Mrs. T and I are holed up on Sanibel Island, off the coast of south Florida. I’m getting over a lingering cold, so we did as little as possible last week. I did contrive to see and review a play on the mainland, but mostly we slept late, walked on the beach, read books, and watched movies, taking time out each evening to see the sun set. I spent several blissful hours revisiting two beloved novels by William Maxwell, They Came Like Swallows and The Folded Leaf. Mrs. T cooked, I shopped and did the dishes, and a good time was had by all.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started taking vacations for the first time in my life. I suspect it’s no coincidence that I’d never seen the sun set until then. Like so many things discovered in adulthood, sunsets remain a novelty to me, one that is permanently fresh and self-renewing. Each one is different, sometimes subtly and sometimes outrageously, and I never tire of standing beside Mrs. T and watching the golden ball slide out of sight, thinking as its brilliant light dies away of the lovely little poem by Charles Cotton that Benjamin Britten set in his Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings: The day’s grown old; the fainting sun/Has but a little way to run,/And yet his steeds, with all his skill,/Scarce lug the chariot down the hill.
I have quite a bit more on my plate this week than last. In addition to Friday’s Wall Street Journal drama column, I’ll be writing essays about Louis Jordan and Morten Lauridsen, a juxtaposition that promises to keep me hopping. But at least I’ll be doing my hopping here, which makes all the difference. We can see the Gulf of Mexico from the living room of our little cottage, and both of us regard that view as the purest of luxuries. Rain or shine, it’s the most beautiful sight and sound imaginable. Yes, I have to sing for my supper, for this is, after all, a working vacation (I rarely take any other kind). Still, I don’t know when I’ve been happier, nor can I imagine a time that will be better than this.
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Philip Langridge sings the “Pastoral” from Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, accompanied by Frank Lloyd, Steuart Bedford, and the English Chamber Orchestra: