BY JOAN ARDREY – It’s only late April, but it seems summer weather has decided to settle in early this year, bringing a premature end to another satisfyingly frenetic Boca Grande “season.”
The mounting heat causes tennis, golf and other forms of reasonably vigorous outdoor activity to lose their appeal. We retreat into our (thankfully) air-conditioned interiors, which leads to more time for reflection and introspection.
When I need a break from reading (a favorite indoor pastime) I like to take a long golf cart ride around our beautiful barrier island, the resulting breeze welcome on my heat-flushed skin. It is more peaceful now with the sense of southern sultriness. The stunningly beautiful turquoise and emerald waters which surround us never cease to calm and awe, and the timeless rituals of the many species of shorebirds charm and amuse.
The omnipresent ospreys in their nests are busy preparing their young for fledging, the sight of which prompts reflections on the life cycle of the human denizens of Boca Grande.
Many of us are retired, either fully or part-time, and have been part of the island community for years. My husband and I are fairly typical; we bought our first residence in 2003 and were “part-timers” until the financial meltdown of late 2008 prompted a full-time retirement. We didn’t begin to truly feel like authentic Boca Granders until we decided to live here for at least six months of the year. During the seven years since 2008 we have rooted ourselves here and established meaningful friendships with a wide variety of people.
I personally never thought I could be happy living out my “sunset years” in a retirement community (“Florida? Over my dead body!”), but how wrong I was.
When we first arrived, we were relative “youngsters” in our very early 60s and we became close to a number of neighbors who were then the age we are now. Watching these remarkable people age (and yes, die) has been a lesson in humility.
So much courage in the face of the inevitable losses of illness and death! Long-term, committed marriages and relationships seem to be the norm in our circle. To observe genuinely devoted couples helping each other through the sometimes harrowing trials of aging with such loyal selflessness is inspirational. And comforting. We look at them and think, maybe we will be able to summon such dignity when our time arrives.
Which brings me back to the ospreys. They return to their nests year after year, raise families, weather frightening storms, and certainly seem to be enjoying the process.
We, the human denizens of Boca Grande, should likewise embrace the natural cycle of our lives: honor those of our friends at the end of their run and welcome and encourage those newer and younger neighbors at the beginning of theirs.
Happy summer, everyone.