Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Winter Blahs

Can it be?  Do the winter blahs affect even those of us who are fifteen hundred miles south of the snow belt and sitting within yards of a swimming pool, palm trees, the beach and the Ocean?  Apparently so. Just over half-way through our five-month sojourn on Hilton Head Island we are slumped in a trough which is reminiscent of the winter blahs. There is an aching feeling of repetition; the glamour of the sea has evaporated; sitting by the pool in the afternoon sunshine has become routine; novelty is a thing of the past. It is undeniable that the local weather suffers the reflective pain of Northerners as the cold, Arctic air spills southward.  The fronds of the palm trees sympathetically lose their verdant sheen; the grass shows its remission; there is no excitement to do anything or to go anywhere. It's the winter blahs!

Hilton Head Island is not a tropical resort in the winter months.  It is decidedly "off-season" from November to March. While the place has been known for occasional snow squalls on the beach, for the most part it only gets cool in the winter months.  This would naturally be a disadvantage for those intent upon sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the Ocean.  If however you are inclined to avoid lycra and reflective surfaces, and the donning of a bulky sweater is considered a fashion improvement, then the weather is fine. I confess as well that part of the off-season bonus is the diminution of tourist traffic.  As the weather begins to warm noticeably in mid-March so too do the number of tourists begin to increase.  The beach and the bicycle paths, once an almost exclusive domain, become busier and the sense of encroachment is inescapable.

Like most people I cannot pretend to have an especially engrossing daily agenda either here on Hilton Head Island or at home in Almonte. It might be supposed that after having lived almost forty years in one place as I have done in Almonte, I would have a network of associations there which regularly occupies me.  That is certainly not so. Clearly in retrospect any activity in my life at home revolved primarily and almost entirely around my professional avocation.  And while my life on Hilton Head Island is not by any means dreary, and I bicycle between 2 -3 hours daily and leisurely consume the rest of the day in reading and writing, I nonetheless from time to time miss being home.  I suppose homesickness is as ineluctable as the winter blahs.

Don't misunderstand me, though, I have no desire to get out of here or to reverse the current path.  This temporary blip is simply to be gotten through. I can only imagine what I would be thinking if were in Almonte staring at the snowbanks.

We began digging our way out of this seasonal trough today by taking advantage of the warm air and boundless blue sky - we went to the nearby Salty Dog Café on Braddock Sound for lunch. We joined the many other vacationers at the outdoor patio. As inclined as one might be to observe that there is nowhere on the face of the earth that is Utopia, I am reminded again and again that on balance Hilton Head Island in the winter is a very close second.

We have tested this proposition by purposively visiting several other sea or barrier islands along the Atlantic coast in this area, including Kiawah Island, SC, Tybee Island, GA, Jekyll Island, GA, St. Simons Island, FLA and Amelia Island, FLA. Kiawah Island and Hilton Head Island are essentially private gated communities and golf courses. Hilton Head Island is larger, affording more bike paths and a longer beach; as well, there are more readily available services which might appeal to longer-term residents.  Tybee Island is more "approachable" (for lack of a better term) so it will attract a younger crowd but it thereby suffers the prejudice of what an older clientele would prefer. Once again Hilton Head Island is unequivocally more serene and sophisticated, pointedly "lacking" in popular tourist attractions other than its magnificent beach, golf courses and bike paths. Hilton Head Island would easily win a competition for mooring one's yacht. St. Simons Island and Amelia Island do not compete with the bicycling attraction of Hilton Head Island where the 12-mile beach is an unqualified perfection. Finally, Jekyll Island is perhaps the closest second.  I suspect however that the long-term residential market is not as diversified as Hilton Head Island.  The bicycling on Jekyll Island is pleasant but far more restrictive.  Though it may not seem to count for anything, I have always felt that the highway approach to Hilton Head Island from Interstate 95 (which is the primary network connection for all the barrier islands other than Kiawah Island) is the most appealing. As soon as we exit Interstate 95 and join Hwy. #278 to Hilton Head Island, my anxiety begins to dissolve and I am incrementally calmed by the allure of the manicured lawns and well-maintained commercial properties.  Hilton Head Island is singular for having prohibited neon signs and for enforcing very strict building codes which preserve a natural state as much as possible in an otherwise urban environment.

So by the time we concluded our idle lunch overlooking Braddock Sound today, lingering in the warm afternoon sunshine, licking our lips after the Key Lime pie and chocolate peanut butter pie, the subsequent walk to our condominium and lounging by the pool all but restored our vigour.  The blip of the winter blahs had passed.

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