While I doubt the Puritans can take credit for that strata of modesty (or what in general is called limitation; that is, constraint and avoidance of extravagance) that runs like a bedrock seam through the best of human society, there is unquestionably a moral element attached to the principle. Having preoccupied myself for the majority of my life with excess of one description or another, I can ardently speak to the repentant feeling adduced by limitless behaviour. Usually, as with over-eating for example, it was followed by an anguish which cleansed the guilt and left room for self-serving rationality. In my later life the archway to extreme has given way to one of moderation though bear in mind that to dissemble was not the product of control but rather cosmetics. I found things just looked and worked more fittingly without the recklessness (sort of the way pearls look better on an older woman).
Nonetheless there has lingered a flavour for surfeit in particular circumstances not squarely reflective of my personal interests. I speak here of Key Largo and Buttonwood Bay especially (the place where we are residing for the season). It has repeatedly occurred to me that, notwithstanding my already frequent cursory allusions to the place, to disregard the details of this enclave would be an injustice not least of all to myself. Considering the years we have waited to get here (interrupted as were our plans by the unforeseen pandemic), that alone affords sufficient spirit and worth to capture every possible detail of the venue. And if I were to be completely honest, this is by way of apology for having nothing better to write about. But more importantly I truly believe that it takes time for the characteristics of any spot fully to insinuate the dutiful observer. And finally I am of the heartfelt belief that it is the random and immodest details of anything which are particularly scintillating in the end.
I begin this tome by referring today to the “island swimming pool” which I suspect I have casually mentioned once or twice before. Think of Buttonwood Bay as circled by a closed roadway. Townhouses parade about this closed circle with boat slips on the inner side and the Bay of Florida on the outer side. In the middle, upon arching over the boat slip, is another straight road with townhouses on both sides, one side adjacent the Bay of Florida, the other the boat slip. This central location is called the Island. Its reclusiveness from the rest of Buttonwood Bay invites the insular personality which for purposes of this narrative would be me. Until yesterday, much to my delight, I would be there alone. But yesterday when I arrived on my tricycle (which I park immediately by the gated entry to the pool) I saw that a couple (a young man and woman) had usurped my customary lounging station (the one in line with the sun). They were both white – that is, they had the appearance of alabaster, people who had just arrived from up north. I was tired after my previous 6 Km cycle so I just took up my position at the lounge chair next to theirs and promptly fell asleep in the brilliant sunshine. Nothing was exchanged between us. I overheard them talking, but only mumbles, nothing with any clarity. I couldn’t help but think that for a young couple they were uncommonly quiet and restrained, almost polite. They finally left. And I left afterwards.
Today I re-appeared at the island pool. There was no one there. I took up my customary lounge position, this time the exact chair which I normally use (the one guaranteed to remain in line with the sun for maximum time before the sunlight is interrupted by the tree tops on the other side of the pool). Not long afterwards the same couple as yesterday re-appeared. They did not however assume the lounge chairs adjoining mine; they instead chose two chairs nearby at the shallow end of the pool. Not long afterwards a third person arrived, an older gentleman. At first he sat in a deck chair under the pergola located behind my lounge chair. I was awoken some time later by the smell of a cigar. The older gentleman had moved to the other side of the pool to smoke his cigar. I took the opportunity to lift myself from my lounge chair and proceeded to the pool steps with my stick. When passing the gentleman I commented to him how much I was enjoying the smell of his cigar. He questioned whether I could smell it across the pool which I confirmed I could. I told him the smell reminded me of many happy memories including the old women in Key West fifty years ago rolling cigars with their mahogany-coloured fingers. He pointed to my legs and queried, “Knees?” I confirmed I was scheduled for surgery. He asked where I was from. I told him and asked him the same. He said New York. I said, “We’re practically neighbours!” We both chuckled.
Later when the gentleman and I were withdrawing from the pool together, he told me he fishes on Prince Edward Island; and when I told him I used to live in Nova Scotia he said he had visited Cape Breton (though he had difficulty pronouncing Breton properly). We wished one another a pleasant evening and agreed we’d probably meet again. I climbed upon my tricycle and headed off the island.