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Thursday, July 28, 2016

No. 137 "Hugged by your Heritage" Driving to Shell Point

No. 137 "Hugged by your Heritage" Driving to Shell Point

Looking west from Shell Point early in the morning - Core Sound at your back
There are place names on the Island that everyone knows and remembers as if it were genetically implanted; Academy Field, the Sand Hole, Red Hill, and the Bay among them, and each one because the name describes a natural or physical landmark. None of these is more a part of the community consciousness that the place called "Shell Point." Once there and looking to the south there is an unobstructed view of both where the Cape Lookout lighthouse still is, and where Diamond City use to be. It is the easternmost point on the Island and where it gives way to Core Sound, then Core Banks, and finally to the broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean so that the next inhabited land mass anyone can see - if they could see that far - would be on the western coast of Europe near the Strait of Gibraltar.

Where Harkers Island ends - looking southeast towards the Cape
But most Islanders of my youth were never thinking that far away, and few of them thought about anything east of Shell Point itself. It was almost as if it was on that very spot that the world began anew every day, and just going there was a private way to be part of that renewal. So, starting with the first cars that came to the Island in the "Roaring Twenties" there developed a ritual, sometimes a daily one, of driving to Shell Point, turning at the cul-de-sac circle at its end, and heading back where you came from. That was it; just driving or riding to Shell Point. There was something almost therapeutic about the way the rest of the world and its troubles seemed to come into a more reasonable focus once you were there, and especially once you turned your back to face westward with the serenity and seclusion of Shell Point at your back.

If someone was heading out for no apparent reason, so that you felt to ask where they were going, and they responded with a simple, "Shell Point," you came to understand that response with no further explanation needed. Saying "I'm going to Shell Point" meant that you just wanted to retreat for a while and get your bearings - nothing big and nothing to worry about. You just needed to be "hugged by your heritage" for a few moments before whatever it was that came next. I've tried and done it many times. Somehow it always seemed to work back then. Some say it still does.