Saturday, October 6, 2007

Lone Palm (Jimmy Buffett)

Eight years in a row, after we moved to South Florida from Atlanta, my family of five vacationed in the same spot every year - friends of ours turned us on to the Sandpiper Gulf Resort at Ft. Myers Beach (on the west coast of our state) and we so looked forward to the annual ritual of our week-long mid-August getaway, rolling our deposit over from one year to the next to reserve the same ground-floor, oceanfront room. The name sounds substantially more upscale than the place actually was, thank goodness - we loved the mom-and-pop operation, the laid-back atmosphere and the family-friendly vibe.

Unfortunately four summers ago, management from the hotel called us in June, said they would be doing renovations on the hotel and were going to have to cancel our stay - we were devastated but, when Hurricane Charley came through the area on August 13, 2004 (the week we would have been there), it felt like an opportunistic meant-to-be we were safe at home. For a variety of reasons (scheduling/financial), we never resurrected the routine and we haven't been back to Ft. Myers Beach since - this week got me thinking how much I've missed the tradition. A memory stream-of-consciousness follows:

I adore my husband and three children and we certainly made a point to cross paths and spend time together during this very special week - they also acknowledged and respected my desire for alone time (as opposed to my normal cycle of nuturing and giving, whether to family members, friends, work or civic organizations).

I packed a totebag full of books and read in my lounge chair by the pool or ocean during the day... and on the patio until the wee hours - as I drank my morning coffee on the very same patio, I watched the pelicans and gulls and sandpipers do their little beach dances, whether it was with flying swoops in the water or graceful arcs over land or tiny footprints in the sand.

I meandered down the shoreline in the early a.m., for shell- and thought-gathering, searching the glassy sea for dolphin sightings or a surfside stingray migration - I took another, faster walk in the afternoon, usually with my walkperson, for exercise...

I loved the taste of salt on my lips, the smell of pina-colada sunscreen and the feel of the warmth on my skin, transforming it to glorious shades of mixed copper/bronze - I made a point to be showered and seated on the seawall to celebrate the sunset each evening... and I awarded this amazing feat (and feast) of nature with a round of applause (yay, god!), and swore never to take it for granted.

Some nights found us savoring ice cream from a local vendor in town (enough said!) and we enjoyed at least one family miniature golf excursion - we saw the same families at the hotel year after year... and I ate and drank my weight in seafood and Coronas (put de lime in de bottle and drink it all up... :-)

This became our way of marking time - some people chart the year by the last day of summer or January 1 but, to us, it was always that particular week in August. We went there to regroup and replenish and refill... as a couple, as a family and individually... and we left, knowing we had gathered enough inner resources of love and comfort and serenity to last us another year. Some of it we did holding tightly to each other and some of it we did side by side and some of it we did alone, but mission was accomplished all the same - as long as we all still considered this special time a "vacation", in some way, shape or form, it continued to fulfill our needs, in warm and secure and sometimes unpredictable ways... and I am now vowing, despite obstacles and difficulties, to make it happen in August 2008...

SONG: Lone Palm by Jimmy Buffett

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

POEM: Beach Glass by Amy Clampitt

While you walk the water's edge,
turning over concepts
I can't envision, the honking buoy
serves notice that at any time
the wind may change,
the reef-bell clatters
its treble monotone, deaf as Cassandra
to any note but warning. The ocean,
cumbered by no business more urgent
than keeping open old accounts
that never balanced,
goes on shuffling its millenniums
of quartz, granite, and basalt.
It behaves
toward the permutations of novelty--
driftwood and shipwreck, last night's
beer cans, spilt oil, the coughed-up
residue of plastic--with random
impartiality, playing catch or tag
or touch-last like a terrier,
turning the same thing over and over,
over and over. For the ocean, nothing
is beneath consideration.
The houses
of so many mussels and periwinkles
have been abandoned here, it's hopeless
to know which to salvage. Instead
I keep a lookout for beach glass--
amber of Budweiser, chrysoprase
of Almadén and Gallo, lapis
by way of (no getting around it,
I'm afraid) Phillips'
Milk of Magnesia, with now and then a rare
translucent turquoise or blurred amethyst
of no known origin.
The process
goes on forever: they came from sand,
they go back to gravel,
along with treasuries
of Murano, the buttressed
astonishments of Chartres,
which even now are readying
for being turned over and over as gravely
and gradually as an intellect
engaged in the hazardous
redefinition of structures
no one has yet looked at.

QUOTE: "Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war." ~ Loren Eiseley

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