The scrawny legs of a single plover are frenetically running about at the tide line. Back and forth she skitters, plundering the soft, wet sand for a lunchtime snack. The air is warm, but the cool spring wind never breaks.
I feel the sun on my forearms, like nature covering me in a blanket of comfort. The wind dies down and closing my eyes, I tilt my head back to bathe my face in the warmth of this momentary sunshine.
It is a place where the progression of time is marked only by the constancy of the tides and the rising sun. The never-ending cacophony of modern noise means nothing here. Pinging phones and clicking laptops are useless to the Least Terns.
And as long as I am distracted and exhausted by them, I suppose they are useless for me, too.
I come here because there is no taskmaster for achievement at the shore. It is quiet and I can pretend, for a moment, that the world is not broken.
A new bird appears before me, unique from the black crow only by the demarcation of a red and white patch of color on its wings. I watch him for a time as he hops from thicket to thicket before disappearing into a thin grove of short pines. In focusing on what it is he’s looking for, I am able to forget my own life and the things I’ve not yet found.
This, I suppose, is the lure and gift of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. It is an unadulterated place that has the ability to redirect us and renew our spirit.
I stand up and fold my well-worn chair for one last look around. On the horizon, a tree line and a bright ribbon of white sand are the only things that separate the blue of the sky and the green of the water. The black column of the lighthouse bookmarks my view to the left and buildings from downtown Pensacola dot the coastline across the bay in front of me.
A Great Blue Heron stalks about in the distance and a white-headed Osprey keeps watch from its high perch. I figure if birds were people, they would be good ones: minding their own business and quietly going about the life they were created for.
It is therapeutic to breathe in clean, salt air; to listen only to the rhythmic whoosh of waves; to watch birds dive-bombing and the hypnotic sway of the sea oats.
I get in my car and follow the winding two-lane road that brought me west on Santa Rosa Island. The person who comes to the beach and the one who leaves is never the same.
After a mere hour, I am rejuvenated and restored.
I am grateful for this place. For Pensacola and Ft. Pickens. Gulf Breeze and the Beach.
I can’t repair the madness of the world, but I can recommend this mysterious medicine – a salt and sand prescription, filled only in the outdoor pharmacy of the great Gulf Coast.
It is a soothing balm for a weary soul, refillable at any time.