A healing Spring Break

Published 4:00 pm Friday, March 18, 2022

Ole Miss’ Spring Break stirred thoughts of a much-needed therapeutic respite of mine a few years ago.

After numerous medical procedures, five surgeries, severe eye issues, early retirement, Scottish fiancée breaking our engagement shortly before moving to Scotland forever – I badly needed a quaint, remote, and familiar sanctuary for a Spring refuge!

That Sunday, while waiting to board the ferry that would take us to Iles d’ Renaud, a small island off the Southern coast of France in the Gulf of Lion, I noticed her.  She was petite, wearing a white cotton sundress, sandals, a wide-brimmed straw hat and oversized sunglasses.  She was beautiful and exuded an air of class that was almost palpable. 

She stood by the railing as we boated the fifteen minutes or so to the island, resting her arms on the top rail.  The day was hot, clear, not a cloud in the sky.  The Mediterranean Sea was shallow in this area, no deeper than twenty feet, and the white sand bottom could be seen shimmering below in the luminous, emerald, green water.  She stared out at nothing, never moving from her position, or speaking to anyone.  She seemed composed, calm, confident, like someone who had weathered more than one storm and been tempered by the experience.  Was she running from something, someone, or simply wanting to get away from the world for a while, to rest, heal, like me? 

At one point in the crossing, she removed her hat, sunglasses, pressed her face into the wind, and let the sea breeze caress her lovely face.  As her long, gorgeous hair tumbled from under her hat in bouncing waves, she shook it out, and the sun caught her vibrant red hair setting it ablaze, framing her delicate, fair face like a work of art.  Even from a distance I could see that her gorgeous eyes were as green as the water that surrounded us, and twice as deep.  It was difficult not to stare, but that was the extent of it – I wanted only to be alone, lie on the beach, soak up sun, drink lots of cold, local beer, listen to the surf methodically roll on, off the bleached-white sand of this earthly heaven, and restore my being, my soul.

It was swell being back on Iles d’ Renaud after a week there for the Marseille, Grand Prix de France F-1 Race many years ago.  The island was off the tourist beat, reservations had to be received a year in advance, and a few days or weeks visit was quite pricey. The entire island was only twelve miles long, four miles at the widest point, and guests could stay either in the large, elegant hotel or one of the charming huts located amongst the palm trees twenty paces from the beach.  

Over the following days we had occasionally exchanged smiles and a “Hey,” “Bonjour,” once as we passed each other walking in the surf. However, my only companion for the week had been a cooler of ice cold Kronenbourg, some Guinness Extra Stout, was tanned, felt terrific, rested, and Saturday, my last day on the island, was especially pleasant.  

Needing to catch a plane the next day out of Marseille and looking forward to getting back to Oxford, late that afternoon with a small bucket of ice, bottle of Roederer Cristal champagne, and a glass rimmed in gold, walked in the gentle surf to watch the sun go down one last time.  Then, I saw her walking in the surf toward me carrying something in her left hand.  She was wearing a stunning black dress, and with the setting sun backlighting her fiery hair, she could have graced the cover of any glamour magazine in the world.  Then she was beside me and we laughed as she too had a bottle of Roederer Cristal, a glass that matched mine, and I asked if she would like to sit on the beach, sip our champagne together, and watch the sun go down.  With a huge smile, she said “Oui” and was going to ask me the same thing. 

The sunset was spectacular with magical atmospheric colors blending into the soft rolling waves, fragrant tropical flowers, swaying palm trees, and a huge, brilliant full moon that rose from the ocean and began climbing its predetermined arc through the clear, night sky, lighting the beach with a soft, romantic glow.  Bottles of champagne wonderfully enjoyed, both had grown quiet, relishing this last evening, each other, and perhaps lamenting that we hadn’t done this earlier….  

She suddenly stood, smiling, reached her hand down to mine, and with her celestial French accent said, “Viens ici” (come here). We embraced lightly, staring into one another’s eyes for what seemed an eternity.  Gazing into her gorgeous emerald eyes was like peering into the past and future at one time.  As our faces moved forward, lips almost touching, her light, tantalizing fragrance and warm persona enveloping me, I heard loud meowing! Where was it coming from?  Was it the champagne?  No – maddeningly realized it was my cat Jag telling me to get up…I woefully had been dreaming…. 

Welcome back to Camelot y’all – hope your Spring Break was wonderful. You know, in many ways, living in Oxford is like a continuous Spring Break, huh?  Now…I must somehow get back into this swell dream as I forgot to ask this extraordinary and beautiful lady her name…. God’s peace and love to Ukraine. 

 

Steve Stricker is an Oxford resident, worked on Campus and received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss.  He can be reached at sstricke@olemiss.edu.