Friday, May 14, 2010

The Saltwater Cure

I love this editors column in our state magazine because it just completely engrosses the feeling I get when thinking about the North Carolina Coast. There's something about that part of the country that just draws in the soul, and leaves you in a little more peace than you were before you got there. And is very much on my mind. So here's my tribute to my favorite place in the world- Southport/Oak Island, NC.

The Saltwater Cure
When I was nine years old, jumping around in the old woodshed behind my grandmother’s house, I took a splinter, two inches long, right in the toe.

I ran inside in tears, hopping and holding my foot so she could see the jagged shard deep beneath the skin.

It wasn’t my first splinter. Or my last. But this was different. It needed something more than tweezers.

My grandmother ran warm water in a wash bucket and poured in about a quarter of a box of salt from the Morton’s container.

She told me to sit there, on the edge of the kitchen chair, with my foot immersed in the bucket for about a half an hour. I was fidgety, focused on the pain in my toe. “Be still,” she said, “and let the water do its work.”

Before long, the water had not only numbed my sore toe, but also the splinter had worked its way out. The next time I looked down into the salty water, it was drifting to the bottom of the bucket.

It was my first lesson in learning about salt water’s capacity to mend.

I’ve used this trick ever since to remove splinters, soothe a sore throat, wash out a cut. I have no idea whether this treatment is medically sound, but it seems to make things better, and that’s good enough for me.

A few years ago, I was reminded of the restorative power of salt water during a trip to the beach.

After what had been a long and weary drive from Greensboro, I landed at the Yacht Basin Provision Company, a seafood shack in Southport.

Here, the salty sea air had taken its toll, seasoning the wooden structure and adding a patina of rust to the propane tanks that sit outside the door. Inside, I ordered a yellowfin tuna sandwich off the chalkboard menu and walked out to the open-air deck overlooking the waterway to eat it.

Strains of Willie Nelson singing “Sitting on Top of the World” played over the sound system. Pelicans dipped in and out of the water from the dock, and boats skimmed nearby, a reminder of the omnipresent fishermen, who, on their daily journey of ocean and sky, make their life from this salty sea.

I sat here for a couple of hours and thought about what it means to be connected to the water, to the ocean. I thought about its immense history. About its power to restore, to heal, to mend. About how, as Carl Sandburg said, “it must know more than any of us.” More than anything, I think, it knows how to calm and soothe our souls.

When we are still and let it do its work.

Elizabeth Hudson

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