Summer, 1926. Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley take refuge from the blazing heat of Paris on a villa in the south of France. They swim and play bridge, and drink gin with abandon. (Mrs. Hemingway, a novel by Naomi Wood)
Summer, 2021. Taking mid-afternoon refuge on the deck once again. An ocean breeze, a book, and a little Pinot Gris to satisfy the weekend.
To your health, happiness, and good fortune, friends.
“You were away for quite awhile, Syl. Are you well-rested?”
“Not at all. I’m exhausted. Two weeks of caregiving and then some self-care of the best kind.”
“I’m happy that you recognize the need to care for yourself. However, wherever, whenever, and with whom you choose to refuel are secondary to the need. Good for you.”
Sylvia took care of an aging family friend and realized the fragility of life. She learned that tough love is still love.
She decompressed on the beach, walked the shore, bid farewell to the days as she watched the sunsets, and slept soundly. She even managed a delicious dream or two.
Meeting with both old and new friends who shared their stories, she became acutely aware of her insecurity but also extremely cognizant of that which set her apart from others. Early morning walks and play with canine companions, adventurous rides on a jet ski enjoying the vastness of Lake Michigan, and sipping wine and swapping stories, Sylvia then shared with Erma the greatest lesson of all – the epiphany she had amidst the sunflowers. “I am deeply rooted in vulnerabilities – we all are – and in them, I’ve found my gifts. I’ll let you decide for yourself what they are, Erma. I know what’s inside.” ****************
There’s something in this world that makes you happy– find it; do it; breathe it in; let it wash over you; simply hold it; stare at it; bask in it; enjoy it; keep it to yourself. Or, share it. It’s the beginning ofsomething – at least another glorious summer’s day. I’m starting to recognize my happy, and I wish the same for you.
The start to summer has Sylvia and Erma discussing the joys and ravages of basking in the sun, literally and figuratively.
Sylvia: Sun on my face. Sand between my toes. Fresh ocean air.
Erma: Sweat dripping from my brow. Sand in my car. The lingering taste of salt in my mouth.
Sylvia: Long walks enjoying plush, verdant paths. Sun-kissed cheeks. Evening cocktails on the patio.
Erma: Bees and bug bites. Crow’s feet and weathered skin. Sugary spills and the ensuing march of ants.
“Well, aren’t you the definition of a curmudgeon? A true crank,” remarks Sylvia.
Erma, tongue-in-cheek and with her signature sarcastic tone, lobs back, “Yep, that’s me. Ageless and timeless, my dear.”
“What? Ageless? Timeless? Those choice words are used to describe a woman’s looks,” Sylvia counters.
Erma, ever the teacher and always poised to debunk her younger friend’s perceptions, staves off any further commentary in one thought-provoking and accurate analysis. “Who says that ageless and timeless have anything to do with looks? Both are so much more!”
“She tells her story in her face. When her life comes to an end, she can only hope that others see what she aspired to – a life well-lived and well-loved with some very juicy parts that kept her going.” ~ K. Morgan
She never really liked the beach, not during the summer anyway. Despite having grown up in a quaint, New England seaside village, she didn’t care for the mess of it, the lugging of paraphernalia that would end up either sand-laden or salt-water soaked, and on most visits to the beach, both; and she absolutely never relished the idea of baking in the sun, clad in an uncomfortable and unforgiving swimsuit while under the seemingly critical eyes of passersby. But now for some reason, for many reasons that rest deep within her in fact, she finds solace on the shore, dreams in the clouds, and love- yes, love- of nature, herself, and the stories she can only conjure as she lies on her stomach on the comfortably worn-in cotton throw that has seen its day at home but is only just beginning to gain new purpose and life from her recent sojourns to the ocean.
Sylvia, half asleep in the late afternoon August sun and being lulled by the gentle rhythm of lapping waves upon the shore, smiles as she feels his fingertips on the small of her back. She stirs slightly but not in a way evident to him. She doesn’t really want him to know that he has awakened her, aroused something inside of her that for the moment she wants to keep for herself. He’ll know soon enough.
She inhales fully. Holds her breath. Perhaps he won’t notice the goosebumps that she feels on the back of her neck and the tops of her thighs. He touches her again, this time with a full, gentle yet purposeful, open hand. He slides his hand from the small of her back, over her backside, and between her legs. With a long, slow exhale, she quivers. Although her eyes remain closed and her head in the clouds, she is transported and he knows it. And with the next gentle crash of waves upon the shore, his hands still at home on her inner thighs, he leans over her, brushes the hair off the back of her neck, and exacts the most intoxicating mixture of nibbling and sucking of the sun-kissed nape he has been craving.
The vastness of the beach and the ocean; the strength and rhythm of the waves; the intensity of the afternoon sun; all of it at once encapsulates the lovers. The moment his lips touch the back of her neck, all of her surroundings disappear. Sylvia is nowhere, and she does not long to be anywhere else. The gentleman and gentle man of equal age and intellect, whose eyes saw a vacancy that yearned to be filled years ago, reads her mind and body, as easily and excitedly as she has read her copy of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice each long summer since it was first introduced to her three decades ago. Time and place are of little consequence at that moment. His touch, his lips, and every fiber of her being are in sync. And with the next wave, Sylvia is on her back and he, at her unspoken but most deliberate urging, has come to rest atop her, intertwined and superbly fitted in all the right places. Sylvia, arms outstretched, happily surrenders. With his body almost rooted in hers and while his toes grow more deeply implanted in the sand, he sees under him a woman who completely adores and welcomes the accompanying mess from this day at the beach.
“Sylvia, Sylvia. Wake up. You’ve been daydreaming again. Come down from the clouds- at least for today.”
Wishes for a great day -a day full of life’s blessings and summer’s abundance. My wish is for time to pass a bit more slowly; however, if that wish does not come true and it appears that it may not based upon past performances by Father Time, spend it doing what makes you happy. And while you’re at it, make a good wish and help spin a tale for someone else.