Tybee Island, Georgia.
Jeanne and I decided to get up and run 10 kilometers this morning. She shuffled through the covers to wake me up at around 6:30 a.m. I had been dreaming of a time in the not-too-distant future when people started distrusting meteorologists and started listening to and interpreting the patterns of bird calls to predict the weather. It seemed like a futuristic science fiction novel in which common people begin to whisper conspiratorially that we must return to the ancient ways and rebel against soul-sucking technology. I had been leaning by a window with opened shutters listening to the birds outside my window when I suddenly felt someone shuffling through the covers, jabbing me awake. “Wake up, Mel. It’s 6:30.”
Still groggy, I slapped on my running clothes, silently cursing my recent decision to run a half-marathon in December. We slipped outside of our beachfront hotel room. We stood by the front of sign in front of the hotel on Butler Avenue, the main street that winds along the coast of Tybee Island. I caught a glimpse of the sky, still dark, but slightly tinted with a pink glow, the beginnings of a beach sunrise. Jeanne must have seen it too, because she suddenly said, “This is gonna be a good run.”
Funny how the sky can change your mind about things.
As we stretched, I looked at the sign that said “DeSoto Beachfront Hotel: Tybee Island’s only beachfront hotel! Come enjoy our beachfront pool.” Guess they wanted you to know the hotel was on the beach front.
We started jogging on a gravel path that wound around all sorts of old beachfront homes, the kind of unpretentious, cheerful houses dripping with polite Southern charm that you imagine have creaky floorboards and rusty hinges. The paint is chipped, following years of being salted by the sea and warmed by the Georgian sun. They are draped and shadowed by oak, sycamore and sugarberry trees.
The streets crossing this lone gravel path have names like Anderson and Campbell and I imagine small clans and families settling in these houses by the sea. I imagine barbecues and house parties and weddings. When we passed through Savannah yesterday, we passed Liberty Avenue, an impressive boulevard sheathed in a canopy of oak and Spanish moss, with sentinels of enormous mansions of colonnades and wraparound porches lining the street. Jeanne commented on the history of the boulevard, saying, “These houses saw Sherman.”
We are separated only by two centuries.
The thing I noticed about Tybee Island is that there are lots of conversation areas. It’s as if this island was discovered and settled solely for the purpose of conversation in mind. Wooden park benches, deck chairs, cafe tables in patios lined with tiki torches and Chinese lanterns. Lots of intimate, well-worn spaces gradually carved out by the gentle erosion of time. I noticed a pair of wooden deck chairs perched on a dock that nestled its way through a swamp of tall sawgrass. Even trailers of row boats and skiffs lining the driveways evoked images of friends, families and lovers sharing hazy sundrenched days together. I do love how the sea breeze and sand seem to conspire to cling to everything. The blades of grass, the gravel, half-submerged fences by the sea, my pockets, my hair, my clothes.
The gravel has ended and we have made our way back to the main drag.
We raced the fences lining Butler Avenue, passing a row of churches that suddenly seemed brighter. Jeanne pointed to a whitewashed, wooden building with a sign that said “The Optimist Club. We wish you a safe and prosperous stay.”
“Wonder where the Cynics Club is.”
“Across the street.”
“I imagine it’s easy to be an optimist when you wake up to the sunrise every morning.”
“Yeah, especially a sunrise on the beach.”
I read a caution sign that said: Slow Church Zone. I laughed.
I saw a flock of seagulls escape and veer off through the trees, rising and disappearing into the sky. We passed through a grove of trees, and even through my headphones I could hear cicadas screaming for my attention. They overpowered the electric guitar and drums blasting through my iPod.
I felt a sudden burst of energy. I suddenly remembered my meal from the other night, which included a cilantro potato salad. I thought of all those carbohydrates and felt an affectionate surge of gratitude toward my dinner last night. “Thank you, potato salad,” I cheered out of nowhere. I looked over at Jeanne. She is oblivious to my triumphant shout to potato salad, fully absorbed in her own solitude, set to the music of her iPod.
We are on the homestretch. I see our beachfront hotel with the beachfront pool by the beachfront sign in the distance. My feet are rebelling, grumbling and interrogating me as to why I haven’t bought thicker socks. But my endorphins are in ecstasy.
This was a good run.