Saturday, June 07, 2014

Alligators, Pirates & Seashells

For all the preemptive warnings of the dangers of alligators and mosquitoes, and the admonitions about telling someone where you were going and when you were expected to return, I was given to understand that I was undertaking a real expedition yesterday afternoon when I betook myself to the island greenway, a blissfully undeveloped Spanish moss-hung corridor along a stream.  Since there was no particular person I could tell of my intentions, I posted my plan in a brief note to my new Facebook timeline, filled my Camelback pack with ice and water, slathered on sunscreen, squirted the few bits of exposed skin with DEET (I was wearing long sleeves and jeans, despite the 92 degree temperature—I never want to have sunburn or be bug-bit again, if I can help it), and trudged off, my battered Georgetown umbrella unfurled over my head.

It was not a hike.  To me, a hike involves scaling obstacles; this was just a nice walk in the woods.

However, I saw some pretty flora:

And some interesting fauna (can you spot the alligator?—I saw more than seven!)


And dozens of dragonflies in gold, red-orange, and blue.  How on earth do people photograph dragonflies?  Wait in a likely spot and hope?  They never spend more than a millisecond in any one place.  [I also saw a Great Blue Heron, but my camera didn't have a "zoom" enough lens to make for a good picture.]

I rewarded myself for surviving my walk by having frozen raspberry and vanilla frozen yogurt in a waffle cone.  And then I returned by way of the beach.  A pod of dolphins was following a net-dragging trawler, which had driven a huge school of tiny fish toward the shore—I watched the water sparkle with them, as the occasional seabird took advantage of the feasting opportunity.

Home again and showered (it may have only been a walk in the woods, but I smelled terrible!), although the weather radio kept broadcasting emergency alerts about an oncoming thunderstorm, I calculated that it was far enough distant to enjoy the first half of a free two-hour concert downtown, and so I drove the mile or so and parked on a sidestreet.

The crowd was about 60% retirees, mostly local residents who chirruped greetings to each other as they fanned themselves.  The musicians on stage crooned in tones blending Elvis and Johnny Cash, playing questionable hits of the 1960s about boardwalks and such.  The announcer was a middle-aged man in tan Bermuda shorts and a black wool bowler hat doing a medicine-show shtick, urging concert-goers to buy raffle tickets to support local businesses.  The tickets were hawked through the crowd by sweet septuagenarian “pirate wenches” in belly-dancer coin scarves and homemade bustiers.  

More genuinely piratical-looking was a scruffy bearded man seated near me, wearing a Harley t-shirt and death-themed tattoos.  I got a purple t-shirt for buying $10 worth of raffle tickets, but won no prizes.  When the color of the sky in the west began to resemble my new shirt, I beat a quick retreat to my car, making it home a few minutes before the thunderstorm, warnings, wind, and all, rolled in, illuminating the entire house through the single round skylight in the living room.  The rain made me think of the parable about the house built on sand—it poured for hours.

Today, I did essentially nothing until late afternoon—my stomach was iffy and my leg ached, and I figured it being a summer weekend tourists would be out in full force.  I finally forced myself into my swimsuit and betook myself to the beach about 5:30, where there were more people than on a weekday, but hardly a smothering assembly. 

I strolled along people-watching for a while until I found a spot where I felt comfortable leaving my bag unattended while I went into the water.  Most Americans don’t go to the beach by themselves—in our individualist culture, it is a place to observe couples and families. The few lone individuals had dogs with them, or were earnestly prospecting with metal-detectors (overweight white guys—not genuinely alone, the two I saw were trailed by their doughy wives), or were exercising.  The little kids were really funny to see: a short, pre-verbal individual with sunburn-splotched cheeks was industriously removing little fistfuls of sand from a pile at his parents' feet and flinging them at a destination two feet away.

The fisherfolk were out tonight.  Not just in the lone shrimp boat out on the horizon--the remainder of a once-thriving local industry now laid low—but the beach anglers, casting their lines into the surf and steadying their poles in sand-planted PVC pipes.  A grey military helicopter, flying low--about 30 meters--above the waves--buzzed up to the sub base at King's Bay, then returned, higher, its doors open to the sea air (reminding me of the time my father, riding in an open-door Army chopper, nearly fell out several thousand feet up when he leaned over to admire the view—discovering in the process that his seatbelt wasn't fastened properly). 

I spent more than an hour in the water—it was cool on my toes at first, then I acclimated and waded further in, so the surf could fizz around my knees.  After I was thoroughly soaked and sandy, I took my camera out of my bag and went walking, hoping to get some decent pictures.  Sea gulls sniped at one other over edibles in the storm-enriched shell-line, where silent adult humans bent and peered, looking for pretty and unusual artifacts.  The beach is hard to capture—I used to collect handfuls of shells, but their colors always seemed duller away from the ocean.  Likewise, those recordings of sea-sounds that people use to relax are pitiful imitations of the real drop and swish of the surf—it’s like watching a video of a fireworks display, rather than seeing them live.  Some things can only be roughly approximated in records—they have to be experienced to be truly appreciated.

So, with that caveat, here are a few of my beach pictures, inadequate as they are:

1 comment:

Marian said...

Christina, you write beautifully! This is really fun to read.