Woke up to buttermilk pancakes and ripe strawberries and Marilyn and David's delightfully warm greetings. I slept so soundly in the guestroom. Had the best intentions of waking early, but apparently I needed the sleep.
After breakfast, we lolled about a bit - me on my computer, finishing up a little work, and the two of them (much harder at work) in the garden. Then Marilyn and I whisked off on a driving tour of the peninsula and across a couple of bridges to Fort Pickens State Park, and Gulf Breeze, and the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and Santa Rosa Island.
The sand here seems almost lunar. And it looks like snow, it's so white. Even under an overcast sky, it was blinding. The beach is such a wonderfully rich ecosystem - it feels so much more alive somehow than on the West coast, where so much seems to get dumped on shore, or maybe it's just the fog that can make it seem so...dormant. Here, the sand is like sugar - so soft and fine-grained. When you walk in it, it squeaks. And there are a million little shell-creatures and other creatures living there. There's a lushness altogether that you feel everywhere - the air itself feels green and ripe. And - aside from a few littery castoffs - the beaches are pristinely clean.
We took a hearty walk on the sand with the wind whipping our hair. I dipped my feet in the water, which felt warm enough to swim in. Marilyn is Master Gardener and seems to know the name of every living thing there is, so I happily listened as she trotted out the facts and figures of the fauna we walked by. After lunch at the Grand Marlin, we drove out to see a place where the carnivorous pitcher plants live. Apparently, they catch insects and trap them in a little well of nectar inside their long chutes of stems. Their blooms were out in full force - a voluptuous red and green.
Marllyn and David grew up here (they met when they were in high school!) and they've lived through all the hurricanes - Ivan in '04, Dennis and Katrina in '05 - that pummelled this part of the country. I'd heard so much about New Orleans, of course, and the Carolinas when Ivan happened, but I don't remember much about Florida in the news. But a lot of damage happened here - everything is so low-lying that it's easy to see how the swell form the storms overtook so much. Economically, the area feels a little depressed, still in recovery. But it's amazing to experience such wildness, such a sense of nature determining to stay true to itself.
It's not a bad lesson for me, too...