This afternoon an eager young girl in a dripping wet bathing suit danced excitedly about the edge of the pool clamouring to her confederates in the pool below, “This is going to be the story about the pool!” No matter that it is a child’s instinct to create a narrative about life’s unfolding pedestrian dramas, the occasion prompted me as well to share the imperative. I too felt the need to dilate upon this singular experience. Water animates me. Little competes with a dip in salt water especially. It is a catharsis!
Though we hadn’t agreed to go together, late this morning we both resolved to swim in the pool today. Lately the ambient temperatures have been consistently in the high 70s and low 80s and people have begun to use the pool regularly (though the pool is assiduously and meticulously maintained by the staff throughout the entire year). Many others have already been testing the waters in the Atlantic Ocean, mostly teenagers awkwardly attempting to surf or younger children skim boarding along the shallows of the shore performing a variety of maneuvers known as “wraps,” “big spins,” “360 shove-its” and “180s.”
A couple of days ago we took our first dip in the pool since our arrival on Hilton Head Island last November. It was uncompromisingly refreshing! And it tantalized a repeat performance. As pools go this one is delightful, imaginatively irregular in shape, beautifully nestled close to the sand dunes and the beach and there is an elevated outlook where one can barbecue and enjoy outdoor dining and drinks while overlooking Calibogue Cay and the Atlantic Ocean. Tall palm trees surround the pool.
When as is my custom I headed out on my bicycle today shortly after the noon hour (which is to say, after my long-drawn-out breakfast) I wasn’t feeling especially pumped. In fact a more exact rendition would be lethargic and recalcitrant. My aching bag of bones was doing nothing to inspire me. I wasn’t long in making up my mind to keep today’s ride a short one, something about which I haven’t much disinclination since I cycle an average of 6 – 12 miles every day. Plus the tide wasn’t low until 5:11 pm so there was no expectation of cycling on the beach which is my preferred venue to the mainland paths, nice as they are. And the sky had become cloudy and grey.
Slowly I made my way under the canopy of foliage along South Sea Pines Drive from Land’s End to Greenwood Avenue and then basically circled back through the wooded plantation and the golf club to the condominium. I was home in a little over an hour, a total of about six miles. As I approached the condominium the wind had picked up and blown away the grey ceiling, leaving a promising mixture of blue sky and white fluffy clouds. The heat of the sun was undeniable. As soon as I walked into the apartment I announced I was going to the pool.
We gathered our towels and trekked along the second-floor corridor around the interior stucco perimeter of the building to the stairs closest the pool. There we descended the tiled stairwell, rounded the end of the building among the bougainvillea blooms and entered the pool through the locked gate. We decided upon a perch at the south side of the pool nearest the Ocean. The sky was an exquisite cobalt patched with fluffy white clouds being pushed about by remarkably high winds. I determined to lie on the chaise longue in the sun until I felt irritated enough by the intense heat to welcome a plunge. That moment however did not come straightaway. The wind was so strong that it provided its own refrigeration and lying in the dry warm air after my moderate bike ride was mildly soporific. For the first time in what has been months of regularly lounging in the afternoon sun by the pool to cultivate a bit of colour I removed my Polo shirt today. Seeing me scantily clad gives new meaning to corporal punishment. It is a needless modesty because no one has any misconception of my advanced age and commensurate deterioration. It constitutes a blind arrogance on my part to deny it or to pretend otherwise. Anyway aside from that I am nurturing a burgeoning theme of physical acceptance (though admittedly I’d prefer to caste the picture in black and white if it were possible). The texture of black and white is so accommodating I find.
In this newly discovered state of semi-nudity I languished in the sun. When occasionally the sun disappeared fleetingly behind the sailing clouds (and I could sense the temporary coolness), I opened my eyes and peered into the azure depth, imaging that if I reached far enough into the sky I might touch the passing clouds which alternately separated and blended, first hiding then revealing crystal blue holes before suddenly being swept away leaving a huge space of heavenly sapphire above the tossing, whispering sea pines and Palmetto ferns. The palm fronds were blown in uniform direction by the ceaseless, persistent wind. The hollows of my mind were pleasingly ventilated by the warm wind and brightened by the glaring sun; my thoughts drifted aimlessly. I reflected upon a sunny afternoon on the Atlantic Ocean on Cape Cod some forty years ago when we were the only people on the beach in sight. We buried ourselves in the white sand to our necks, swam in the frothing green Ocean and felt the tinge of a sunburn. I also recalled the time I gazed across the Mediterranean and the Maddelana Islands to Corsica from a mountaintop villa in Sardinia. The inertia of this sublime afternoon by the pool in the sun and the wind had absorbed me entirely.
At last it was time to test the water. The dappled sunlight above the palm tree which was directly in line with my chaise longue warned of the declining day as the shadows elongated. The water in the pool was aquamarine and inviting. While I might have preferred to inaugurate my dip with a spectacular dive those days have long ago evaporated. I wisely chose instead to lower myself between the handrails of the aluminium ladder before taking an unceremonious flop to complete my submersion. The water was exceptionally clear and cool. I continued submerged for a moment before breaking the surface, dragging my hair behind my ears. I swam about like a fish, nosediving into the deep end then paddling about in the shallows. What an absolute delight! Everything had combined to create the perfect experience. How ironic that we are but a short time before our departure from this maritime resort. It could not have been a better way to remember the place. I wonder how the young girl in the dripping wet bathing suit will recall her own story about the pool.