There is something about the Gulf Coast beaches that calls you back. The sand there doesn’t just get into your shoes, hair and any other crevice on your body it gets into your soul.
Southerners are mourning the damage done do our Gulf beaches. It seems to go deeper than sorrow for the loss of human and marine life. It is more than seeing the anguish on the faces of those who lead the life we can only dream of; making a living in our gulf waters.
I asked friends why they have a special love for some of the Gulf Coast beaches. Their answers helped me to understand the level of our profound sadness. Those beaches evoke and time and place when life was simpler and full of possibilities. These were not the memories of adulthood where any beach in the world is but a plane ride away. These are the special recollections of childhood when everything can still be magical.
My friends reminisce about crabbing from the pier with a net of chicken necks or the difficulty of building sandcastles in the sugar soft sand of Panama City. Painful sunburns from too much fun and time spent riding the waves on a blow up air mattress are part of the experience. Who doesn’t remember the taste of the salt water when you got hit with a good wave and tumbled off the mattress and drank some ocean. The bright white sand found only in certain areas of the Florida panhandle would get so hot in the summer you had to run real fast from your towel to the ocean. There was a hot foot dance seen all up and down the beach as if stepping higher would somehow lessen the heat.
Many remember the beaches of Destin as mile after mile of sand and sea before mile after mile of condos. Many of us spent time in the rustic cabins the army has there. We played with our siblings, cousins, or the kids in other cabins. I for one don’t recall what we played, but I was never bored. Each night I fell into an exhausted sleep after I remembered not to move so the sand in the bed did not rub my sunburn.
My friends have vacationed on many beaches all over the world. The white sand dunes of Panama City and its pristine white soft beaches is the sand they compare all others to. How do you describe the color of the water? Do the words a greenish turquoise really describe the jewel like quality of the water? There are fabulous rocky beaches with cliffs and mountains on both coasts of the US including Alaska and Hawaii. There are beaches of breathtaking beauty; an artist’s lifetime of images. But it is the clear, warm, turquoise water of the gulf from Ft. Walton to Destin that beckons you into the ocean. Early morning walks are to spot the dolphins playing closer in to shore and to find the perfect shell before anyone else. I remember the smell of those beaches; it is unlike any other. The beaches smell cleaner and fresher to me and one I missed while enjoying the rugged beauty of other coastlines.
There are still beautiful beaches all over the world (unless our insatiable need for oil ruins all of them). We, however, need the beaches of our memories for they remind us that as adults we have to do our part. We each need to make those small steps to take care of the earth before we return to it.