Thursday, April 12, 2012
I have started the first leg of my trip to the East Coast and am writing today from Sanibel Island, Florida where my friend Stephen lives. We met years ago in the 1980s in Astoria and over the subsequent years have occasionally fished together and, of course, stayed current about seminal personal events. Our conversation has been overloaded, as expected, with tales of nostalgia about exotic places we visited when we were younger, past mutual acquaintances and various key moments of joy, pain and bravado. Yesterday as we crossed the causeway from the mainland to the island, I said finally what we both knew, namely that most likely we would never see one another again after I depart on Saturday. This circumstance required no explanation since his lack of mobility makes travel almost impossible and my intense desire to visit other places before the sand runs out of the hourglass is overwhelming.
While Stephen is at the doctor, I look out on the street and paths in front of the coffee shop I am sitting, I watch flocks of the residual "snowbirds" and vacationers from the Northeast passing by, who will soon fly north as the heat and quantity of insects begin to intensify. I see many permanent residents, too, tan-skinned and grey-haired, who have now chosen to stay and "tough it out" in the sunshine. They have added up their accumulated wealth and the many days of their lives and deposited their booty here in waterfront homes, boats and golf course memberships. When I am in Bend sitting at the tea shop, which is a hangout for smarter high school kids and college students, there is a hopeful, idealistic and infectious energy. I know clearly I am a ripened apple among these budding flowers, but it rarely matters to me. It may be self-deception, but I sense my once-bright skin and firm shape and prefer to keep them that way in my imagination.
In contrast, here in Sanibel where the word "senior" pervades the air like the vapors from a skywriter, it is harder for me to forget. Many of these folks appear as a distorted mirror of myself. They bicycle, play tennis, eat right, take their pills and tell yarns of the past. I'm sure they see all the palm trees, tropical plants, azure water and golden yellow warmth as their Eden before the end. I know my friend does. I don't begrudge submission to accept this type of heaven on earth. Yet, I am reminded of animals in a zoo, well- fed, safe, good medical treatment and self-contained in a gated community of others of their species. Maybe I am of a different breed.
I'm not ready to come in out of the cold, am a restless sort and hope to continue seeking adventure for quite some time. I am crystal clear about the old adage, "No matter how much you try, no one comes out of life alive." Someday I'll be in my endgame. Years ago I was spellbound by the famous Ingmar Bergman film, The Seventh Seal, in which Death plays the character of a mischievous but excellent chess player, I, like the knight who survives the Crusades only to be confronted by the ever-present master and is rewarded with life as long as he stays ahead, consider myself also a formidable opponent to the Reaper. I know some secret moves and I'll share one of them with you today. Vitality can be found on the road. So soon, I'll be outa here.