When I started working with my mom at our family business, I asked her, "What is your best piece of advice?"
"Keep it fun," she told me with a smile. Thirty years into marriage to my wonderfully eccentric dad, Scott Bertram, twenty-nine years into owning Townsend Bertram & Company, and three years into living with my father's terminal cancer diagnosis, my parents are still keeping the fun alive. True to my dad's powerful positivity, even in dying, he is teaching us how to live.
My parents raised my sister and I on love, adventure, laughter and their favorite song, Summertime. Summer remains my favorite season, the season of late sunsets and long evenings and Chaco sandals and Best Kiteboarding and picnics and Eno Hammocks and porch swings. This summer Beaufort is as far as my family can adventure and true to many of North Carolina's gems, this historic coastal town has so much to offer.
Our favorite spot is Carrot Island across Taylor's Creek, a wonderful water way for boating, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and floating from one dock to the next. Wild horses run free on the otherwise uninhabited island also known as the Rachel Carson Reserve. Their footpaths make excellent hiking trails through maritime forests of Live Oaks and Cedars.
Though my dad cannot make the walk across the island anymore to the beautiful beach, I felt him with me as I crossed with my kiting crew for an afternoon kiteboarding session earlier this week. The non kiters in our crew were just as excited to adventure on Carrot for the swimming and shell hunting and sand dollar searching on the sandbars at low tide. I was already suited up in my Carve one piece and my Smith promo pop shades with my favorite reef-friendly All Good sunscreen slathered on my face, which is the only sunscreen I have found that will last in wind and waves for hours. I felt grateful that my Chacos stayed on through the mucky marshes we trekked through with our kite gear on our backs and boards under our arms.
Out on the beach we rigged and launched, yahooing to each other as we took off on the wind and waves. I had to get use to the smallest of the kites, a 7 Roca from Best Kiteboarding that steers quickly and has beautiful lift for jumps fifteen feet into the air. I sang the song Summertime as I adjusted to the kite, a trick my dad taught me to relax. He always felt that kiting was just dancing on water. And as I sang his favorite line, I boosted myself into the air, a jump that lifted my spirits higher than my body, making me feel alive in that way that comes from immersing yourself in the elements and something you love.
After an amazing kite session, I couldn't wait to tell my dad all about it - the waves, the graceful jumps with smooth landings and the memorable wipeouts. The whole family, my dad, mom, sister and I plus Brownie and Smokey our rescue dogs, headed to the beach with Hydroflasks full of ice tea, Helinox chairs, and a delicious homemade picnic of homegrown vegetables from the garden and grilled chicken. Just as we got the chairs set up in the sand, dolphins surfaced past the break. The sinking sun turned the clouds pink and orange and melted them into a Carolina blue sky as we watched the dolphin family. After a day of capital A adventure on my kiteboard, I was reminded by our picnic that the impromptu summer adventures are often the best kind.
My dad showed me once again that evening that adventure is a mindset more than an action or outcome, a commitment to turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. As we sat in a semi circle facing the ocean and listening to the seabirds sing summertime songs, I thought how easily another dinner can be transformed into a meal outdoors with people you love. And that night I felt especially lucky to have dinner not only with my family, but with dolphins and a sunset and the sound of the waves roaring with unstoppable courage.