With good reason, there was nary a surfer to be seen at the beach today, but as the day unfurled and the barometric pressure rose, the sky just got bluer and bluer and the sea more calm and smooth all the time, and it would have been a perfect day to see whales, but we did not. The sun grew stronger behind the fast-moving clouds, laying shadows on the surface of the water that looked like deep green and steely blue stripes on canvas, which I tried to photograph to no avail. If I could ask for my gift, as the animals did in the T.H. White story I told you the other day, I would ask for the ability to paint the effect of light on the world, like Edward Hopper. Alas, such is not my gift as you know, so we shall have to make do with the photo I have. You can let its sun kiss your face and the color of its sky lighten your heart.
What I did see was an amazingly big object in the surf. It looked like a long bone, black as obsidian and gleaming in the water. Despite an incoming tide, I went in after it, got wet nearly to the waist, and retreived this amazing thing. You can see that it has a curved shape to it, like a rib bone, and you get a sense of how long it is by comparison to my foot. I wouldn't hazard a guess as to what kind of animal it may have come from, as there was an ancient time in which the peninsula of Florida was far wider than it is now, and another time when it was far more narrow, meaning that hundreds of square miles that are now above the water line once belonged to the ocean, and vice versa. The bone fragment is a beautiful thing and creates a sense of connection for me between our humble selves and those of our sister and brother vertebrates who dwelt in the backyard of Mother Ocean long before we did. That sounds serious and respectful, but you would have laughed your head off to see an old fat lady, running into the surf on a chilly day in 30 mile an hour wind gusts, chasing a bone the size of her own forearm. Remember that scene in Bringing Up Baby where Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn are chasing George around the yard, looking for the all-important bone they think he's buried? Rodney kept calling me Mister Bone, but I think he was proud of my perseverance.
There was also a dead sea turtle. It was about 2 feet long from the top of the shell to the back, and perhaps 18 inches wide. Considering the size of the baby turtles that emerge from eggs along this same stretch of beach, which are smaller than the palm of my hand, I would guess this that this was a turtle of some mighty years: perhaps 50 or more. Its back was covered with barnacles. Rodney knows the person who coordinates the sea turtle preservation program for St. Johns County. This being St. Augustine, he used to work with the woman's husband and had their phone number in his phone, so I called. If the turtle had been tagged, the nice husband told me, there would have been a large white X painted on the shell, but there was no such mark. I wondered if this turtle could have started its life before we ever gave their species a thought for preservation, and he said, Yes, that was certainly possible. He was grateful we'd called, and he would let the folks at Guana know so they could collect the body and one hopes, learn whatever it might have to teach them.
And so goes the circle of life at the beautiful beach of Guana. I won't include a recipe tonight but I am making a southwestern chicken and corn chowder. I promise to tell you how to make it, just in case you don't already know. If you already have a perfectly marvelous chowder recipe of your own, let me know. Nothing is nicer on cold February nights, when the sky is clear, the stars are beginning to peep out and the hope of spring is furled tightly as a budding tree, invisible still, but certain as sunrise.