Hilton Head Island, South Carolina is remarkable for one thing in particular. Everything is at sea-level and everything about the sea is a reminder. For example fine white sand is ubiquitous, not just at the beaches but on the edges of the roads, in the parking lots, in one’s apartment or car, in your bicycle, clothes and hair. It’s everywhere! The sight of water is at every turn as well – whether the endless expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, the rushing streams of fresh water straits or lazy inland sea marshes. There is seemingly an everlasting sky and sunshine. Maritime horizons are known to be boundless but living under a magnificent azure dome never ceases to impress.
Our second-floor condominium in South Beach, Sea Pines Plantation is located at the southern toe of Hilton Head Island. The prospect is southwesterly onto the Atlantic Ocean looking towards Key West, Florida. In the morning the sea glistens as the sun’s rays streak across its face. It makes for a very acceptable way to greet the new day.
And in the evening we have a postcard view of the setting sun from the identical advantage. If one feels inclined to linger upon the views there are two capacious balconies outfitted with comfortable wicker furniture and thick cushions.
When I lounge by the pool in the late afternoon the dazzling sun drenches the deck and warms the body and soul. Sometimes the wind in the uppermost branches of the tall Sea Pines surrounding the pool provides an unbeatable soporific and promotes the most soothing daydreams. There is always a collection of exotic bird sounds too.
Finding time for even the most inconsequential diversion during the day requires thought. The plain truth is that we seldom have an agenda. In fact we invariably protract our breakfast sufficiently to consume the entire morning. Granted the routine may include a nod to domestic chores like laundry. Mostly though it’s just sipping coffee, nibbling fresh fruit and perhaps cooking an egg with some smoked salmon, all the while skimming the news, answering or writing emails or just blankly staring at the white-capped plate of water before us. Naturally we seldom even think about having lunch. What’s normally next is the daily bicycle ride, a routine we welcome as the breath of sea air that it is.
Depending on the direction of the wind and the Tide Chart, we will cycle up or down the paths or on the beach when heading out or coming back. A saunter along the beach (which easily covers 10 – 12 miles from bottom to top of the Island) combines the distinctive features of sand, water, sun and vast horizon. The face of the beach is never the same one day to the next. The contours and pockets of still water vary constantly. If we have the luck to be among the first on the beach with our bicycles as the tide recedes it is an experience akin to being alone on a deserted island. The sand is smooth and unadulterated, a bare canvass; it lends a sense of novelty and adventure.
Certainly there are occasional cloudy days but for the most part it is endless sunshine, yellow, sizzling sunshine. Though at my age I wouldn’t contemplate stripping down to a bathing suit or mere shorts when bicycling, the exposed surfaces of my corpus – face, arms, hands and legs – are in a constant state of tingling from the effects of the sun. Thankfully I wear transition glasses which shelter my eyes from the brilliance of the rays; otherwise I’d be perpetually squinting. Even when I cycle on the interior paths or drive my car on the cavernous roadways, the sun penetrates the forest canopy with piercing intensity.