A bullet point has been achieved on my bucket list; I am in Miami’s SoBe, visiting a dear friend, and it is everything I could have dreamed of.
After this terrible Northeast winter, with its record cold (at times a single digit-!) and snows (the filthy piles left by the snowplows taller than I am-!), the warmth, the scent of tropical blooms and the sea, the sense of summer before it’s happened where I live, all conspire to lift my sagging spirits, indeed, to melt the winter from my blood.
Vic, who flew off to attend Spring Training with his cronies a few weeks ago, solemnly promised me that I’d be flooded with that summer feeling as soon as I deplaned. I admit I didn’t fully believe him, but he was right.
Now I write this on a massive marble wrap-around terrace while my host walks her dogs. I gaze toward the city of Miami, the downtown skyline and the intracoastal waterway that empties into the sea, improbable turquoise fading to cobalt blue, massed tropical cumulus clouds, pink-tinged, piled on the horizon.
Two cruise ships inch their way into the vast deep. A cacaphony of dance music wafts from one of the vessels, DJ shouting DANCE PARTY TIL MIDNIGHT, LADIES ARE COMPED CHAMPAGNE ALL NIGHT, MAKE SOME NOISE, COZ YOU ARE ON VAAAYCATION! The ladies shriek obligingly, their voices faint on the breeze from the waterway.
I am calm, watching. At peace here in the warm.
First thing this morning, the endless, broad, white sand beach. I cannot remember the last time I had a swim in a tropical ocean. Memory buckles to admit the present. I wade out into the shallow blood warm waters, waves breaking gently against me. Immerse myself, feeling shriven, feeling saved, feeling blessed, and my entire self is subsumed into the feeling, into the sea. The huge expanse of ocean creates a muscular swell of tide and current and I move with it, content. Surrounding me, a thousand points of dazzling light, spangled, all the way to the horizon.
My friend has made this possible. My lovely friend, who is spoiling me quite rotten. She is a delight to be with. One of the most well-read and cultured women I’ve ever met, she has a style sense right out of Architectural Digest, and her home in the clouds reflects that sensibility. All gleaming marble and light, white space, unique works of art placed with her curator’s touch.
We go way back; my son went through grammar, middle, and high school with N’s children. We hung out as our children played together, and grew, and went through rites of passage, first loves, triumphs and sorrows.
We had no secrets from one another. Though our circumstances greatly differed, she was always my homegirl; like my own, hers was far from an idyllic childhood, and we bonded as sisters would. We are both survivors, and both ex-nihilo creators, no doubt informed by our early struggles.
Tonight, over a Turkish dinner in the scented evening, sharing a bottle of red, she regaled me with stories — she is, like me, a teller of stories — of her trip to Istanbul last summer, with her husband, and as she spoke, in her low, languid voice, her big blue eyes fixed on mine, I could almost see the minarets and domes, could almost hear the call to prayer.
This may be, I know, as close as I’ll ever be.
Earlier in the day we visited the Fairchild Botanic Gardens, a lush Eden currently exhibiting a series of blown glass sculptures by Chihuly, stunningly offsetting the fragrant plants, palms, and other species of trees indigenous to far-flung tropical places I have only known from books and my imagination. A butterfly garden fluttered like flowers in a breeze, tri-colored, tree-colored, sunset colored, heavenly blue, and I felt a rush that seemed to send me slipping the surly bonds of earth and all its cares and strife.
I felt it for hours, and back at N’s, the feeling lingers like a dream half remembered. Outside in the warm air, I’m remembering the pinkish clouds that pile plump as cotton balls at the vanishing point of the earth and sea, that bump lightly up against the distant towers of the city of Miami. I am serene in the tropic night. And very, very grateful.