Seashell Philosophy by She: Part 6 in a Series
I didn’t inquire with anyone when I decided yesterday to hit the beach with my sons early on a cloudless Friday morning. It wasn’t until I was pulling into the parking lot at the Juno Beach Loggerhead beach park that I realized there was more commotion afoot besides the summer surf school for kids. As we headed across the street to access the shoreline, we noticed the Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s van and a clear path marked by buckets filled with sand and poles strung together by white cords. By the way, if you’re local and interested: www.marinelife.org
The Sea Scene
This was a great morning for a homecoming as the ocean was beckoning with its waves crashing in a strong but gentle fashion during low tide. I set up camp with my boys and began to play in the sand with them in the shallows of the water that was coming out of a black pipe in the sand toward the ocean. This is the water that is vacated from the Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) as it exits from each of the tanks housing the injured or baby sea turtles in their care. It always makes me chuckle when people come by and ask me or other parents there if I/we know from where is this water’s origin. It usually goes a little bit like this:
“Excuse me, do you know what that water is your children are playing in?”
“…It’s from the turtle place up there, you know, their tanks with food and their refuse, just coming out there…”
“…Yes, thanks so much for your concern, I know and am fine with it…”
“You are? It’s full of…”
“And the ocean is also full of countless creatures and organisms, and there are fisherman right there a quarter mile away doing their raw business off the side of the boat and you know, honestly, I’m most comfortable with my children playing in this water as I am with them eating dirt from the garden…again, thanks so much for your concern…”
It’s usually at this point that I witness the kind nodding by the person’s head followed by a non-comprehensible mumble under their breath as they turn away with bewilderment. Perhaps I am taking a risk by allowing my children in this water: but at the same time if I dissected our movements every hour of every day I’m certain I would give myself ulcers over worry because of the constant barrage of peril I assault my innocent boys with on a daily basis.
Life is moving quickly enough right now and although I’m not advocating we live recklessly I do believe that we must focus more on learning and experiencing with others rather than nit-picking and worrying about every little detail—especially those things that we have limited to limited control over.
The Crowd Accumulates
As it turned out, the sea turtle release would be occurring in just over an hour after we had arrived at the beach. During one of our snack breaks, my boys and I enjoyed sitting in the shade of our pop-up beach tent and we watched as more people descended onto the gradual slope of the shoreline behind the lines put up by the LMC.
There were all sorts of folks: people like me with small children, teenagers by themselves or reluctantly accompanying their parents, seniors, couples, school groups, camp classes, a group of special needs adults brought in with their counselors and at the myriad of genres goes on. Everyone was coming together in close proximity with each other in the heat of the baking sand by the ocean this morning to witness a sea creature return home.
HOME: Where Is Home?
Once the LMC crew carrying the Loggerhead sea turtle named Tilly came to the shore the crowd simultaneously hushed and all tried in their respective ways to get a better look. It is customary during these releases for the LMC staff to carry the sea turtle to the end of the path where it opens up to the actually shoreline where the water is kissing the sand with consecutive wet laps.
I’ve had the honor of witnessing a few of these releases and it always chokes me up to see the turtles just sit there for a moment when they are left alone on the sand surrounded by their caretakers and the public. They look ahead and around tentatively for what may seem like minutes and then they usually take their steps toward the water without delay.
The moment they hit the water and start to swim away is always an emotional event experienced in so many ways by the crowd. Some of us are obsessed with taking photos, others with making sure the children can watch this happening and still others trying to push forward to see more if possible. This time around I personally tried to get a couple of photos, make sure my sons have a good view and then just watch this simple, beautiful event of an animal returning home.
Please forgive my high-flying philosophical tone: I cannot help have tears burn my eyes in the salty air when I see these sea turtles enter the shore break and slip away. What is it like to really return home? Many of us have a cozy place we can refer to as our home but I’m recollecting that ache we all feel for our Home. That peace that we are seeking but have different names for it and vastly different ways of seeking it throughout our lives by means of people, careers, wealth, drugs and alcohol, et cetera.
Turtle Release Aftermath
Tilly returned home in a swift display and the crowd quickly dispersed afterwards. What remained were the beach dwellers like me who were in for the long haul of the day. In south Florida the beach is the coolest place to be when the summer heat and humidity strikes and this past Friday was no exception.
As my sons played once again in the “turtle pee”* water stream at the shoreline, I wandered a little bit to check out the seashell availability. It was slim-pickings but my heart was delighted because the best find that day was coming to the beach and being surprised with the honor of witnessing someone returning home.
Life is often full of unexpected events…we plan to do something and when we are trying to execute that plan we are met with a surprise twist that either modifies or completely nullifies those previous plans. Either way, if we can accept the gift of that new circumstance then we will be well on our way to knowing what the peace feels like when we finally return Home ourselves.