Every morning this week, here on Fort Myers Beach, we’ve left my parent’s condo on the Back Bay and ambled for about 25 minutes toward the beach.
We gain beach access through a grassy path. This week the sprinklers shot water in all directions and we’ve learned to be crafty and dodge the jetting moving spray to reach our sandy destination. Sometimes we emerge with wet feet.
Yesterday, the wind rattled fiercely at the condo and the “arctic front” blew in from most of the Midwest. Our temperatures plummeted and settled around 70 degrees (21C). Oh how you’re shaking your head at this definition of arctic front, aren’t you?
The mind urged, “Stay safe and warm in the condo” but we soldiered forward, ignoring our inclination. I’ve discovered the mind is often in error on these matters, as outdoors proves beguiling, taking us on many unexpected pathways.
The wind felt invigorating! Yet, as we approached the sheltered nature preserve filled with tidal pools, pelicans, terns, tropical flora and fauna, it suddenly appeared balmy and quiet.
Life’s a beach, my friends. One never knows what to expect.
One morning we spotted dozens upon dozens of sand dollars washed up in the churning surf. Another day, hundreds of small conchs. The morning I left my camera at home, we glimpsed starfish undulating in the waves. They’ve stayed out in the Gulf ever since.
My mom and daughter love to shell. They peer unto the sand and through retreating tides for treasures. Oh look, a flame auger. Oh look, a white baby ear. See the nutmeg?
My daughter loves to spot birds and record their names. She’s attended birding events in the last year and pointed out species to us as we walked the beach. A fella with camera identified a “reddish egret” for us. He shared that there are two of them hanging out in the bird sanctuary. One had more white. Later, we spotted the second reddish egret with its extra white. How fascinating.
It’s a scavenger hunt for birds and shells.
I sometimes like hunting for photographs.
For the first time yesterday, I likened photography to shelling.
I like to look for patterns, for the unusual, for color, for life zinging with energy.
Then I see if the camera captures the shell of life, the wings of magic.
The camera attempting to capture life on the beach this trip is the Sony CyberShot, the sweet little point and shoot.
The Canon Rebel stays at home, snoozing under another computer. It often takes better pictures, but it’s also cumbersome to haul.
Sometimes I don’t take the camera. I let the sandy feet lead where they want to go.
Sometimes one stares in amazement at nature’s patterns. They can be so intricate, so repeating. Such artwork Mother Nature creates!
Some days I walk down to the beach alone and wander, wander, wander. It is fun to find a tucked-away area without people. To sit, to listen to the lapping waves, to hear the screech of an osprey.
To witness the mind empty of thoughts and rest as nature herself.
To reflect silence.
Sometimes dolphin arch their backs into a perfect curve and leap from the salt water.
It feels like joy leaping and receding, leaping and receding.
The tide never ceases to reveals its treasures.
The beach never remains the same.
It’s an unfolding miracle, a seashell kingdom smelling of coconut sunscreen.
Further up the beach, past the Bird Sanctuary, people settle into lawn chairs and relax, releasing daily concerns as best they can.
They read. They sunbathe. They watch small children dart into the waves, filling pails with seaweed, sea-foam and other magic ingredients in which to create a castle, a moat, a safe mooring.
Sometimes we even sleep on the beach of life, our heads thrown back, our mouths open, releasing our worries and pains and concerns.
Heading out to the beach of life again soon, just after we peel shrimp for tonight’s shrimp salad. What secrets shall be revealed? What mysteries clear? What patterns witnessed?
Will we need bandaids for our blisters again, or sweatshirts, or shorts? Will my annual rash of sun poisoning start itching more? Will the osprey fly high with a fish in its claws, and will the bald eagle swoop in to fight him for his prize again?
Only the beach knows…