Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Flights

Walks on the beach have been rare these past weeks for a number of reasons. Though it doesn’t appear to bother too many others, recent tides washing in heavy loads of seaweed day after day have left the beach splotchy brown and saturated with a strong odor. Some days have also brought high tides that flood the beach so completely, it becomes a case of picking a path through ankle deep water, mushy sand and slimy seaweed. We still have the smelly seaweed and a beach less than pretty, but this week brought temperatures in the upper seventies and when the sun is bright a walk on the beach doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

With the tide at its lowest point, the sun warm enough for shorts and a T-shirt (and a few bikini-clad young ladies), I wandered down for a walk. For the first quarter mile the smell of seaweed was inescapable, but soon enough the ocean air cleared all that from my nose and there again was the sense (almost taste) of pure oxygen-like air blowing into my face. Still, it must be a slack period in the ever-churning cycle that brings a calendar of new faces to Florida’s east coast beaches. Yes, the air is tumbled about by gusts of wind and the blue-green water splashes onto the sand in a spill of foam and seashells, but little of that now is refreshing. On most occasions a walk on the beach here is paused frequently to stop and observe a curious bird, fish or crab, to examine an interesting shell or other tidbit washed up onto the sand. Not much out there now to catch the eye other than washed up Clorox bottles and waterlogged shoes.

A new sign a mile down the beach has appeared. It relates to the concrete fire ring that turned up one day last year. Perhaps people were building their fires in ways that broke certain rules and the Beach Patrol decided a sign was needed. Maybe some didn’t have the proper permit, or possibly the county is looking to gather extra revenue from permit fees. My thought is that during the daylight hours when there is no fire, the fire ring is almost invisible until you are right up on it. Children running on the beach could easily slam right into the concrete. It makes one wonder why they haven’t painted the outer rim a bright easy-to-see color, but it might be because fire, water and salt air would quickly erode the paint.

Though not an especially memorable walk on the beach, my belief still holds that every walk, no matter the season, somewhere along the way yields a tiny impression that makes the walk worthwhile. As it happens, today’s tiny impressions were nothing more than a waterlogged white feather and a single exquisite shell. I backtracked twice to see closely these two things glimpsed out of the corner of my eye the first time.

The first, a feather soaked into the sand in perfect detail and outline, a filmy white inkling of flight trapped in the sand like a temporary fossil of this wet environment. Fortunate that it found space in a corner of sand away from the browning seaweed.

With all the seashells at my feet this past year rare finds are few and far. Just the same, there are times a beautiful shell rolls to your feet out of the surf. This one went straight into my pocket, and when cleaned later got its own private beach inside a round box. The reddish speckles against a spectrum of gray—perfection.


  1. Exactly my point in whatever earlier comments about appreciating the ordinary days--even if it's just a feather lost in flight perhaps and the perfect symmetry of a seashell. These type days, when noticed and stored in memory, fill up most of our lives and serve to complete us.

  2. I am pleased to know that beach walks have resumed because your "finds" are so interesting. I would have picked up the feather with it's sand and made a casting of it by pouring wax over it and it seeps into the sand and have a beautiful feather casting for a keepsake.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America