We arrived on Hilton Head Island on a sunny Saturday afternoon, November 15th last. That was three months ago. We’ll be gone in two weeks at the end of February, making our way initially to Amelia Island, FLA for ten days before returning to Canada. Along with the customary exclamations about how quickly time passes I am pleased to report that the first of our “wintering” expeditions in retirement has turned out well. I still shudder to think that no less than a year ago, on the eve of my anticipated retirement on March 31st, I was contemplating running for election to Town Council. While some have been kind enough to assure me that I would have succeeded at being elected, I am still thankful that I saw fit to withdraw my nomination and opt for what has proved to be a terrific decision to come to Hilton Head Island for the winter. The experience has been everything I hoped it would be. The measure of our approval is that we have booked to return for five months next year.
It may seem odd to some people that we have never left the Island once during the past three months. We tried a short adventure several years ago when we visited nearby Savannah, GA. While the outing accomplished what one would expect of it, we were never drawn to repeat the exercise. When it comes to exercise, we are quite happy to have bicycled on the beach almost every day for the past three months. Our average daily outing on the bikes is about three hours. Today for example we cycled from our digs at Calibogue Club Drive to Singleton Shores Road along William Hilton Parkway then along the beach from Marker 97 to Beach Club in Sea Pines Plantation at Marker 39 and home from there. It’s about a fifteen mile run in all, which corresponds with our approximate speed of 5 miles per hour.
There can be no question that bicycling has been the focus of our winter here. For me it has afforded the lovely ever-changing views of the Ocean and the opportunity to take endless photographs of the beach, Ocean, sky, birds, landscapes and surrounding homes and structures. The moment I arrive on the beach I sense my anxieties being drawn out of and away from me by the vastness of the sea and sky. Of course the fresh air gives us an appetite and wears us down naturally, not to mention that it preoccupies us with a suitable undertaking each day. Often when we return home from bicycling I attempt to divert myself with an improving book but inevitably I have fallen asleep in the big leather chair. There is barely enough time left in the day to attend to the few obligations we have such as laundry, grocery shopping and meal preparation. The mornings are usually devoted to answering emails and a very leisurely breakfast.
We have punctuated our stay occasionally by lunching with friends, and that only recently as they have begun to arrive from Canada. Otherwise our routine is very much the same every day. We do however have no complaint about that. I spend the later part of the evening composing my literary pieces. I have consciously attempted different styles and subject-matter; sometimes the productions are mildly entertaining though for the most part they qualify as little more than a diary. I also play on my new electronic keyboard which, like my writing, is mired in repetition and which likewise lacks any novelty though I derive satisfaction from both exploits nonetheless.
My mother has obviously been able to bear the deprivation of my company even though she hinted more than once prior to our departure that she was uncomfortable with my prolonged scheduled absence. I suspect she is however looking forward to my return and quite frankly I can say that I am as well. My sister will no doubt share the anticipation as all her reports throughout the winter were laden with the inconvenience of having to attend to my mother’s concerns.
The lengthy time here has also prompted considerable reflection upon my past and my relationships. As for the past, it is fair to say that I have essentially cut myself off from everything I did before my retirement on March 31, 2014. Every experience I had to that point is now left behind me. I have done as much as possible to close the door on the past. I am thankful for what I had but I have no desire to relive it or keep it alive for any reason; rather I want to make a break and move into this next segment of my life which is hopefully going to continue to involve Hilton Head Island for a very long time.
The one advantage of having temporarily been involved in running for election to Municipal Council is that I got to know many of my closer friends in a way I might never have otherwise known. Essentially it was remarkable to me how many of them had such a clear agenda about what they expected and wanted to see from their Council. In broad terms this doesn’t surprise me but what did surprise me was their willingness to impose those expectations and wishes upon me as a prospective representative. The involvement heightened my sensitivity to the capacity of others to manipulate one another for their own purposes. It removed the social veneer from them and frankly exposed a side which diminished my pleasure in their company. The effect was to put some hitherto non-existent distance between us. In fact it seems to have been part of the evolution of this process of retirement (and removal from the arena of business and politics) that I have found myself increasingly enlarging upon the distance between me and a number of people. By the same token it has strengthened the ties I have with certain others, people whom I continue to find scintillating and reciprocal. There is no question that the impetus for my involvement with people is changing. These broad strokes apply both to friends and family; I am as quickly diluting the hallowed distinction of blood and water.
Our own partnership has proven to be both strong and sustainable. We are devoted to one another’s happiness and well-being. From time to time we have those blunt “What if…” and “If I go before you…” conversations; they succeed to prove we’ve done all that is possible to plan for eventualities. Meanwhile we continue to be one another’s best friend and happily behave like the nincompoops one would expect in a friendship.
Although it must seem utterly disjointed to say so, I am astounded that of the many important events which transpired in the past year the settlement of my father’s estate is apparently the most negligible. At times I almost forget that it happened; that is, that my father died. Oddly it was an inconsequential though inevitable event in my life. Nothing seems to have changed as a result. I guess his existence was for me always so obscure and opaque that I hardly recognize the difference. I am occasionally jolted to some recognition of him when my mother indirectly mentions how things have changed for her (though she always falls short of saying she misses him), or something I do reminds me that in certain ways I am like my father, but otherwise his passing was an unimportant event. As harsh as that might sound it nonetheless exemplifies to me that there is no point living in the past; that one should merely look to present for what it holds.