By JOY CRIST
By JOY CRIST
On March 25, author Dr. Wallace “J.” Nichols joined a group of roughly 50 island residents and visitors to celebrate the culmination of a global community read of his bestselling book, “Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.”
The multi-week event, which began on January 16, was the brainchild of Buxton Village Books owner Gee Gee Rosell, who has orchestrated community reads as a way to promote our local Radio Hatteras – a FEMA-funded station that has proven essential during hurricanes, and which provides important information on local happenings (as well as fantastic music.)
Essentially, through community reads, Rosell chooses an island-appropriate book which is then shared via broadcasts on Radio Hatteras 101.5 / 99.9, as well as other potential media outlets.
“For this one, I walked past Nichols’ book ‘Blue Mind’, and it just kind of jumped out at me,” said Rosell in an earlier interview. “I love that book. I’ve been selling it [as a] hardcover since 2014, and I’ve sold hundreds of copies.”
And clearly, the public loves it too.
During the roughly 70 day read, which featured Monday through Friday evening book readings on Radio Hatteras as well as annotations and supporting commentary by Nichols on Facebook, the original weekly event turned into a daily collaboration, as thousands of people joined in the virtual book club.
“We had 50,000 views at one point, and 1,000 people participating daily,” said Nichols. “So while it was intended to be weekly, it turned into a daily [event.]”
In addition to the global online participants – which included readers from California, Denmark, Alberta, Canada, and even Duck, NC, several visitors made a long trek to Hatteras Island to attend the “live” finale and fundraiser, which was held at the Avon Fire Station.
Linda Emerson and her friend Barbara, who are both from Florida, met through the online book club, and actually made a 989-mile drive from their home in Florida to meet in Avon for the finale. “We come from two different coastal areas, but ‘Blue Mind’ has brought us all together,” said Emerson of the Florida-based nonprofit Beach Guardians Atlantic Coasts/ Wild Blue Sea. “I’m a 35-year ocean professional, and ‘Blue Mind’ spoke to me… We were excited and happy to drive all the way here for this [event.]”
While the majority of the book club up to this point had been in a virtual sphere – with live Facebook videos, streaming reads on Radio Hatteras’ website, and online book sales literally causing the publisher to run out of copies and print a second edition – Saturday evening’s event felt more like an actual book club, with added benefits.
At the Saturday evening gathering, both locals and visitors wined, dined, and mingled before the presentation and Q&A with Nichols, who made an island expedition from his home in California to attend the local finale.
Appropriately, “Surf Swim” and “Relax” brand wines were served in glasses provided by Ocean Atlantic Rentals – (no plastic in sight to keep in line with the book’s philosophy) – and exceptional coastal hors d’oeuvres such as red pepper and spinach crab quiches were provided by Dee Callahan Caterer.
Many folks also took the pre-presentation festivities as an opportunity to purchase their own copy of “Blue Mind,” with all proceeds of the event split 50/50 to benefit both Radio Hatteras and Blue Mind Life.
“We’re very excited about this evening, and with highlighting ‘Blue Mind’ down the road,” said Natasha Quidley, Director of Lodging and Marketing for the Inn on Pamlico Sound, which donated accommodations for Nichols. “We’re starting a pilot program to have copies of ‘Blue Mind’ available at each of our rooms at the Inn, so that visitors can read it while they’re staying with us, and if they choose, can purchase a copy to take home, with [all proceeds] going to Radio Hatteras.”
People from all over the world have clearly been drawn to the book, which focuses on the science behind our inherent attraction to the water. “It takes the science of the neurological response of a human to water, and makes it accessible…” said Rosell in an earlier interview. “At any given page you’ll say ‘oh, I knew that!’ because you know that your blood pressure goes down, your heart rate goes down, and the answers you were mulling over for a life-changing situation become more available to you when you walk on the beach, or put your kayak in the water and go for a paddle…”
And while the recent “community read” attracted fans from all around the globe throughout its run, it made sense to celebrate the virtual book club finale on Hatteras Island.
After all, the book begins with the following line:
“I’m standing on a pier at the Outer Banks of North Carolina, fifty feet above the Atlantic…”
And as many fans of the book already know, Nichols is no stranger to the area. Despite being a current California resident, he visited the Outer Banks as much as possible while a graduate student at Duke University, held the second annual Blue Mind Summit on the Outer Banks, and hopes to return with his daughter in the future to walk the length of the OBX coastline – an ambitious undertaking, to be sure.
“I came out here whenever I could,” he said. “The kayaking, surfing, beaches – everything here was definitely a part of my formative love of the water.”
Nichols shared his appreciation of the Outer Banks with both his live and virtual audience during the evening’s presentation, noting how the Outer Banks specifically ties in with the concept of “Blue Mind” as well as his upcoming book, “Go Deeper: The Seven Ages of Water.”
And as the presentation progressed, and Nichols utilized the Outer Banks as a prime example of the allure of the water, the crowd at the Avon Fire Station continually nodded in agreement.
“I’ve had a lot of people from all over the world who have said that here – the Outer Banks – is ‘their water’, and they can’t wait to get back,” said Nichols during the presentation. “…This is the School of Awe – the School of Wonder – for people who visit, and for people who live here every day.”
Though the event is wrapping up, (with the Saturday evening finale marking the 69th day of the community read), the Blue Mind movement continues, and people who missed out on the online book club while it was ongoing still have ample chances to catch up.
Buxton Village Books will continue to carry the nationally acclaimed book, and folks can still catch archived segments of the corresponding commentary on Facebook, to enjoy a little extra annotation to an already engrossing read. “’Blue Mind’ is one of our bestsellers, partially because I loved it and told people ‘if you haven’t read this yet, you should,’” said Rosell. “For [the community read], we have had more and more folks hopping on every night, so if you have missed something, it’s easy to catch up. You can even go back and listen to every segment.”
And for many people at Saturday’s event, that’s exactly what they intend to do – even if they’ve already read the book once, twice, or a dozen times.
“It’s the kind of book where you can just pick a place, start reading, and learn something, or be inspired,” said one attendee. “And it’s perfect for here. It’s the definition of a ‘beach read.’”
A host of local businesses came together through donations and assistance to make Saturday evening’s event a success, which included Buxton Village Books, Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Series, Cape Hatteras Bed and Breakfast, Inn on Pamlico Sound, Ocean Atlantic Rentals, Lee Robinson General Store, Dee Callahan Caterer, Hope Spot Hatteras, and the Avon Fire Department, which provided the space.
And of course, the presence of the author himself – Dr. Wallace “J.” Nichols – certainly didn’t hurt in fueling excitement for an exceptional community read that benefited two especially worthy causes: our local Radio Hatteras, and Blue Mind Life.
“This started as a conversation, and we used free technology to expand this communication from right here [on Hatteras Island],” said Nichols. “This whole thing has been an experiment, and today is the final day of the experiment… but [we’re all] sharing our love and passion of the water.”
How to Join the Conversation:
Copies of Blue Mind are still available at Buxton Village Books. You can also visit the “Dr. Wallace ‘J.’ Nichols: Changing conversations for good” Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/wallacejnichols/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE to see the video from Saturday night’s event, as well as previous Facebook live broadcasts.