Friday, February 7th, was our 23rd wedding anniversary. Since that walk with my old friend Dave, I have been starting my day with a positive thought. February 7th the quote was from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the other of The Little Prince. Back in college, this book was my bible. I kept a small beat up paperback copy in my backpack and often referred to the little prince’s wisdom on life, love, and friendship. Ten years later, when my daughters were born, I bought a hardcover copy for them.
Experience shows that love does not consist in gazing at each but in looking together in the same direction.
The author of my little inspirational book adds this: “Today I will sit down with the love of my life and plan our next adventure.” Now I can’t say my husband and I have always gazed in the same direction. We’ve known each other for thirty-two years, for twenty-three of them we’ve been married. Yes, we dated for nine years. Sometimes off, most times on. I’m glad we took our time. Marriage is difficult, parenting is hard. It could wait until we were in our thirties. In the meantime we had adventures to attend to. I backpacked through Europe, he lived in New Zealand. Together and solo I traveled to forty-five states. So today’s little nugget of advice was not hard to follow. As my friend Mary Jane says, “there are no coincidences.”
“I am looking for friends. What does that mean — tame?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”
“To establish ties?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”
We were visiting new friends on Sanibel Island, a new place for us. We have traveled a large swath of Florida but neither one of us had made it to Sanibel. We heard it was beautiful, a shell collector’s paradise. The rumors were true. It is beautiful.
Our accommodations were lovely, a large tent nestled beside our new friends’ RV. It was the last weekend of their six week escape from the Vermont winter. We hit it off immediately.
We did some walking but most of our time was spent biking around this lovely island. Bike trails are everywhere. This is the Florida I envisioned when we moved here. We spent a lot of time talking about our plans for the future. We all need to continue to work for several years to come.
At an office I once worked in, a UPS man I became friendly with breezed past my desk one day, all agitated and crabby. I asked, “How you doing Dan?”
“Shitty day,” he replied.
It was close to Christmas. He was working ten hour days or longer. We commiserated, then he said, “Oh well, whatta are ya gonna do? I’ll be working until the day before I die.”
Our new friends were like-minded individuals. We all agreed that if we were going to work until the day before we died, it was going to be doing something we enjoyed. I, of course, am determined to never set foot in a cubicle again. Whatever it takes, shutting the TV down and ridding ourselves of the cable bill, downsizing, disposing of unneccesary possessions and not replacing them, spending less money. Anything to live the life we want. Traveling, meeting new people, having more time. Time is of the essence. It seems once you reach your fifties you begin to realize time is your most valuable asset. Over our weekend spent on bikes and walking beaches, we learned we had a lot in common.
“Grown-ups love figures… When you tell them you’ve made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies? ” Instead they demand “How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? ” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”
We biked to Tarpon Bay where on March 19, 1885, William H. Wood caught a 5’9″ Tarpon “Silver King” weighing in at 93 pounds. It took him 26 & 1/2 minutes to reel in the first recorded big game fish caught with a rod and reel, thus launching South Florida’s world-wide reputation for game fishing.
We stopped at an antique store where we could have spent hours but agreed that after unloading ourselves of these kinds of possessions, we certainly didn’t want to start accumulating more of them. I did have a hard time not purchasing the little Tappan boys. I vividly remember them sitting in their slots on the stove in my childhood kitchen in Warwick, Rhode Island. I loved those guys. But I moved on, buying nothing. I already had the weekend’s souvenir. New friends.
“Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me…”
“It is much more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then you are indeed a man of true wisdom.
“What matters most are the simple pleasures so abundant that we can all enjoy them…Happiness doesn’t lie in the objects we gather around us. To find it, all we need to do is open our eyes.”
On Sunday, we stopped by the farmer’s market. We were all fascinated with the smokin’ entrpreneur who was selling smoked ribs, chicken, and pulled pork. He sets up his smoking operation early in the morning before his customers arrive. A line begins to form by ten-thirty, the food won’t be ready until eleven. He sells out early, cash in his pocket. We love the concept of this, moving from farmers’ market to fairs, a portable business on the weekends that earns enough money to give you the rest of week to do the things you love to do. We spent a good part of our time together discussing these ideas. We also like the idea of a food truck. This idea is getting bounced around a lot with certain like-minded people I know. My friend Mary Jane, the woman who firmly believes there are no coincidences in life, likes it too. She and I have talked about it at great length.
Other people think we’re nuts, but I no longer care about other people. I don’t think I ever did.
“I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.”
On Sunday we drove to Captiva, an even more stunning place. It reminded me of the Caribbean islands I have visited, without the poverty. As far as I could see, there isn’t even a middle class here. But it is a lovely place indeed.
I could live here. If I had a million dollars. But that would only get me the house, and a small one at that. I would need more than a million dollars to actually live here. So unless I sell screenplay rights to Tom Hanks, I will be satisfied knowing Captiva is there for me to visit, with it’s beautiful little village, its beaches, and its dolphins that are very hard to capture with an IPhone.
“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”
Like the thousands of birds I saw this weekend, and along Alligator Alley, on the beaches and along the bike trails, I would rather be free to roam, to visit more beautiful places like Sanibel and Captiva.
At this stage in my life, I don’t need a house that could get blown away in a hurricane. I am traveling light, enjoying new places and new friends. Friends who are also questioning the ideas of aging, retirement, and how to live life. We are looking towards the future, trying new things, trying not to sweat the details, taking one day at a time. We all reach the end at some point, it’s the journey that matters. One day at a time, each and every day.
“All grown-ups were once children… but only a few of them remember it.”
If you haven’t ever read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, check it out.