Saturday, September 2, 2023

Hilton Head Island: capititerraphobia cured


A little after 8 PM here and this is what I am seeing from my chair by our bedroom window while listening to Handel’s ‘Water Music’ and sipping Plymouth gin.  Not exceptional, but beautiful and tranquil.

Last evening Carol and I sipped margaritas—no reason to pretend—and ate lobster rolls and sirloin sliders beside Lake Michigan.  It was pleasant.  

A young boy was playing in the water with a body board.  I am not a good judge of age.  Perhaps he was nine or ten.  He was a skinny kid.  I said to Carol ‘that is me seventy years ago’. I was a skinny, weird kid who has become a skinny, weird old man.

The boy tried unsuccessfully to catch some of the small waves coming ashore.  I could see that he was not judging them correctly.  He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but then he got it right and caught two and got a few seconds ride in to his joy.  I was happy for him.  Take whatever moments of joy come your way, and even better take whatever moments of joy that would never have existed had you not created them.

I never board surfed.  I body surfed and I caught my last wave a little over two decades ago at age sixty off a small island in Brazil’s Baia da Ilha Grande.  I do not recall the name of the island and it does not matter.  Carol and I had sailed from Rio de Janeiro forty miles or so west and anchored.  

We soon learned that the few buildings on the shore were mostly family homes and a few surfer hostels.  

As we sat drinking our morning coffee in the cockpit we saw locals come from their homes and set up plastic chairs and tables on the beach.  Late in the morning day trip boats with masts but always under power arrived from the mainland a half dozen miles away and disgorged passengers who rushed to the tables and ate and drank, before re-embarking for the trip back.  

Carol and I often joined them, rowing ashore, pulling the Avon up the beach, tying it to a palm tree, and enjoying very inexpensive and good grilled shrimp and cold beers.

Sometimes we followed the surfers over a ridge to the ocean side of the island which had then as beautiful unspoiled beach as I have seen.  I hope it still is. 

That is where I caught my last wave.  The ride remains in my mind.  A long one.  

I will not seek another.  My almost severed supra spinatus cannot be risked being slammed into a seabed.

I do not regret there will never be another body surfing wave.  I have known enough, and unless time and chance destroy me there will be more waves, hopefully with GANNET and me above them.

As we flew from Chicago this morning I thought:  this is probably my last flight from the Midwest.  I will fly back once more next year, but Carol will drive us away.

I have written that some of my countrymen I most admire were Midwesterners:  Lincoln; Grant; Twain: Truman.  But I am perhaps the most misborn Midwesterner ever.  A creature of the open ocean born a thousand miles from the sea.  Inevitably I found my natural element.  All creatures do or die trying, and I often almost did die trying.

I am so—I hesitate for the word—Glad.  Happy.  Yes.  But mostly just content to know that it is likely that for whatever is left of my life only a few weeks will be spent away from the ocean.


I paused.  Night has fallen.  Outside the window all is dark except for a few lights in the marina.  My glass is almost empty.  There is little in the bottle still in the refrigerator.  I think I will drink it going twice beyond the two glass limit.  I reflect upon my life and find that I am still alive and writing this to you at almost age 82 beggars the imagination.  I say that without pride, but with incredulity.  Yet I seem still to be here and seem still to be moving.  I like to think forward.  But who knows.  At least I am moving.




Anonymous said...

Right on Webb!! Thought and Inspiration in every word

Solosailor said...

Poetry to my ear. Thanks