New River Inlet, NC – May 10, 2013
An hour before sunset means I can see for two before things go black. That’s seven miles with no wind or tide, more if they’re with me. But the map says the military base is eleven miles long. What are a few hours in the dark, I think, but I’m not sure.
I hang in the mouth of the New River trying to decide. Tide pours in and turns the river around, forcing it backwards, leaving long eddies behind the channel posts.
The race to Charleston is over. It was a sprint, fast, grinding, unsustainable. I knew I’d get two weeks to recover when it was done. But now it’s over and I haven’t been able to shut off my mind. I still want to go, to horde miles, to paddle right into the sunset. I’m running too fast, too hot. I’m burning away.
I have to turn off that engine, to pull back and find a rhythm that doesn’t break me apart, one that moves enough, but not too much.
I push against the incoming tide toward a small island of sand a mile away. Two foxes race along the marshes, slipping away in the grass when they see me. Birds plunge and dip into the water, rising with minnows in their beaks. I make camp as the sun sets behind hazy clouds and watch the tide rush past until all I can see is the lighthouse on Cape Lookout flashing in the darkness.