Tuesday, January 5, 2010

In Paradisum

Not long ago someone said to me, "I think we live in paradise," and I think she might have been right. There are lots of examples, like the inside of the Alcazar Hotel, downtown in St. Augustine, where the ground floor was long ago a swimming pool, and the beautiful rough surface still slopes gently downward where the deep end of the pool once was. And here is another deep end of a pool, even grander and far more deep, graced by the backdrop of a crystalline winter blue sky. Welcome to the Guana Tolomato Marine Estuarine Reserve, known to locals as simply Guana, where the northeastern Florida beach stretches out comfortably with no development on either side. It is pristine, sparkles with shimmery shark teeth and other fossils and is carefully protected by the DEP's law enforcement team.

Late this summer, Rodney and I spent one long evening walking together, looking for fossils, kicking our feet in the surf and we stopped to picnic as we often do. Some yards down the beach, we saw a man approach, carrying a plain styrofoam cooler and watched him with suspicion: turtles lay their eggs along this beach and most everyone keeps an eye out for them and their terribly vulnerable nests. As we watched, this lone guy approached one of the well-marked nests with his cooler and began to dig. Imagine! We approached, with every intent of calling some number (what number? would we call the police?) and suddenly Rodney recognized the guy: he was the state's working scientist, responsible for monitoring the viability of the nests.

By the time we arrived, one corner of the nest had been excavated as the guy ensured the hatchlings were thriving and in fact expected to emerge from their nest that very night. Was he sure? He was. He opened the cooler and showed us the damp old towel at the bottom, forming a temporary resting place for 5 small, frantic baby turtles. He would return at sunset to release them and keep an eye on their siblings who would be seeking their mother ocean around dark. This, he told us, was the method of the turtle patrol, who try to take advantage of the 24-hour-long burst of energy and instinct by which the babies attempt to propel themselves to the sea. One, ONE, in one thousand of these tiny creatures, manage to reach the surf, pass its tumult and all the eager predators along the way, to survive.

And there were 5 of the contenders. Right there.

Last winter, it should be noted, Rodney saw a North Atlantic Right whale, traveling with her calf. Her name is Arpeggio. But that's a tale for another evening. For now it's enough to note that we may, indeed, be dwelling In Paradisum.


  1. You DO live in Paradise. No doubt about that.

  2. I think this is true, and yet, when I read YOUR blog, I think you and Mr. Moon must also live in paradise. And so I am led to posit that perhaps we ALL live in paradise, and that true wisdom lies in realizing this to be true...?


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