Mrs. T and I departed Florida’s Sanibel Island on Saturday and are now on Siesta Key, another island not far from Sarasota, where I’ll be reviewing a show and giving daily thanks that I’m not where it’s cold and damp.
We made the most of our final week on Sanibel, walking on the beach, taking two daytime cruises, going to an excellent concert by the Amphion String Quartet (about which more tomorrow), watching Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, Max Ophüls’ 1948 film version of Stefan Zweig’s Letter from an Unknown Woman, and the season premiere of Justified, eating Yucatan Shrimp one last time at Doc Ford’s, and gazing raptly at the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen in my life. (I also wrote five pieces and gave a talk, proving that it’s possible to simultaneously work hard and have a good time.)
The intensity of that sunset reminded me of two of the most beautiful days of my life. They took place during my 2012 stay at the MacDowell Colony, and I wrote about them at the time with a sense of wonder that I can still feel long after the fact:
I made a random turn onto a tree-lined road, and all at once I knew where I was. On my left was a fenced-off hill, and just beyond the fence were tombstones. I had come to the half-forgotten cemetery that inspired Thornton Wilder to write the graveyard scene of Our Town….
No sooner did I stumble across the tombstone of Samuel Stanton four years ago than I knew that Thornton Wilder had almost certainly stood where I was standing, for one of the characters in Our Town is a desperately unhappy church organist named Simon Stimson. It took me a few minutes to find the spot, and when I did, I stood in silence for a long time, gazing at the stone.
I sat on the ground to take a picture of Samuel Stanton’s grave. I haven’t been in a cemetery since my mother died, I thought. But this time I didn’t cry. Instead I sat in the afternoon sunshine and remembered the piercing question that Emily Webb asks at the end of Our Town: “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?–every, every minute?”
To which the Stage Manager replies, gently but inexorably, “The saints and poets, maybe–they do some.”
I vowed to do my best to be present for each and every moment of my life, knowing even as the words formed in my head that it is in the nature of such vows to be broken. Then I walked down the hill to my car and drove back to the MacDowell Colony, there to rejoin my friends and resume my work.
I remembered that vow as Mrs. T and I watched the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico, and whispered to myself, I know that I am happy right now. So I was, and so I still am, even though the causeway to Sanibel disappeared in our rear-view mirror two days ago. Not only is Siesta Key is almost as beautiful as Sanibel Island, but I believe deeply in the importance—the necessity, really—of getting the most out of each day as it comes. That is, of course, a counsel of perfection, but I find it quite a bit easier to follow when the sun shines brightly.
Tomorrow I fly up to New York to see three shows on and off Broadway, and on Thursday I return to Florida. I’m very much looking forward to seeing those shows and the friends with whom I’ll be seeing them, and I know, too, that I’ll be glad to spend a couple of nights in our art-filled New York apartment. There, too, will I seek to seize the day, though I know that I won’t be truly happy until I am once again where my heart is.
UPDATE: My flight to New York has already been canceled because of the approaching blizzard. Suits me just fine!