• Mary B Cordero

Refuge

Most salties would agree that Florida rocks when it comes to its beautiful gulf coast beaches! For those unfamiliar with the term “salties,” it refers to those of us who love the beach; therefore, Enrique and I are salties.


For the past twenty-six years, Pass-a-Grille Beach, located at the southernmost end of St. Petersburg Beach, has beckoned my husband and me to its laid-back atmosphere, calming waters, and warm sandy shores. What attracts us the most, however, is what’s NOT there: high-rise commercial hotels and towering condos that shadow the beach from Florida's magnificent sunrises; and tourist-trap retail sharks (no pun intended). We're grateful to the city officials for having preserved its historical essence, and intimate village charm.


For most individuals, the beach provides a magical space in which to chill out—a place to retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life. But refuge at the beach isn’t always about us.


One ordinary hot Summer's day, Enrique and I settled into our beach chairs under the protective canopy of our SPF 50 beach umbrella—its color was midnight-blue, and it shrouded us in a comforting shade amid the brilliance of the Florida sunshine and reflective sand.


It was time to take a dip, and our routine is always simple and consistent: we slowly rise from our beach chairs with eyes half open; stretch to dissipate the sleepy state; slather each other with sunscreen; then head toward the shore. And so it was that day.


With each step, the hot sand sifted between our toes until the water kissed our feet—a most magnificent embrace! We floated into the gulf and paused at chest-deep water, then hovered for a while, talking, laughing, and immersing ourselves in the perpetual present—until we suddenly found ourselves in the center of thousands of minnows rapidly encircling us as if we were their captives. These splendid little fishes were glistening in the sunshine a scant few inches below the surface of the water, so close that we could reach out and touch them. We stood still, in awe, delighting in their wonder.


Suddenly, my husband felt a tickle on his chest (but it wasn’t me this time). He told me to look down, and we saw hundreds of tiny fishes, measuring no more than 1/4 inch. Their black eyes appeared to be floating on the surface of their clear little bodies, and one's imagination might see them looking back in gratitude for offering refuge in Enrique’s safe curly reef. We stood there for quite some time, enjoying Mother Nature’s pleasures.


Several minutes passed, and we decided to experiment by drifting away about 20 to 30 feet to see what would happen. The tiny ones remained in the “reef,” and the minnows continued to circle, so we decided to remain in place and let it be. Eventually, the minnows swam away, unsuccessful in catching their breakfast, then the tiny refuge-seekers did as well—hopefully in the opposite direction.