Friday, February 10, 2012

Driftwood & Dogs

Mother Nature has conspired of late to turn the ongoing sunny warmth here at the beach into something more like winter. Beginning early Thursday a colder, grayer outlook pushed aside the T-shirt days, reminding all that Florida is not always postcard pretty. Half-dressed breakfasts on the patio sheltering behind sunglasses and baseball cap hit a stop sign and yesterday I had to bear up under a somber sky and chilly wind with jeans and a sweater out of storage. At least I was able to walk on the beach, though strong winds handicapped half the distance, making two miles seem like four.

First discovery was of a large tree trunk washed up onto the beach by recent high tides and strong surf. Approached from a distance it had the appearance of an ordinary driftwood log, but closer inspection revealed an entire colony of attached shells, a living population of a type hard to identify. It was at once both beautiful and sad, a fascinating arrangement of clustered shells filled with creatures drying out and on the verge of death. It lasted only a few hours before being cut up and hauled away by the Beach Patrol. The sharpness of the shells and the possibility of the log being once more submerged by a rising tide made it a hazard on a beach still used by fishermen, swimmers and surfers. Who knows where the tree trunk entered the water and when that might have been?

A mile down the beach was a new sign placed just below the dunes warning animal (dog) owners of the ordinance against dogs on the beach. In my time here it was the first occasion of seeing a notice for something residents at least have long known about. The number of times I have seen people with a dog or dogs on the beach is too many to count, but in most cases those people are visitors unaware of the ordinance. Why such a law? This particular stretch of beach is federally funded and protected because it is historically a nesting site for sea turtles. Understanding the rigidity of local biologists tasked with nurturing, protecting and keeping tabs on sea turtles along Florida’s east coast is hard without an eye to eye meeting and a good measure of patience. By and large, the majority of those biologists would be happiest seeing the entire coastline returned to the pristine conditions of the nineteenth century—Don’t turn on patio lights! You’ll frighten the turtles. Don’t get too close to the nests; don’t use flashlights on the beach. You'll disorient the turtles. Dogs will dig up the nests!

Yeah, well I too want to protect the turtles and their hatchlings, but still prefer something along the lines of a compromise. Admittedly, on rare occasions a dog off-leash might want to dig a hole on the beach, and might use the opportunity to take a whiz, or… But otherwise, what’s the great harm? One of the reasons I don’t have a dog is because of the ordinance saying a dog is unwelcome on the beach. Still, I do accept that there is another side to the question.


  1. Enjoyable post and I especially like the beautiful driftwood with the clinging shells. Is it possible that the life inside is gone and it could have been carefully picked up and put on the patio as a piece of art?

  2. Yes, the shell-covered tree trunk is fascinating: living creatures attaching themselves to something decaying until they, too, follow their host. And, yes, interesting to wonder of the journey to your beachfront.


About Me

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