“There’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shore, no matter how many times it’s sent away.” – Sarah Kay
Back in Illinois, my grandkids texted picture of themselves in unzipped fleeces, eating cups of frozen yogurt at the Riverwalk. My sister sent a picture of crocus leaves popping out from a patch of melting snow. At long last, there are signs of spring in the Midwest.
Spring has come to Sarasota, too. There’s bumper-to-bumper traffic on Siesta Key, but we are smart enough to get there early. Our very own Siesta Beach has been chosen Trip Advisor’s Number One Travelers’ Choice beach in the country, and we know that we better get there early if we want to do more than troll the parking lot.
While the lot gets full, the beach never does. Its broad, vast whiteness opens its arms wide for everyone. There are never too many people on the sand. Four lifeguard stations in circus colors—yellow, red, green, and blue –serve as landmarks at the shoreline, and perky umbrellas of every color bloom where they’re planted, sheltering visitors from the sunshine.
We never sit at the beach; Mike has no patience for that. So, we walk, 3.5 miles up and back from the red guard chair south to Crescent Beach and the wall with the faded painting of a monkey.
Along the way, I keep my eyes peeled for dolphins and sometimes we spot one or two if we’re lucky. Pelicans dive bomb for fish, platoons of plovers, their black pompadours rustling in the breeze, stand at attention and await flying orders from their squawking leader. Hyperactive sandpipers on toothpick legs poke their beaks into the sand and scamper away from the curls of water that chase them away.
The sea, the sand, the sunshine, the birds…. Sure, I soak this all in. But I’m also checking out everyone else who’s joined our parade along the hard-packed sand. Lots of snowbirds in sherbet-colored Siesta Key regalia are out there, escapees from the misery of northern winter. Old guys plod along in faded tee shirts that announce their college or football affiliations. Women who wore bikinis once upon a time are now encased in serviceable swim suits to camouflage life’s inevitable sags and lumps. Toddlers are my favorites. Some eye the waves suspiciously; others dash in, hell-bent on adventure. Ruffly-bottomed little girls pick miniscule shells from the sand while little boys throw handfuls of the stuff. Mini-architects lug buckets of water from sea to shore. Dads design picture-perfect sandcastles, too engrossed in their project to notice the kids are no longer interested in the construction. Mennonites from Indiana’s farmlands cluster at the shoreline. The wives wade into the gulf, raising the hems of their modest calico dresses out of the waves, while the men in shaggy beards and broad hats look out at the brilliant blue sky.
Bodies beautiful and not-so-much pass us by – steely-eyed joggers, lollygaggers, and meanderers all do what suits them best. Speedos and thongs and body art and hard bodies and hairy backs and wrinkly thighs blend together like images in a Chagall. Snatches of conversation drift past us… snippets of family gossip, medical conditions, and business deals. One morning two groups of Italian women crossed paths, and when they overheard their native language, they greeted each other like old pals. “Italia! Italia! Buon giorno!” they cried, hugging each other and laughing.
After an hour or so, we’re back where we started. Siesta Beach sand coats our sunblock-slathered feet like sugar on a jelly donut and perspiration trickles down our spines. Spring at the beach: could life get any better?