During the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on life and the little details we normally miss out on. It seems like nowadays; everyone is living life in fast forward and the days go by without missing a beat. My family and I have been using this time of solitude to focus on some of the important things in life—family, love, and nature. The other day after one of our rainstorms, I decided to jump in my car and take a drive around the area and listen to my favorite 90s country songs. When I turned on the curve of the causeway heading towards Chokoloskee a beautiful rainbow stretched from the clouds to the ground in front of me. I pulled over on the side of the road, in awe of the spectrum of colors against the pale blue sky. Deep green palm trees stood below it tall and sturdy as the cold breeze from the Chokoloskee Bay blew across the water and through the palm fronds. The longer I sat to admire the more beautiful it became. After five minutes, the clouds began to part, and the rainbow stretched from one end of the island to the other. It was truly incredible.
I continued my drive before stopping across from Outdoor Resorts Marina to watch the sunset. I eased my way down to the beach as the fiddler crabs near me scurried inside their homes they dug in the sand. I laid my car keys and phone gently on the sand and sat down on one of the big rocks that stretched from the mangroves. Closing my eyes, I breathed in the cool salty air that whispered sweet sounds over the bay. The waves gently rolled over each other and onto the sand where my feet lay. My ears picked up the slow rumble of thunder in the distance, as the storm that just finished quenching our thirst moved into the Ten Thousand Islands. I looked over my shoulder and the rainbow still smiled brightly over the island. Then I panned my view to the left where the dark clouds full of lightning echoed its mighty voice. Birds flew all around, singing their joyful songs as the sun began to set. The blue sky faded into a crisp orange as the sun grew brighter. I cannot express how free I felt sitting there listening and taking in my surroundings. Our very existence on Earth should be celebrated and shared with the creatures and views of nature. The sun finally kissed the ocean goodnight and light raindrops fell from the sky, kissing my warm cheeks and skin. I left the rock with gratitude swelled in my heart.
The other day after my dad got off from work, we decided to jump on the boat and ride into the Ten Thousand Islands. We stopped at Tiger Key to walk down the beach. My mother and I glided across the sand and shells, side by side, while the waves crashed onto the shore. The high tide from earlier brought mounds of shells from the ocean that sat along the shoreline. With each crashing wave came the beautiful sound of shells piling on top of one another. “We are so blessed to live in paradise,” my mother stated as we glanced upon the sparkling blue water of the Gulf of Mexico. I looked behind us to see my dad laying on the boat with his hat shading his face as the waves rocked him to sleep. We usually walk up and down the beach admiring the shells and driftwood, but this time we stumbled upon things that made my heart sink. Sticking out of the sand was a deflated and faded Valentine’s Day balloon that had to have been there for a while.
My mind flooded with images of it floating in the ocean past sea turtles and other marine creatures. A few feet past the balloon was a dismantled plastic bag wrapped around one of the mangrove tree’s roots. The problem with balloons and other plastics that end up in the ocean is that marine animals can easily mistake them for food. If they ingest these plastics will block their digestive tract causing the animal to slowly starve to death. Plastic bags take 10 to 20 years at the least to disintegrate. Please be mindful when buying or receiving balloons and avoid releasing them into the air. Although they give us joy, they cause harm to the Earth if they are not properly disposed of. I placed the items in our Livewell and threw them away when we reached land. Our Earth is so gracious to us, let us stand together to protect it and its wonderful creatures. As the saying goes, “It’s not my garbage, but it’s my planet.” Make sure you take the time to be one with nature and enjoy the little things. Life is too short to just let the days go by.