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We live in south Florida, so every time I turn on the news or open a newspaper these days, I am bombarded with all the awful things happening here. The west coast is dealing with the worst red tide anyone can remember. The problem is compounded by yet another severe algae bloom. I have friends that live on the canals on the west coast that have had to move out and the ones who are staying are wearing gas masks. On the east coast, we are dealing with massive amounts of seaweed. Granted I’ve only lived here for 8 years, but I’ve never seen anything like this. We also have our share of problems from the algae. In south Florida everything is connected by a system of canals; so when something bad gets into the waterway, we all suffer. All this really makes me long for the way things were not so long ago.
When we first moved down here, we lived maybe 100 yards from the beach. It was amazing! We got up every morning and walked down to the beach to watch the sun come up. Caylie was in 5th grade, and her science unit that year was The Private Eye. It was all about an in-depth examination of the world around us, and it included a jeweler’s loupe so we could do just that. Since we were lucky enough to be living on the beach, we decided to base her school year around the beach. We lived in a very small, quiet community with a beach that was mostly populated by the people who lived on it. Everyone was really friendly, and intrigued with the idea of a science class based solely around the beach; so we had a lot of help. One person showed us the best way to find olives (a beautiful oblong shell that is very difficult to find whole);
someone showed us that if you picked up a piece of seaweed from the water and shook it into your hand, tiny seahorses and crabs would fall out of it. We discovered tide pools that were left when the tide ebbed full of tiny fish swimming around. We found giant caches of shells as low tide approached, and we walked out onto sandbars hundreds of yards out during low tide.
But the most amazing sights were the animals. We watched brown pelicans flying low in formation over the water and diving down to scoop up an errant fish. We saw pods of dolphins swimming less than 100 feet from shore. A manatee or two even came to say in close enough to say hello. We watched rays glide by in foot deep water along the beach. We even saw an occasional shark. (not my favorite thing, but beautiful nonetheless) My favorite was the sea turtles.
In March, they started making their way to shore to lay their eggs. It was a long wait through the summer; but when the eggs started to hatch in the fall, it was worth it. We actually got to watch a baby turtle make its was back into the ocean. It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen! The sheer determination of something so tiny was amazing! At night, we would walk down to the ocean and watch the moonlight play off the top of the waves and listen to the sound of the surf rolling in.
Life was different on the beach; that’s for sure! Everything was a much slower pace. Everyone in the city is so caught up in the hustle and bustle that they all seem to forget that it’s okay to relax and take a breather. The ocean and beach are such a beautiful natural resource, so to see the shape things are in now is heart wrenching. Caylie still loves the beach just as much as I do; and now that we live further from it, we have a much bigger appreciation for it than we did when we lived there. We didn’t realize how different things could be living just a few miles from the beach. I guess we took for granted having such a beautiful and ever-changing work of art just outside our front door. We’ve learned to appreciate walking down the beach and finding a sand sculpture someone has made or watching terns run around near the water searching for insects or just having the ability to walk (instead of drive) to the beach at night and listen to the waves come rolling in, crashing and falling, and bringing new things to discover the next very next day.