Tidbits from Florida

31 Aug
I am now returned home from Florida, sun-burnt, bug-bitten, and happy.
I forgot flying, what it feels like when the plane takes off, how your stomach drops and you hope the plane really makes it into the air, and what it feels like to land, those long seconds as the plane rumbles onto ground, and it’s shaking so badly it seems that it might explode. But it doesn’t.
Up in the air, the clouds float below like a white meadow. Land is no more. Sky is everything, the new space peopled by travelers, like myself. I too forgot airports. An excitement fills them, for everyone is going somewhere. An eternal destination, freely for everyone. It is always moving, flowing, ebbing, and then away. It is very American.
I spent time in the sand, as anyone does who goes to Florida. But I may have seen more wildlife than the average vacationer. Maybe it was the time of year, or the weather. On Friday, when the ocean looked as placid as a bathtub, I saw a spotted stingray the size of a small person. One spot on the beach sported washed-up jellyfish strewn like pebbles.
As it would happen, a hurricane, Danielle, swirled out at sea. It never hit land. But we saw her anyways, in the waves.
Sunday we went to Sebastian Inlet, an inlet connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian River. In the tide pool, I saw three manatees, close enough to see the whiskers on their snouts and also a very large crab.
 Later, I walked along the jetty, where what looked to be serious fisherman crowded the railings with smelly bait the size less serious fisherman might be happy to catch as their prize. With these fish, they caught larger fish, yellow jacks? (I think that’s their name). As the sun poured into my skin, heating my very bones, I stood there and watched as the fishing lines went taught. The men began straining with the poles for a minute or two. Then, a fellow fisherman would come alongside with a large net connected by a handle. When the yellow and white fish finally slipped out from the water and into the glittering sunlight, the net swooped along its meaty body and landed it onto the jetty floor. Three such fish were caught this way in only a matter of minutes. I watched as one man slit the fish open, and red dribbled down its snow white gills, and it’s big black eyes stared helplessly forward.
The waves from Danielle drew surfers in droves to the ocean. I’ve never seen so many surfers in all my life. Mostly young guys. It was the stuff of movies, what I saw on Sunday. At least it felt that way. It struck me, what they were doing, as synonymous with skiing. The surfers would run and then slide on their boards on the sandy dips leading into the ocean until they hit the water and then crashed. Further out, in the swells, they rode the waves, not sand.
I didn’t venture deep into the water that day. Because of the hurricane, a special rip tide warning had gone out. Being northern and not knowing the ocean, what to look for in the signs of riptides, I waded only to where I could stay safely on land and yet still cool off. Even still, one powerful wave knocked my little sister off her feet, and had I not been next to her to grab her hand, she might literally have been swept into the ocean.
 Turtles were hatching on the beach, too. I saw their broken shells strewn in the dunes. I saw the  tracks leading from the ocean into the sand and their nesting places, some huge. I walked along it one night, hoping to see baby sea turtles finding the ocean for the first time, but I had no luck.

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