The COVID seclusion seems miles and miles away though it is only since November 29th last that we fixedly crossed the border from Canada into the United States of America and began our 2-day motor vehicle trek to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for the winter. From the moment of our departure (when we spent an introductory night near the Thousand Islands Parkway on the St. Lawrence River) we were uplifted and forward looking. Reminiscences were out of the question! We were onto something new after a 20-month isolation following our perpendicular departure from Longboat Key on March 20th, 2020. Happily that progressive and mildly innovative approach has continued into the first week of our settlement here; and, I venture to say it shall be sustained in spite of any seasoning over the upcoming winter months.
One shouldn’t anticipate palpable change in life after seven decades on earth. Nor indeed – judging by what we have seen on the Island to date – is there any. Yet what has noticeably changed – if not the demonstrable features of the environment and the necessities of survival – is the nature of our preoccupations. They are now uninhibited by the restraints of immobility and dreary repetition. Once again I fully expect we’ll not surmount a degree of recurring familiarity here as well; but it will have the colour of acceptability rather than dominion.
Initially it may be perceived that the alteration is purely geographic; or, nothing more highbrow than new restaurants. But a closer examination reveals it is the enlargement of society. The critical advantage here (at this time of year especially when Canadians are otherwise hibernating within their own dens) is the continued society of people. Nor are the conventions limited to organized reunions such as religious worship, dining out, theatre or concerts. Today for example I had occasion – albeit often minute and almost unnoticeable – to communicate with many, many people traveling along the bike paths or the beach, perhaps saying a cheery hello or enquiring after their health, but always employing though even unwittingly those social skills which have until lately been allowed to gather dust. Not to mention the sometimes curious (or malignant) projections of thought inevitably stimulated by those casual encounters.
This project (that is, being on Hilton Head Island) is itself encouraging of alteration not because we haven’t been here before (in fact, this is the fifth year by my recollection) but because it enables calculation, performance and enterprise. This succinct way of regarding life at its finest does in my opinion capture the deductive imperative to leave the past behind and to move ahead. This is a transition fairly easy for us both in light of our retirement from employment, the death of our parents, the liquidation of immobile assets and the abandonment of superfluous materiality (sterling silver cutlery, porcelain flatware, jewellery, ancient and deteriorating artwork, gratuitous accessories and a grand piano). Our baggage is as it were lightened; we are capable of comparatively immediate change. As for the distillation of our material world I won’t say we’ve yet graduated to that carefree state of “Who cares, it’s insured!” but the impediments are certainly fewer and less confining.
On the other hand there is the subduing element of mortality that commensurately arises with the evaporation of other obstructions or impediments. I see that as but another accommodation, itself a new journey to be undertaken with whatever loftiness or humour I am able to afford. I mean, what have I got to lose? We have as well embraced the inescapable prospect of loneliness – as so many others already have as a consequence of misadventure or misfortune, some far sooner than others. But whatever transpires we’re not now chained to inconsequence. The overwhelming pollution of the pandemic is for the moment at least a receding wave; we’ve rekindled our capital with a reckoning of adventure not doom!
“A Christmas Roundelay”