Today I was cut from work early (we've been slow at the restaurant since school started), so I decided to spend the hour or two waiting for my wife to get off work by reading somewhere. Usually I browse at Barnes & Noble for a few hours, but lately I've been feeling guilty shuffling up and down their corridors of books, only there to kill time.
The past few days I've been able to get out of work early enough that I can sit on the beach (it's about five minutes from work) and read until sundown. If I get tired of reading, I can put the book down and cloudwatch. Today, however, I wanted to read somewhere new. I drove to Shelter Cove (where Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort is located) and sat on the grassy embankment of the inlet there. It was very quiet, and I was able to park in a remote lot (it said "Executive Parking" but I figured it was okay as there was no one there).
I've been living near and working on Hilton Head Island for over a year now. And until this week, I never really appreciated the island. Most people probably consider if you live on or close to an island, the beach is just part of your day. And for at least some of my coworkers, that's true. But not for me. I live only 15-20 minutes from a public beach, and yet in a year I've visited it less than ten times. The beach itself is not on my way to work. I have to dress up nicely for work and I live half an hour away, so I don't go to the beach prior to my shift. And I don't go afterwards because by that point it's too dark. And I don't go on my days off because, well, I drive to the island six days a week, and the last thing I want to do on my day off is drive back to it. But I've been able to appreciate Hilton Head this last week. I was able to watch the sun set and listen to the tide rush to the shore. To see the waves of sand glide along the beach in the wind. To witness the seagulls scan the shore for food from tourists. And, funny enough, it finally occurred to me how lucky I was. How lucky that I'm able to walk barefoot in my work clothes in the sand and witness beauty. How often does one get to do that? I live in an extraordinary time in an extraordinary place, and I thank God that I can do that every day.
The above paragraph sounds a little hokey when read aloud to myself, but I really did feel that way, and maybe you all can get something out of it. I spent a whole year paying attention to only what's along the way to work: gas stations, chain restaurants, a failing mall, annoying tourist shops. But when I went off the beaten path, took a wrong turn, and decided "What the hey? I'll check this place out," I discovered why people choose to live here.
Now do I want to live in Hilton Head for the rest of my life? No. I want to be in a college town. I want to be around arts and the liberal sciences. I want to walk in coffee shops with people talking about the latest music or debating philosophy. I want to go to shows in dank studios, and be able to choose between having a paella or Chicago-style pizza (instead of burgers or subs). My place is not here in HH, but now I get it. I understand why people choose to live here.
Drawing I did of this creepy girl you meet in Ocarina of Time. She's not as weird looking in the game as she is here, but I still remember her freaking me out. If you want to see what I'm talking about, check out the video here at 2:46.