August 2017 ttimes web magazine

Page 173

Chincoteague: More Than Just Misty by Michael Valliant

I’ve never read Misty of Chincoteague. Maybe that is why in 45 years, I’d never made the short drive to Chincoteague, Virginia. But after a recent trip, it will be a day trip I make frequently. Road trips to places in our own back yard can yield some of the biggest finds. I am a fan of Annie Dillard and how she could find something new and novel over and over again, as she details in her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. We seem to have a need to travel to far off and exotic places, often overlooking the unnoticed all around us. “Experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow,” Dillard writes. “You catch the grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall.” People travel to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia all the time as destinations. Why not fill our own cups with what we can find nearby? There are any number of places where I can get blissfully lost. Fairly high on that list are lighthouses, woods, water, and bookstores. Chincoteague has each of those covered. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is a haven for egrets, herons, and the island’s famous wild ponies. And

it isn’t a prerequisite to have read Marguerite Henry’s famous aforementioned children’s book, or have seen the movie, to appreciate the ponies, which are managed by the town’s volunteer fire company. Each summer, tens of thousands of spectators turn out to watch the island pony swim. The ponies may be the poster children for the town and the island, but the wildlife refuge has a lot more going on ~ including Assateague Lighthouse. On the Chesapeake Bay, lighthouses come in all shapes and sizes: from the screwpile, cottage-style