It was exactly four months ago on August 31st that we had our last drop of alcohol. I suspect it surprises us both that we have lasted this long, though we have frequently reflected how enthused we are to have done so. The project was prompted by the same unglamorous motivation which drove us to quit smoking: We’re done with that! I recall the words of a former alcoholic (who has since rather perversely become a minister of some off-beat church and who apparently makes his money conducting marriages) that “even the trees are greener”. In spite of its source, the observation successfully captures the unpretentious truth of the experience. There are of course many other collateral rewards, including a complete lack of morning regret, general improvement of physical well-being, decided mental acuity and increased optimism. By contrast some things have fallen by the way, mostly things which were nothing more than debauched habits or infertile undertakings. In a way we have become more socially blinkered although we are gradually adjusting to a new reality when gathering with people whose first words upon arrival are “What would you like to drink?” Oddly many of these conventions turn out to be more entertaining than usual, no doubt because of the increased mental facility, not to mention that even one’s most uninventive quips can be uproariously funny to drunks. I find it engaging at these gatherings to follow those who by design limit their alcohol in-take; they are for me studies in earnestness and I am interested to know the root. In these compressed assemblies one can easily see how alliances are persuaded by like interests, a phenomenon which is both uplifting and diminishing depending upon the inclinations.
Over the past sixteen years we have frequented resorts of every description. For at least the past six years our bent has been towards places which are not all-inclusive and we have stopped going to the Caribbean and Mexico, the former because it is mired in out-dated British deceit, the latter because it is volatile. Last year we stopped flying. Our drive to South Carolina is measured and enjoyable. Although we do not necessarily use the car a great deal when we are here, it affords us the liberty to move when we’re ready. Except for the international border and the occasional traffic jam when circumnavigating Washington, DC, line-ups are a thing of the past. Having a place with its own kitchen is unreservedly an improvement (and by now a prerequisite). Being obliged to eat out for every meal is no pleasure over time. Our wardrobe is not unexpectedly far less constructed.
At nine o’clock this morning we commenced our two-hour bike ride. We headed towards Harbour Town (at the south end of the Island) where we paused, as we did yesterday, for a coffee at a charming bakery (formerly a light house) with an out-door patio. The place was humming with activity when we arrived around 10:30 a.m. Through the medium of a noisy but friendly dog yesterday we met a man from North Carolina. Otherwise people there generally keep to themselves and are preoccupied with their own company or their children. Our trip to Harbour Town had taken us through the winding sea pine paths, but upon our return we rode along the beach (with a favourable wind at our backs).
At the villa we each prepared our own lunch and drank gallons of liquids (including cocoanut milk). But the exquisiteness of the day was too enthralling to disregard. By one o’clock I was back on my bicycle, this time heading into the wind, again towards Harbour Town. The sunshine was brilliant! Since early morning I had peeled off my fleece and pulled my sweatpants up to my knees. It was getting hot! The combination of the earlier exercise and my subsequent lunch was however making me tired, so I rode to the upper end of the beach next to the sea grasses. There I let down my bicycle, collapsed onto the fine powdered sand and prolonged myself perpendicularly to the Ocean, facing into the dazzling sun. The rubber tyre of the bicycle didn’t make as comfortable a pillow as I might have preferred but nonetheless I later caught myself snoring. Lying upon the hard packed sand helped straighten my spine. Feeling the tingling of the sun on my face, I decided it was time to push on. I intended to accomplish the bend in the beach further ahead before turning around.
As I pedalled untiringly (for the wind was at times very strong and the bicycle has only one gear) I diverted myself from the monotony of Paradise by musing upon those whom I passed: a young boy with an uncommonly thin waist and glistening strong back, earnestly shovelling sand with his friend to create an ephemeral monument upon the beach; an older woman with square-cut naturally gray hair and boxy clothes to match her boxy body, still running as she must have done all her life; children bent over, cautiously eyeing a perished discovery from the Ocean deeps; dogs racing after balls thrown by their human masters employing colourful plastic devices of the same modern day popularity as Hula hoops once were; tourists congealed upon folding chairs within mere steps of their resort; young men and those who wish they were, pumping large kites in preparation to fly above the crowds; newly arrived Island visitors boiling over with enthusiasm and excitement.
It is a regrettable fact that even in the midst of such bliss the pressing reality of life can remove every possible veneer of ecstasy. I am speaking now of the condition of my backside which, as ample as it may be, as much as it may resemble a proper cushion, was nonetheless reporting to me that it had no longer any affection for the bicycle seat. It was time to fly back to the villa, this time not without a modicum of discomfort.
Accompanied by the wind at my back, it was not long before I was eyeing the resort. After parking and locking my bike, I dipped into the villa to collect my iPhone 4S and Kindle. In keeping with my daily preference, I went immediately to the chaises longues adjacent the sea grasses. I am currently reading Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi”, the utter skill of which makes it unrivalled competition for napping in the sun. I managed to do both though.
It is now approaching six o’clock in the evening on New Year’s Eve. There is no need to lay out the dinner jacket and the diamond cuff links. We’re in for the night. The sun is behind the tropical plants and trees; the sky is a cobalt blue over the Ocean; there are two twinkling stars on either side of the shiny crescent moon. Happy New Year!