Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Howard Sprague Syndrome

In the only TV show that got the south halfway right, The Andy Griffith Show, there was a character whom I’m sure we all remember- Howard Sprague.
Howard was a nerdy sort of guy, lived with his mama even though he had to be in his thirties, and seemed to be employed in some sort of office capacity.
In one episode of the show, Howard decided to make some radical changes in his life by quitting his job, packing a suitcase and moving to a tropical island. I don’t remember the details but what I do remember is that after about a week of island living, Howard Sprague, formerly upstanding citizen of Mayberry, SC, had become an unshaven lout with absolutely no purpose in life beyond drinking as much rum as he could pour down his gullet. I suppose the message of the show was that even though everyone dreams of living in a little coconut shack on a beautiful tropical isle with no responsibilities and no schedule, to lead a truly fulfilling life one needs a job, church, taxes, bills and a demanding and dominating old mother.
One must stay busy, in other words, to avoid the damnation of drunkenness and sloth.
This show made a real impression on me, perhaps because I myself am so afraid of becoming a broken-down drunken bum with no purpose in life. I have to say, though, that I was a bit disappointed in Howard when he gave up the island dream and moved back to Mayberry, shaved, put his suit and tie on and went back to work. Couldn’t he have compromised somehow? Gotten involved with the local environmental group and restricted his drinking until after sunset? Maybe he could even have met a local woman, gotten married and raised a family. Home-schooled his children. Trimmed his beard and pulled his hair back into a neat ponytail.
But no, it was all or nothing for Howard although I don’t think it has to be that way.
My daughter and I have managed to eat decent meals and take our showers and go for our walks and she’s worked on a school project and I’ve done some writing but we’ve taken some naps and done a lot of staying up too late and reading, too.
The husband is coming out today and things will change when he gets here, I’m sure. Meals will be more planned out, there will be more laundry and noise and activity and there will be fishing trips and the card games will be more cut-throat.
And then we’ll pack it all up and go home on Saturday and I can’t say I’ll be sorry to be home but I can say I’ll be looking back on this week on the island with my daughter with great nostalgia. We get along so well and it’s been a joy to have this time with her. We’re sitting on the back porch now, me writing, she eating a tangerine and reading and we just watched a ruby-throated humming bird sip from an aloe blossom, then fly away, his heart beating within him a million miles a second while we’re peaceful and drowsy and enjoying ourselves having nothing really to accomplish, no busy-work to do, no responsibilities to fulfill until the husband gets in and we need to go pick him up at the dock.
Despite this, I have no fear of becoming the Howard Sprague who could find no purpose for living on an island and descended into idle drunkenness. I have been quite content with slowing down and enjoying the changing of the tides, the turning of the planet from day to night, the company of my daughter and the rest and relaxation I have been so blessedly offered. Right now I really don’t have many worries at all but am grateful to have looked up to see that hummingbird, taking his sustenance from a red blossom ten feet from where I sit while the rest of humanity goes about the business of being busy in the real world which lays just across the bay from where I am.

Thursday, March 13, 2008
Dog Island, FL

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