We lingered immobile in our leather reclining chairs watching television until well after midnight before succumbing to mounting fatigue and going to bed. We strangely both arose in the middle of the night and began the new day’s agenda. I won’t say we were sprightly. Yet we significantly accomplished the creation on-line of the Province of Ontario COVD-19 Vaccination Passport for each of us. This is but one of many trifling matters we’ve recently addressed with uncommon zeal. Having now surpassed the middle of October, the time is rapidly approaching our departure on November 30th to Hilton Head Island for the remainder of the winter.
I am eager to return to Hilton Head Island. It is the place we began our prolonged domestic winter travel in 2014 upon the recommendation of my sister-in-law (she and her husband are avid golfers). Since then (with the exception of last year during COVID-19) we have wintered on a succession of barrier islands on the eastern seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico. Predominantly the distinction was always between Florida and everything else. It would be impossible without error to suggest that the views in any one of the places is better than the others. Indeed so competitive is the comparison for example that Hilton Head Island vies with Daytona Beach for the pleasure of bicycling on the beach. Pointedly though the hierarchy on Hilton Head Island has forbade the operation of motor vehicles on the beach.
The Hilton Head Island beach along the Atlantic Ocean is at low tide a vast ephemeral space which – like the azure skies and fluffy white clouds above reflected in the watery sheen beneath the sand – is every day a new discovery of light and dimension. Given the sometimes cool temperatures nearing freezing, the middle of the winter on Hilton Head Island is far from what most would consider to be a warm resort. For our age and circumstances – that is, for two old fogeys too old for lycra – the option of a cardigan or jacket is a small inconvenience. For the same reason I find I am perfectly comfortable catching 25 minutes of sunshine from the neck up, forget about the rest, lying in moderate seclusion adjacent the dunes.
Once again this visit – as we have always done in the past – we are perching in Sea Pines; however our location has changed from oceanside to Harbour Town. It is no significant modification for us because we are accustomed to bicycling throughout Sea Pines; and, I for example normally start my day with a bicycle ride along the length of the shore before retiring on the beach for sunshine.
The main difference between South Carolina and Florida is the inability to swim in the sea in the middle of winter (ignoring the peculiar necessity of some on Hilton Head Island for a “polar bear” purgative plunge on New Year’s Day). The earliest I have swum in the Atlantic Ocean on Hilton Head Island was probably mid-March. It was as I recall “refreshing” to an Olympic degree. But it had that signature attraction of the roaring, foaming Atlantic Ocean against which the soothing, tepid waters of the Gulf of Mexico were no artistic or cathartic contest. I confess I am animated by the thought of a fresh wind and whitecaps. I yet recall with vigour the first time I stepped foot on Hilton Head Island one December (in fact, I believe it was Christmas Eve). It was late in the afternoon, we had just arrived. I walked onto the beach and was suddenly blasted by what I recollect to have been the most agreeable translation of sleet and rain I’ve ever encountered! As you might expect the gust was dramatic but short-lived.
The variance of views even within Sea Pines – not to mention further abroad on the same island – is in my opinion almost nonpareil. There is as well something we relish – perhaps without regularly identifying the privilege – and that is the overall languid nature of the Island and the lack of traffic through much of the winter there.