Spirit of Christmas by the Sea

Hilton Head Island, sometimes referred to as simply Hilton Head, is a Lowcountry resort town and barrier island in Beaufort County, South Carolina, United States. It is 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Savannah, Georgia, and 95 miles (153 km) southwest of Charleston. The island is named after Captain William Hilton, who in 1663 identified a headland near the entrance to Port Royal Sound, which mapmakers named “Hilton’s Headland.” The island features 12 miles (19 km) of beachfront on the Atlantic Ocean.

The lobby of our condominium building is decorated with wreaths and red ribbons. I noticed while bicycling that many of the mail boxes and stone wall entrances to residential areas are draped in green boughs. There is the customary seasonal magic in the air. At least in my mind. We have never fussed between ourselves concerning Christmas but I confess to enjoy the popular productions even if somewhat preposterous in a subtropical environment. No doubt part of the stimulation comes from reading emails from family and friends who echo the preoccupation (or who occasionally pretend to mock its excesses). It is in any circumstance impossible to escape the sense of gleeful abandon and private celebration when encountering couples and families along the beach. Even the gambolling dogs accord an air of holiday.

The relocation from Almonte to Hilton Head Island is more than the simple swap of residence and a change of temperature. Even though we’ve been here before and are familiar with the area, we preserve an undying sense of uniqueness for Hilton Head Island.  Unquestionably it is idyllic. The views of the sea are changeable and always inviting. Our simple agenda – apart from visiting local food specialty shops like Sea Shack, Hudson’s Sea Food House on the Docks, Skull Creek Dockside, Low Country Produce, Signe’s Heaven Bound Bakery and Watusi Café – is confined to morning cycling (which for me today constituted a pleasing but enervating 15.52 km), an afternoon visit to the pool (where today and yesterday I swam and which otherwise is ideal for lounging in the declining sunshine), reading, writing and idle entertainment (which for me means “editing” my photographs of the area and which for His Lordship appears to include specialty news and dramas on the internet). If there is anything singular about my activity here it is that I recently undertook the production of a soup.  The real “magic” however is that His Lordship added to the pot clippings of fresh rosemary which he gathered from bushes along one of the marshes at the southern end of the Island. We actually discovered the crop there over five years ago.  Serendipitously we enjoyed a bush of rosemary just outside our kitchen door when we stayed in Sardinia as many years ago. On that occasion the herb was added to egg-in-the-hole with local ham slices.  Rosemary always proves to be the Sacrament of Heaven in my estimation!

Today in my cycling progress along Pope Avenue I passed the newly developed University of South Carolina (Beaufort). Though the Hilton Head Island campus is understandably dedicated to study surrounding the service industry (as long ago as 2004 an estimated 2.25 million visitors infused more than $1.5 billion into the local economy) the main campus “houses the largest collection of Robert Burns and Scottish literature materials outside Scotland and the world’s largest Ernest Hemingway collection”.