Developing a sense of place while adjusting to a new space

As August comes to an end, I sit here reflecting on this rather ‘unprecedented’ year. Every month seems to have brought yet another paradigm-shifting event:

January and February brought scares internationally and losses at home, while March unleashed a pandemic that we are still struggling to get under control.

April was isolation, with quarantine in its heyday in May.

Quarantine ended too soon in June and July seemed to whiz by.

The dog-days of summer felt like a bummer, as I struggled to make sense of a loss without pretense.

In a bit of personal haze, I said goodbye to Chapel Hill for what is truthfully only a few days.

Replace the Hill with the Sound and an Ocean all around, OBX here I come, here to learn, here for fun.

But in all serious, 2020 has been an emotional rollercoaster. In desperate need of a respite from the storm, I excitedly began my semester at the Coastal Studies Institute almost three weeks ago and have enjoyed every moment thus far. I am sure that running this program in the middle of a global pandemic has already made it more memorable for our instructors than any program prior. It sure has been a memorable experience for me. Never in a million years did I picture myself wearing a mask to classes taught outside, sitting at least six feet away from my peers: but here at OBXFS, that is our reality. I won’t pretend that the masks don’t make my face practically melt, or that the lessons are completely audible through our fabric barriers; nonetheless, our professors have approached every meeting with an infectious zeal that makes caring about septic seem second nature.

As a Jamaican native, growing up a the rural mountain-scape, septic was my reality. Though having little to no knowledge on the inner mechanics of the system,  I was well aware of the place that housed my waste : the drain-field in my backyard. Fast-forward to the present and I am finally developing an academic understanding encompassing nuances that separate centralized and de-centralized wastewater systems. As I settle into the pace of life of Manteo, I am struck by the cultural consistency of the barrier islands. Here is a place where you walk into a gas station and stumble upon a reunion, as residents going about their days bump into former classmates, neighbors, congregation-mates and friendly faces, stopping in their tracks to chat and catch up. Here is a place where, regardless of interest or intellect, residents are bound by their love of water.

As I continue to learn about this history and importance of this space, I feel myself developing my own sense of place. I feel my personal attachment to sanctuary spaces growing: special shoutout to Bill and Downtown Books in Manteo for the amazing conversation and the even better book selection and recs. I appreciate the outlets to the sound found in Elizabethan Gardens and the watercolour sunsets that you can watch with exceptional clarity from Jockey’s Ridge. The turtles of the interdunal ponds and the whistling of the wind through the tall grass have already come to hold a special place in my heart. I am excited to see what more my time here has to share.


Thoughts and Musings,

Bri Thompson’22