It was hours before dawn and bitter cold. I scraped ice from my windshield. When I launched my kayak into Runyon Creek and paddled into the Pamlico River, I questioned the wisdom of wearing only thin nylon shorts, water sandals, and an old hoodie.
There were stars but only a few. No one else was on the water, not even fishermen hurrying to find their place before first light. I paddled past the dead cypress trees rising from the shoals of Grandpap Island like standing stones. A blue heron took flight, screeching in indignation.
The sun rose on the far side of the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge, a riot of indigo and violet. At the Highway 17 bridge, the Pamlico inexplicably became the Tar River. The north bank was populated with houses and industry, the south bank with wetlands, ruined wharves, and an old boat abandoned among the bald cypress trees.
The headlong rush into the future has largely left the river behind. The south shore especially, the Chocowinity shore opposite Washington, is littered with broken wharves and abandoned ambitions.