In spite of the undeniable fortune of wintering in a warmer clime, putting distance between one’s self and one’s domicile creates more than a physical gap. Notably there is a commensurate and precipitous social chasm. Being a temporary resident of a new place brings with it all the customary deficiencies, primary among them the lack of family and friends. The sparseness in turn entails an absence of social fabric which is something even the most amateur psychiatrist considers fundamental to human bliss.
Our neighbours, though cheery upon casual encounter, are nonetheless reserved. It is of course uncertain how long anyone in particular is destined to linger on the Island, a fact which is a natural governor of any collaboration. Judging from the licence plates of the automobiles parked in the drives, some of the residents are from South Carolina though that doesn’t ensure they – like we – live here any more than temporarily. I have always harboured the jaundiced view that locals generally abhor tourists and this does nothing to encourage fraternity, a goal which may even be more toilsome where the tourists are from another country as we are.
The most immediate severance of social engagement is felt with one’s family. The distance between family disrupts ritual habits, Sunday luncheons, weekly visits, regular assistance with chores and the like. There is an unwritten cohesiveness to such communions howsoever inconsequential, even if once no more than dismal duties. The advent of FaceTime and other similar video-conferencing does something to placate the breach but it doesn’t replace the close physical contact which characterized the unions. There is inevitably the fallout of remove, sometimes the fear of inability to pander to familial whimsies or perform erstwhile obligations. One is metaphorically cast adrift.
There is the compensating opportunity to share society vicariously by hearing of it from people at home. Annual traditions such as Christmas parties, Christmas Eve festivities and Christmas morning gatherings repeat themselves with or without one’s presence. At times the proliferation of those condensed commitments makes one happy to forgo the pleasure. It is nonetheless welcome to receive a symbolic invitation and a subsequent account.
The sudden vacuum of family and friends, like any malaise, is however tolerable if its condition is acknowledged. It is a more disturbing consequence if ignored or misunderstood. As with any alteration of circumstances adjustment is mandatory and the accommodation of change always affords the chance for pioneering. Social isolation may be unwelcome but it is a precondition to the complete absorption of the changed environment. The very removal of the natural bulwarks enables one to take the wider view of what is at hand. In any event it is a deprivation which has a predictable amortization and what may turn out to be a lost opportunity if not embraced. A bit of ambition is all that is required.