When I was speaking on the telephone this morning with my elderly mother – a communication I prosecute almost daily – she asked whether I was getting bored being on Hilton Head Island, bicycling every day, routinely contemplating the Atlantic Ocean, listening to the sea gulls and and the clack of empty oyster shells and lounging in the perpetual sunshine surrounded by Palmetto ferns. I told her, “No!” She laughed and seemed to agree, all but muttering as she has so often said before, “What’s not to like!”
We have spent the last three winters on Hilton Head Island and every year my mother asks me the same question, not quite certain why. I do take notice of her question, as repetitive and somewhat offensive as it may be. I confess however there are times when I question my productivity here. After a lifetime commitment to getting things done, my current state of affairs is by comparison neglectful. I have so far been able to repel the insinuation of outright indolence by accepting that I no longer have the strength to tackle complicated professional matters (nor frankly do I consider my talent lends itself expediently to such undertakings any more); and, I have compromised my yearning existentialism by submitting to the slothful urgings of retirement generally. I might of course think differently if I hadn’t the choice to do nothing but for the time being I have eclipsed that particular dilemma (the misfortune of which I cringe even to imagine).
It is evident that part of my daily entertainment (and dare I say, atonement for lack of tangible productivity) is my dedication to writing. I might even say I am prolific and I certainly now count writing among my hobbies, the only others being piano and photography. Considering I didn’t bother bringing my electronic keyboard here this winter, my stock in the piano is dwindling. At least I call upon my photography to embellish my writing. In any event the writing is nothing more than a hobby though I take it seriously. I have lately subscribed to the theory that writing is pretty much like exercise and dieting; namely, “Just do it!” though the prescription no more guarantees I’ll be a good writer than it strengthens my hopes of becoming an Olympic athlete. But no doubt you’ve heard the account about Earnest Hemingway that he reportedly stood at a writing easel every morning for hours, just writing. The thrust of the matutinal performance was that with time and application, something good would come of it, perhaps like simmering the liquor from a baser production. That too is likely no more than an enflamed deception akin to taking mind-altering drugs as did numerous other Bohemian writers allegedly to improve their talent. I have heard that there are people who take writing classes though I am not convinced I would garner any more from them than I did from taking piano lessons late in life. I am at the point where my complacency has overtaken my thirst for instruction. In spite of this circumspection I believe that advancement will spring from persistence. This entails a daily regiment of writing and constant attention to quality. I do of course continue to read my favourite authors (most of whom are beyond copyright) and they stimulate my own expression. But writing – perhaps like retirement – must eventually be confronted as the last act of submission. Cultivating one’s own style or voice is possibly the writer’s universal objective. Though I won’t say I’ve cornered my own idiom I can at least brag that I write about what interests me and in what I have invested. It is my hope that by expounding upon what amuses me I shall incorporate my personal vernacular. In any event, nothing else holds any promise.
This drawn-out introduction is my way of excusing what I am about to say about a terribly insignificant matter. The topic? A leather bracelet.
Leather with Fine Silver Braided Men’s Bracelet, ‘Earth Elements’
I can’t recall exactly when I acquired an interest in men’s leather bracelets. It was in the past year for sure. There was a time when the most base material I would have contemplated was sterling silver. Historically – that is, for the past forty years – I have focussed exclusively on yellow gold bracelets, starting with 10K gold when I was young, then graduating to 14K gold, 18K gold and finally 24K gold. But two years ago (when my retirement began) I purged myself of almost all my treasured belongings. It really was a purge; I wanted rid of the stuff so I might start afresh. Considering my former addiction, there were those who figured I’d never sustain the purification. I may have wondered myself. But the catastrophic change of lifestyle precipitated its own modifications. Essentially everything became more simple, less complicated, “cleaner”. I welcomed the absence of gawdy, expensive jewelry. I tired of looking like a Jewish widow. The tinsel really was a distraction on a man of my age!
During this period of appeasement I regularly pondered the theme of jewelry. It was a tease I hadn’t vanquished. Nonetheless I never altered my direction of abandonment. But I began to notice a proliferation of retail advertisements showing men wearing a number of cheap bracelets usually combining leather, sea shells, stones or various plastic pieces. Not surprisingly these articles began to surface in gift shops. They were the new unisex costume jewelry. When we were on Jekyll Island last year I ended buying about eight different models. It was my method of experimentation. None of them succeeded to placate my artistic sense. They were all really cheap ($4.50 – $10); some of them broke in short order; others did not fit properly (too small, made for young girls); others were bad or ineffective design; and almost universally the materials were sub-standard. This of course was consistent with the price of the items. But by surfing the internet I could see that there were superior items available. The source of these goods did not however recommend itself to me. I still harbour a goodly measure of caution when it comes to buying things on-line. Recently however I ran into Novica which has the benefit of alliance with National Geographic and some earnest intelligence about its corporate roots in San Francisco, California. I found a product (pictured above) which caught my attention and took the retail plunge of ordering it (using PayPal which – touch wood – has never disappointed me). The bracelet arrived today from Lima, Peru (though not before many stops and starts with the FedEx import people in Memphis, Tennessee). Here is what I wrote on the Novica site by way of Product Review:
Leather with Fine Silver Braided Men’s Bracelet, ‘Earth Elements’ This is identical to what I viewed on the internet site. Its distinguishing feature is its subtlety and obvious sophistication. It is good quality but a decided understatement. Granted it is strictly for casual wear yet it screams propriety and restraint. It is leaps and bounds ahead of any trifling similar accoutrements one may find in almost any gift store; and it would make a very suitable addition to a gentleman’s jewelry collection. In a word: tasteful.
Granted the accolade was partly designed to buttress the reputed female artisan in Lima, Peru but I can attest that the opinion is shared by more than just me. It amounts to an embarrassment to report that I have anticipated the arrival of this object for days. Impatience as usual had a lot to do with it but that was balanced by the customary excitement surrounding most new purchases. This puerile preoccupation did not exist in a vacuum. It was but one element in a fashion ensemble I had assembled in my mind’s eye involving my new (as yet unworn) khaki-coloured shorts and grey crewneck sweater. It wasn’t until this evening when we went out for dinner at the Salty Dog Café that I settled which pair of deck shoes I would wear with the outfit. What was critical to the construct was that I wore my new leather bracelet. And it worked! Even His Lordship (who seldom if ever comments on such matters) related his approval.
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It is inescapable that there is nothing remotely intellectual about these observations. They are unreservedly visceral, that’s all. And that may be the sum total of the level to which I have descended on Hilton Head Island. I think about food quite a bit as well (though this year I am focussing on vegetables and – more importantly – not having pecan pie, Key Lime pie, peanut butter or English muffins). The bicycling thing (which we do almost every day) is obviously of a purely physical nature but it has the redeeming quality of “exercise” (which approaches the strength of a spiritual forum). We still sleep and bathe as we always did, basically once a day. Now that I think of it, except for the new shorts, sweater and bracelet, nothing much has changed. Though I know that isn’t true. Things have changed. Being on Hilton Head Island is a tactile experience. No matter what one does on this Island one “feels” it. Everything about this place contrives to appeal to the senses. In this atmosphere of heightened physical presence it does not surprise me that I have succumbed to the notorious male predilection for outrageous display. It is nature’s way if the truth be told.