Thursday, January 3, 2013

Leave-taking from Hilton Head Island

It is serendipitous that very early this morning (on the penultimate day of our departure from this exquisite Hilton Head Island, South Carolina) I completed with considerable gusto my reading of “Essays in Idleness” by the Tsurezuregusa of Kenko (known I believe to his family and friends as Yoshida Kenko).  Mr. Kenko’s perspective, while strictly that of a hermit (or, if one prefers a more decorous denomination, that of a Buddhist monk), was nonetheless choc-a-bloc with commonplace philosophy rendered in the manner of a parable.  I say the reading of the book and the awakening of this day are chance intersections because as we forlornly make our arrangements to leave the Island one cannot but contemplate the subject thoughtfully if not indeed longingly.  Add to this the fact that our first act of industry this morning was to visit the property manager and to re-book our stay for the same time next year and pay our deposit.  So you see, as one high spot ends, another begins.  I am quite certain that Mr. Kenko would have a great deal to say upon the subject illustrative as it is of all else that transpires in life.
I don’t know about you, but I frequently become overwhelmed by an especially good book or movie, and for days afterwards I find myself musing more and more intensely upon the threads of intelligence and the overall understanding to be derived from the adventure to the point in fact where I am under very real threat of espousing the thrust of the knowledge whole-heartedly much as a convert would do upon awakening to a new-found inspiration.  With Mr. Kenko I am yet bound to distance myself from monastic asceticism.  Granted, life’s treasures amount to nothing in the context of the incomparable privilege of living another day (or as Kenko himself has said, a mere farthing compared to the tens of thousands of gold coins which another day is worth).  Yet I admit to more than a fleeting interest in the trove that life offers; and my shared conviction that death is inevitable does not though propel me to abandon all else in the meantime notwithstanding the uncertainty of its hour.  In a word I am unconvinced that deprivation advances the decoding of the inscrutability of life and that indulgence will unhinge me completely.  And just on the off-chance that Kenko’s reasoning could be flawed concerning the unworthiness of material life I am prepared to risk it.

Apart from the humdrum duty to pack my clothes and to stuff as much of it as possible into the trunk of the car in anticipation of tomorrow’s exodus, a more important obligation – even dare I say compulsion – was to wander down to beach to stare for a last wistful instant at the Atlantic Ocean with the words of John Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever” from the Salt Water Ballads (1902) echoing in my head: 

“I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sails shaking, And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.”

Admittedly I have done no sailing of any consequence in my life but I still harbour the romance of the sea akin to that of an orphaned Liverpool boy who ran away to sea.  My days of study in Nova Scotia will forever remind me of the mysterious consequence of living by the Ocean, for having left it I felt an uncanny loss.

There now remains the mundane readjustment to ordinary living, no longer enlivened by the spirit of holidays and travel.  But here too Mr. Kenko would suggest that change is inescapable, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad.  Better, he would likely opine, not to be hopeful than to risk disappointment.  I again cannot be so muted about what is to come.  I embrace the voyage that is life!

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