As inclined as any self-respecting chronicler is to report on matters consequential, I have always felt it is entertaining (if not in fact ultimately educational or at the very least strictly historical) to record the trifling background details of daily living. This is especially so when we reside – as in my opinion we are privileged to do – au bord de l’Océan. Being within hearing of the squawking seagulls, the scent of the salt sea air and the limitless view of blue water is for me an unsurpassable opportunity! The most uncomplicated and pedestrian fabric of life here is a marvel. Even as I write I am staring at a herd of tiny Hilton Head White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus hiltonensis) foraging in the shrubbery on the crest of the dunes a mere 50 yards away.
It matters too that we are daily winding down our winter sojourn on the barrier island and preparing in our hearts to leave this maritime resort. As the hour of departure approaches we correspondingly strengthen the depth of our experience. It is as though it were an instinctive reaction, a native precaution antecedent to deprivation – the same way one’s body stores fat in anticipation of starvation. Allowing these elevated thoughts to blow across my mind was effortless today as everything contrived to produce a perfect vision. I had as usual investigated the Tide Chart and confirmed that low tide was at 1:20 pm which meant that the entire afternoon would afford uninterrupted travel on the beach. The sky was clear; there was a hint of a north wind; and the beach promised to be wide. But to get there I first had to take the boardwalk over the dunes to traverse the soft white sand to the high water mark. This trek across an imaginary expanse of desert only tantalizes the objective at the shore before hopping onto my bike and triumphantly sailing along the Ocean lulled by the swoosh of the rhythmic rolling waves.
This idyllic scene is repeated almost daily. The only thing distinguishing today in particular was that, with the coming of the “season”, there were more people than usual on the beach. Mostly the temporary interlopers congregate about the three main beach spots – Tower Beach, Beach Club and Coligny Beach, generally located at mile posts 1, 3 and 6 respectively. Between these core areas the beach was largely empty with only occasional paddlers at the shore. But when I approached the congested zones it was necessary to weave through the crowds, dodging a focused child charging from the sea with a pale of water, or avoiding equally preoccupied teenagers racing after frisbees or footballs. But the twelve-mile stretch of beach (normally a half-mile wide at low tide) provides ample room for everybody and it is easy to lose oneself in the sun, sand and water.
A sail boat passes by in the distance. It is hard to imagine a more delightful combination! The languid afternoon spread before me, nowhere to go, nothing to do…