David Lauderdale

How to live the Hilton Head life you are supposed to be living

Many people have said that when they die, they want to come back as one of my wife’s dogs.

And now, so do I.

In fact, I want to be one of her dogs right now.

I should say, I want to be more like one her dogs. You probably do, too.

For the past five weeks, it has been my chore to take her two wild and crazy Australian cattle dogs to the beach each morning for their exercise. She couldn’t go outside due to a skin treatment. And if the cattle dogs don’t exercise, they spend the rest of the day eating Venetian blinds and singing in four-part harmony.

They call them “blue heelers” because they were born to herd cattle by nipping at their heels.

Our Shasta and Eddy will herd each other, and us, when there are no cows around. They’re full tilt. You may remember the day Eddy ate a cigarette lighter.

But that’s not why I want to be like my wife’s dogs.

What I want to do is STOP, and sniff the morning glories at the beach. I don’t know what they smell like, but the dogs do. They even know what they taste like.

But when I see one of those gentle blooms in such a rugged place, I’m too occupied with next assignment, and my last assignment, and emails, and text messages and voice mail. And a stupid watch that can do more tricks than a border collie, but it mainly marches the life right out of my life.

I’m too worried about columns to write, speeches to give, Sunday school lessons to prepare, the stack of books I’m supposed to read, the phone calls I owe to Mama, and my sister, brother, son and daughter. All that guilt is swirling around when I absentmindedly yank the leashes and say, “Come on, come on!”

But if I could be like my wife’s dogs, I’d be feeling their yank on the leash, and hearing them say to me: “Come on, come on! These things smell like salt. They taste like chicken. Look what you’re missing.”

Over the past five weeks, the dogs have yanked my leash.

We have seen the sun rise over the mighty Atlantic Ocean day after glorious day. But before the sun’s first little wink over the boundless ocean horizon, it puts on a show, splashing the wet sand with purples and oranges and yellows.

I can feel inside why the wise old Gullah called dawn “day clean.”

The dogs don’t seem to notice as they chase a bouncy orange ball into the surf, bringing it back so they can do it again and again and again.

But the gaggle of other humans on the beach definitely notices. Some bring lawn chairs and sit, theater-style, waiting for the show. Some cast fishing lines into the surf, their darkened figures silhouetted against the sun, now looming large and hot.

Small groups of people stand on one leg like a bunch of snowy egrets, doing yoga. Some walk; others run. They point at the silky flow of a dolphin, or the magic formation of low-flying brown pelicans. They kiss while standing in the shallow water. They haul surfboards. They pose for pictures. Countless pictures.

And it hits me. I live here. It’s Christmas in July. And September. And October. Especially October. But they’ve got the Christmas photos. And I’ve got the stupid watch.

The dogs that squealed like pigs on the way to the beach are quiet on the ride home. They’ve got sand all over their faces. They smell like wet dogs. And they don’t care.

I want to be like my wife’s dogs.

And so should you.

Senior editor David Lauderdale has been a Lowcountry journalist for more than 40 years. He oversees the editorial page, writes opinion, and tells the stories of our community. His columns have twice won McClatchy’s President’s Award. He grew up in Atlanta, but Hilton Head Island is home.
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