Armchair Peregrinations


November 8, 1998

The first real cold of the season has been unleashed on the Lowcountry. It was 39 degrees night before last and today it felt like December. The cold won't last long, though, and it will soon be warming up and milder, just great fall weather to be out and about in.

Annette had some wonderful lines in her description of November, in the introduction to her latest journal entries at Blackberry Creek: November is the time when we become reacquainted with the armature of nature, the branches, twigs, and trunks that have been hidden by foliage since spring. There is beauty in those clean lines. Where there were billows of leaves a month ago, there is now sculpture of the most magnificent sort.

*****

While looking out my window to see if the mail truck had arrived at the apartment mailbox area yesterday, I watched in momentary fascination, and with a bit of morbid introspection, an elderly resident of the complex make his way to the mailbox with the aid of an aluminum walker. Step by step he neared his destination. I studied the slow, and perhaps even painful, movements he made for a few minutes, unable to quickly take away my gaze. "I hope I don't get like that," I said to myself. I don't want to get old, no one does unless he's just plain tired of living and wants to exit this earthly existence. But the old man with he walker made me only too aware of time's passage, of long-lost youth, and also of all the infirmities that can come with age. I admire people who doggedly carry on, up to a point. I just don't want to be an old, frail, bent-over man. I can't imagine myself as one.

A few hours later I was at Folly Beach, walking down a stretch of low-tide beach, with a cool wind in my face. Cold enough to be bracing and fresh, as early autumn beach days often are here. Large swells rolled toward shore, due probably to the winds of tropical system Mitch, out over the Atlantic past Florida after its devastating sweep through Central America as a hurricane and tropical storm earlier in the week. I stopped for a few minutes at the Washout where the waves are generally biggest and where surfers have gathered for decades. There the waves rose up 6-10 feet and crashed ashore in mighty bursts of energy. The youthful surfers in their wetsuits were charging down quickly-forming chutes and having a great surfing day. The waves are seldom this high, even at the Washout. Quick, agile and miniature microcosms of the potent energy in the waves, some of them played those surfboards like fine instruments as their well-tuned movements prolonged the ride on the surf.

The slow steps of the old man, aging personified, contrasted with the lightning-quick moves of young surfers, full of life and pent-up energy. I think if people could be young again, this is what they'd want most -- the healthy, limber graceful movements of energized youth, living forever in the sun and surf.


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