Living and even visiting Ocracoke, one realizes things are either very close or very far.
Students on the island can walk or ride their bikes home for lunch and be back in time for the afternoon bell.
Food and hardware items are just moments away. Passenger ferry visitors can spend several hours walking around visiting the many businesses.
It’s amazing how so many shop owners remember their once-a-year shoppers who make an effort to come by and say hello. Friendships have built this way over the years.
With a good flashlight, one can walk to a restaurant or one of the music entertainment bars and return to where they are staying without having to drive.
And, of course, America’s No. 1 beach is just a few minutes’ drive from the village.
On the other side, there are many reasons to go off-island. Specialty medical care and dentistry are two reasons.
This is where the very far kicks in.
To go to the Nags Head area, requires driving about 13 miles from the village to the “South Dock,” which is at the northeast end of the island (the North Dock is Hatteras), board a ferry, usually on the hour, and drive 70-plus miles into the heart of Dare County.
One never drives to Nags Head for just one reason. Combined medical appointments when possible, multiple stops at a variety of stores and even catching a movie is the routine.
To the south, Morehead City has lots of stores with merchandise and medical services that do not exist on Ocracoke. But that requires a two-hour plus ferry ride and about an hour’s drive across Cedar Island. Taking the Swan Quarter ferry to “Little” Washington and Greenville for many of the same reasons also takes several hours.
The above observations are known to many, but it is worth noting in a breaking-news context.
We have a game changer in the works, and it is not known how it will play out in the foreseeable future. The price of gasoline has skyrocketed; food prices are way up.
Most folks are probably playing out their household budgets this month and maybe the next. Those who have reserved rentals this summer will fulfill them with their annual beloved visits.
But come this fall, the skyrocketing economic impact runs the risk of folks foregoing fall visits.
There are already a few anecdotal indications that this is actually beginning.
Some have said that despite the many visitors on the island, people are not buying their normal Ocracoke local items to take home.
Whether inflation, especially the high fuel costs, will result in a quieter fall and winter, remains to be seen.
When COVID-19 in its early stages in 2020 started to go out of control, many thought it would ruin the economy on the Outer Banks.
They were wrong. It was the opposite as folks decided to head to the Outer Banks to escape the pandemic.
Many could do so because they could telework from here and families could home school their kids just as easily here as in some big city.
Ocracoke living requires being a time traveler: Observing the present; looking nostalgically to our fascinating and colorful past with an eye on the future.
Since we are an island that happily and, for the most part, successfully co-exists with our native animals, we can grab an example from one of the Ocracoke Observer’s nature profiles from several years ago.
Many of us may be able to metaphorically identify at times in our lives with the Sanderling as it ekes out its living. It stays just ahead of rushing waters, taking advantages of the lulls to gain its sustenance, keeping its wits about it, wary of competitors and — perhaps just for them — the whooshing sound of a hungry Peregrine Falcon.