(Emerald Isle, NC) Wind and sand. We sleep with the door wide open, lulled by the rocking of the waves.

In the morning we walked the beach, and I was disturbed by the sight of a one-legged gull, gamely making the best of his situation. There was nothing I could do to help. I could consider it a failure of my imagination, that I couldn’t think of anything to do for the bird… but so often what we think is helping others is really an attempt to help ourselves, and only seen as interference by those we are trying to help… and only more so when those we seek to help aren’t human. Truly being helpful requires a lot more time, understanding and respect than most of us are willing to give – and a willingness to let go of ourselves and our ideas long enough to let the “helped” help themselves. In fact, the most helpful I’ve ever been is when I stop trying to help, stop trying to fix problems, and start looking, listening – learning, instead.

In the evening we ate more locally grown tomatoes, corn, zucchini and squash by the pound – full and ripe and flavorful. It was like travelling forward in time to mid-August, when those vegetables will be ripe in Minnesota.

After dinner, I made a quick run to the Dairy Queen with my sisters-in-law for a chocolate-dipped cone and rekindled friendship. It felt like we’d known each other all our lives, like brother and sisters, like friends for life. I’ll miss that when we go home.