November 1, 2014

Here & Now

Spry. it’s a perfectly good word, really, unless applied—as a compliment—by a 30-something person of the female persuasion to her ever-so-slightly more mature friend. Who happens to be you. Now, I’m not asking for firecracker, or even Energizer Bunny, but what’s so wrong with dynamic or effervescent?

My Encarta dictionary doesn’t sugarcoat it: Spry, adj.—markedly brisk and active, especially at an advanced age”(gee, thanks).But wait, it gets worse:Synonym: alert.” As in, I presume: “Karen appears more alert today” (thanks again).

 

Dear Mr. Webster

Here along the Gulfshore, we have a simple solution to this problem, which I plan to forward along to Mr. Encarta with cc’s to Mr. Merriam and Mr. Webster: just add an “e” to the end of every unsavory word for instant glamour and sex appeal (see Olde Naples). Look at the dozens of real estate properties here, from gazillion-
dollar gated communities to RV parks, with names ending in Pointe. Never mind that pointe (a French word) does not reflect geographic position, but rather the tips of one’s toes, as in ballet.

It’s a well-known fact: foreign words just sound sexier. Where would you rather live: Rat’s Mouth or Boca Raton? And consider Pazzo! Here in Naples (where we prefer Italian and French) Pazzo! means Trendy Place to Dine on Fifth Avenue South. Who cares that in Italy it means “insane person?”

A little prudent renaming, taking the necessary liberties with “e’s” and foreign languages, will better reflect our sophistication here in Paradise, don’t you think? Henceforth, for example, we’ll send our discards to the Lande Fille. Which doesn’t totally resolve the spry problem, because “spry” in French is alerte.

 

The Meaning of Life

All this spry talk has me thinking about Life. That’s Jeffry Life, M.D., inventor of some kind of age-defying system called Cenegenics. If you’re prone to flipping through airline in-flight magazines, you may not know his name—or his face, for that matter—but you certainly will remember his body. He’s the hunk in jeans and no shirt over the six-pack abs below the headline, “How Does This 69-Year-Old Doctor Have the Body of a 30- Year-Old?” There’s a “before” picture of the good doctor at 57, when he was quite squishy of midsection. He looks worried. The new, improved, Cenegenicated Dr. Life exudes confidence and machismo. Trust me—“spry” does not come to mind.

The ad says a good percentage of his clients are also doctors. I’m not a doctor, but as we have already determined, I am rolling right along in the opposite direction of 40—and you know how time flies when you’re having fun. I’m visualizing my face atop the female equivalent of this perfect being a few years down the road. LXR Luxury Resorts and Hotels, which operates South Seas Island Resort on Captiva and Naples Grande Beach Resort—notice the “e”—offers their convention groups “Cenegenics-certified lifestyle cuisine.” Can’t hurt to try. 

Dr. Life swears that’s his real name, and I’m not doubting it. I believe in the power of names. Consider Naples physician Gregory Paine (with an “e”). His specialty, if you really need to ask, is pain management.

 

Christine Bird’s Birds

My dear friend Christine Bird seemed predestined to paint—what else?—birds. I want to tell you about her because she passed away last year, way too young. I met her at Blind Pass, long before that deep, narrow channel between Sanibel and Captiva got choked with sand, closing the passage and making the two islands one. On that day, while I was tossing big whelks into my beach bag, this gorgeous 20-something blonde was sifting soft white sand through her fingers, exposing tiny jewels no bigger than a baby’s thumbnail. We connected.

In the years after she taught me the fine art of shelling, we saw each other through the craziness of young womanhood … loves found and lost, marriage, babies, divorces and the joys of parenting teenagers. Chris was an artist on the beach; I was a high-powered executive in the big city. I moved to the beach to pursue the arts, and she moved to Washington, D.C. and became a high-powered executive. Then she was diagnosed with cancer.

During the three short months she tried to come to terms with leaving her 19-year-old child behind, she retreated in her memories to her Sanibel/Captiva days: finding the perfect lemon pectin shell at Blind Pass, meeting movers and shakers from Capitol Hill while waiting tables at the Mucky Duck, drawing sandpipers and sanderlings; finally returning with her young son to sail the back bays aboard Mick Gurley’s 35-foot charter sloop, New Moon. When the publishers of Times of the Islands magazine learned of her illness, they shipped three years of issues to her in Washington, D.C. and wouldn’t even accept reimbursement for the postage.

Christine Bird spent her last weeks turning those pages, soaking in the art and stories, and walking, in her memories, the beaches she loved. Recently, Chris took her final sail aboard New Moon. Her son, Tyler, and a dozen loved ones scattered her ashes in the aquamarine waters of Redfish Pass in the presence of a large pod of dolphins. It was one of those perfect blue-sky days that make this place Paradise, with white cotton candy clouds reflected in seas as smooth as glass.

Christine Bird, painter of birds, has come home. How fitting that this summer, the long-awaited, $3 million dredging project will be complete and jeweled shells will wash up on Blind Pass again. How fitting, also, that opening ceremonies will honor Captiva resident Alison Hagerup, beloved administrator of the Captiva Erosion Prevention District, who was largely responsible for making it happen. We lost her to cancer last year, too.

I’ve been giving it some thought, and being spry is pretty wonderful after all.

Enjoy the sweet month of April. Take a sail under blue skies and cotton candy clouds. Celebrate life, including the renewal of sea and bird life at Blind Pass. And always, savor the moment.