Whenever Mrs. T and I stay on Florida’s Sanibel Island, we make a point of watching the sun go down each evening. It wasn’t until well into adulthood that I saw my first sunset, and watching a good one while standing on a patio located a few hundred yards from the Gulf of Mexico is at least as pleasing a spectacle as spending a few minutes standing in front of a great painting hanging in a museum.
All things must pass, good and bad alike, and so the two of us sighed deeply as we watched the sun set on Friday, knowing that we’d be leaving Sanibel the following morning, not to return for at least another year. Afterward we drove to Doc Ford’s to eat one last meal of Yucatan shrimp, then returned to our seaside cottage in a frame of mind for which “wistful” isn’t a sufficiently strong word.
We drove the next morning from Sanibel to Winter Park, another of our regular destinations, where I’ll be spending the next three weeks in residence at Rollins College’s Winter Park Institute, under whose welcoming auspices, among other things, I wrote the first draft of Satchmo at the Waldorf and a good-sized portion of Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington.
Like its predecessors, this stay won’t be a holiday: I shared a stage with Morten Lauridsen yesterday afternoon, and on February 4 I’ll be giving a public lecture called “Duke Ellington: The Man Behind the Mask.” I also plan to work on another play while I’m here. In between these events, I’ll be seeing shows elsewhere in Florida, and I’ll also be flying up to New York to pay a couple of visits to Broadway and help out at rehearsals for the off-Broadway transfer of Satchmo at the Waldorf, which starts preview performances on February 15. Hence my calendar will likely be too crowded to see very many sunsets, with or without Mrs. T. We’ll have to settle for our memories of Sanibel, a place so miraculously peaceful that it often pops into our minds throughout the rest of the year.
For New Yorkers, tranquility is always at a premium. On Sanibel, it comes unbidden each evening, just before the sun starts to slide behind the horizon, leaving quiet darkness in its wake. I can never see that happen often enough.