A remembrance of times past

Published 7:28 pm Sunday, July 5, 2009

That summer, on my last day in Destin, they appeared beyond the first sandbar, far out in the cobalt and aqua waters of the Gulf of Mexico. At first glance the shining black object rising above the waves seemed a bit of debris, bobbing about in the restless current. Then, a ray of the rising sun struck directly upon it, reflecting off a dorsal fin and penetrating the surface to reveal one after another of a dolphin fleet, swimming eastward.

Sleek black bodies rolling in synchronized formation, they slid smoothly through the waves, capturing the morning and my heart. On the drive home, glimpses of their beauty kept recurring in my thoughts, and I gave thanks that we are becoming more conscious of the creatures of God’s world and, thankfully, increasingly aware of our responsibility to care for them.

Even the sand sharks that brushed our legs in the gulf water, the crabs, the schools of tiny fish that nipped at our toes and the strange angel shark that invaded the shallows have their place in the perfect scheme of this universe.

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Each morning of my stay with Pat and Grady in one of this world’s loveliest spots I hurried to the balcony of their 11th floor condominium to catch the morning flight of a family of brown pelicans. Thankful that caring environmentalists have assured their removal from the extinction list, I rejoiced at their grace in the air, and chuckled at their awkwardness on the ground.

However, even such pleasant sights did little to alleviate the scalding heat on the sandy white beach, which was too hot to walk upon in bare feet. Seated beneath the umbrellas at seaside, we vainly awaited the familiar gulf breezes that make such heat bearable, nor did the customary afternoon showers fall. The skies darkened frequently, thunder rumbled and lightning flashed, but the rains remained a stranger.

Oddly, the gulf waters were so chilly that entering them was hardly possible. Occasionally we caught the scent of smoke from the eastern coast fires that devastated Florida. When the skies hazed over and the humidity became unbearable, even steaming our dark glasses, we retreated to the clear blue waters of the pool, where a land breeze played. Eventually, each afternoon we returned to the comfort of air conditioning and enjoyed the gulf’s beauty through the wide glass windows sheltering us from the heat.

Through nearly all the summers of my life, a visit to the gulf has brought renewal to flagging spirits and a reawakening to the importance of such beauty in our daily lives. That year, the last before the loss of my remaining sister, brought shared laughter of remembered times, and a holiday from grief. Sisters are such special friends. I have not yet returned to Destin and the waters of our beautiful gulf, which remain so much a part of my remembered life with my two sisters. But, this year, before the summer ends, I intend to keep a promise we made to each other one day on the crystal sands of Destin beach.

We promised never to fail to return each summer, even after the time arrives that one of us must come alone. So I shall go, knowing that the flight of the brown pelicans, the sleek black dolphins and the joys of summers past shall be there still, in my heart which remembers.