Thursday, April 12, 2012

Life Flight?

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.


  1. An interesting post for the day and I do love your photos, but as you know, you couldn't pay me to spend any time in Florida any more!! I don't need to have/live with those reminders of old age in such droves as you find there! So, move on to more exciting places once you've said goodbye to your friend. Enjoy every moment!

  2. This post evokes such a range of different emotions in me it's hard to describe them all. I imagine it felt the same way to you only more so when you were writing it. The beginning is so incredibly poignant, with the acknowledgment that you and your friend would most likely never see each other in this life again. When it comes to it, none of us really knows if there is another one--and there is always that chess master who one of these days, sooner or later, is inevitably going to win.

    But then your post moves upward from there, which is an accomplishment in itself. It often seems that somehow you have found the secret of eternal youth. I wish I could say the same about myself. Sometimes I think I have found it but just don't know it.

  3. I'm glad to have met you when you got outta there! We live in a 55 plus community and much of what you said resonates clearly in my befuddled mind. However, you are some years younger and stronger and clearer in the head and have yens which remain of more importance than mine. Even saying that, though, and although I love my yen of golf, it does seem as though we're a bunch of old folks waiting to die. One way to counter such feelings is to travel - if not far, then often. And within an hour or two of home, Florida offers many exotic and exciting sights to see and experience and what's especially nice is the weather most often cooperates in such excursions so that they can be enjoyed year round.

    I'm hoping that you'll find another occasion to land in Ocala which will offer us another more extended opportunity to discuss the important things in life and cook up solutions to the problems boiling amidst the exigencies of our lives!

    My best wishes as you continue your journey north and west!

  4. Hi Lee! Just wanted to stop in and wish you well. You're probably in D.C. by now, or close! Hope you're having a good time. Not much new here other than a nice visit with some of our kids and grandkids and one great-grandson! The political situation, which seems to be impervious to intelligence or reason or integrity if worrisome. I used to think it wasn't all that important who was elected president but that was a terrible mistake. It's extremely important. If for nothing else than all the positions a new president must fill...and judges he/she appoints...and for the direction toward which he/she points our country. Romney, who would seem to be the GOP candidate, is without character, integrity or morals. He lies as a matter of course. He panders to the lowest scumbags on the religious right. He would be a disaster from which we may never recover.

    Having said all that, I'll be looking forward to hearing that you've wended your way safely home. Please greet Sheryl when you arrive in the beautiful state of Oregon!