety of reasons.  Some of them academic.  🙂  And I digress.)

As this was a vacation with family, George and I spent more time hanging out in the pursuit of quality time than we usually do and less time crawling around the night scene looking for foodie enclaves and loud music.  Everything in balance, people.  (Though here is my one foodie plug–if you’re in Nags Head and in the mood for Mexican, drive the ten miles to Bad Bean Baja Grill in Kill Devil Hills.  The salsa fresca is super-fresca!  The roasted habañero and tomato salsa is ain’t-messin’-around hot!  The nachos have pickled onions on them!  And the mole on the chicken mole burrito is great.  Nice and deep and smoky.  Everyone else at the table enjoyed their meals, too.  So, go.)


It was a little cold and dreary for the first two days that we got there, though the clouds seemed to break a little bit on the second night.  We noticed a clear patch of night sky, so George and I walked out to the beach to see what we could see, and got to feast our eyes on shooting stars zipping all over the sky.  I know they’re more prevalent than we realize.  It’s still a little startling when you go somewhere with way less light pollution than you’re used to.  The night was so clear–for a few minutes, anyway–that you could sort of see the stars behind the stars behind the stars and realize the three-dimensionality of the universe, which can be a heady concept to grapple with on a family vacation.  I wanted my most complicated question to be, “What’s for dinner?”  Instead I was faced with, “How infinitely small am I in this crazy vast universe I’m hurtling through?”  Yeesh.  I’d like another beer, please.


Buoyed by the fact that there were clear patches of sky, I set the alarm for 6:15 so I could get up, shake the cobwebs out of my eyes, manage a cup of coffee and make my way to the beach before sunrise so I could take some pictures.  When I first looked out the window I saw cloud cover and had a few moments of “waaah” before thinking that the clouds had the potential to make things interesting.  And it was such a short walk to the beach; if it ended up being a glorious morning I would have kicked myself for missing out.  One cup of coffee later, George and I were on the beach anticipating the morning.

George, preparing for sunshine.

See?  Kind of grey, but what the hell.  Anyway.  We stood around and watched, and waited.  Wasn’t nobody there but us chickens.

Hello…hello…hello… Echo…echo…echo…

And then we started to get some little peeks of color through the clouds.

Patience, patience.

Sure, the promising gold and pink flecks of light on the water made a girl happy.  But something was missing, what was it?  Hmmm…

Thankfully, Central Casting apparently anticipated my needs and, as the sky turned more and more pink, provided me with Surf Fishing Dude and accompanying Birds.

One surf fishing dude stands alone.

And I know, I know, I promised you Central Casting Surf Fishing Dude with Birds, so here you go.

And I deliver you Surf Fishing Dude with Birds.

Oh, you like the birds?  Okay.

Check out the birds as the sky catches fire.

Here they are again.

On the hunt for some breakfast.

And don’t forget these little fellas in the surf.

Lest we forget.

OK, I’m going to drop the narrative now and just let the pictures tell the story.  I can’t do the morning justice, except by saying that we’re all very lucky we survived the sky exploding as it did.

And to think I almost decided against going.  So what to we do?  We look for the lessons.  If I had gone with my initial instinct and stayed home because of the clouds, I would have missed a spectacular morning.  If I hadn’t set the alarm (who wants to get up at 6:15 on vacation?) and taken the initiative, I would have missed a spectacular morning.  I like to walk around with my camera waiting for things to show up in front of me, and that has its benefits, for sure.  But rising to meet this opportunity paid off so, so spectacularly.  It’s only fitting that the beach (liminal) and sunrise (also liminal) are a potent combination for moments of self-reflection.  Is it corny that I think this is a metaphor for life?  Too bad if you feel that way.  I kind of dig it.

Oh, and lesson two: photographers, always…ALWAYS…have a spare battery charged and ready to go.  🙂

All photographs are property of me, Terri Peterson, and may not be used without my permission.

13 responses to Sunrise at Nags Head, NC

  1. Gorgeous. I’ve had some pretty spiritual moments on the beach. During grad school I’d run to the beach to recharge and find my perspective at the end of each semester… when I was usually spent and sickly.
    The ocean seemed to say, “no matter how screwed up you humans are – I will be here. Powerful. Ever changing, ever constant…even if BP temporarily turns me greasy black.”
    I’m getting goose bumps thinking of the cleansing effect the beach has over me. So glad you had that experience. Nikki


    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Thanks. The truth is, I love adore find spiritual resonance and a constant quest for truth at the shore. But I hate hot weather, so I’d have to be a snowbird that doesn’t go too near somewhere that’s always hot (the weather stayed in the 60s and never quite hit 70; in other words, it was perfect) or move to one of those northern beaches. 🙂 And yes, I know. Powerful, yet dangerous, yet benign and life-giving. All in one. Awesome.


    • beyondpaisley – Author

      LOL The battery thing was funny–I just got myself a spare (I was the queen of “let’s run back to the room so I can throw my camera on the charger for fifteen minutes”) and made my life so much easier. I felt all cool and groovy. Thanks for the kind words about the photos. I’m pretty proud of this batch.


  2. Amber

    The narrative was nice – good to find lessons in life, but the photos – WOW WOW!!! PHENOMENAL!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s