Until this day, my husband and I were one of those couples that went hard on vacation. By that I mean we didn’t waste any time or not plan things out. I think he had not often really relaxed very well, and I have had a perpetual sense of urgency to try and see and do it all since I had not had the privilege of traveling extensively until we met. Before Florida I had not been a beach person so I never found a ton of appeal in just sitting there reading a book. I LOVE to read and relax when I can, but either in bed with air-conditioning or snuggled up on the sofa next to the fireplace. I have passed the stage in my life where I can just “lay out” and frankly rough ocean waves scare me. Asking my husband to relax is like trying to calm a squirrel on crack. Suffice it to say, he’s not a lounger. But it was not just us anymore or even us with a tiny little baby who would simply go wherever we brought her. Our little one was a toddler now and longing to play in sand. I asked my husband if we could REALLY spend some time at the beach. Like, heaven forbid, more than an hour. I could actually hear him grinding his teeth and inwardly cringed. Finally he relented and said he supposed we could could go down for awhile. I could practically see his mind whirling with all the random historical places we had not yet visited. He also detests sunscreen and generally eschews any form of it. Getting ready I tried to tell him about all the things we would do the next day, hoping that would hold him. The three minute ride on the back of the golf cart over the estuary and through the mangrove trees was absolute heaven. We reached our stop and visited the cabana stocked with the requisite amount of cute young men who immediately gave our little one the alligator raft she was attempting to reach. I knew then she was going to be a conqueror of many hearts … what young guys really like babies? So we rented two beach chairs and an umbrella and started unloading our provisions. We had cold water, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray (I learned quickly after the “no-see-um” incident from the night before,) sunglasses, molds for sand castles, and Burk’s sacrosanct, ever-present rumpled newspaper. Our little one was already trying to get in the water. I thought again how fitting it was that her name in Latin means “of the sea.” Daddy actually got into the spirit of things and entertained our baby girl by going upside down under water and sticking his feet in the air. This earned him unbridled shrieks of sheer delight. Firmly entranced under her mermaid spell, she would clap her little hands together and splash, prompting him to go back under and do it again. As for me, I was content to listen to the lull of the ocean waves and watch my little family. At some point during our time, my shell hunting exploration uncovered a surprising discovery. Apparently one of them was still occupied. At first I sort of freaked out until it slowly made its way out of its shell and I realized it must be a sea snail. Of course I had never encountered one before but I DID know a snail when I saw it. I sat in my beach chair shaded by our big umbrella and contemplated the gentle creature in my hand. She didn’t seem afraid and so I held her and studied her for awhile. I also did not believe her being out of the water for such a brief time caused her any duress. The Russian writer Ivan Turgenev said:
“Time sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a snail; but a man is happiest when he does not even notice whether it passes swiftly or slowly.”
I gazed up and saw the birds soaring swiftly overhead and then looked down in my hand at this treasure from the sea which I knew I could not keep. Of course I had to get her picture before I returned her to her ocean home. And I realized, it is OK when time flies like a bird — but for me, I would prefer a slow savoring of the joy and happiness and have it linger … at a snail’s pace.