Closer To Home
There is something about living on a barrier island. There is water everywhere, and this is generally a good thing. Of course, when the big hurricane comes, a lot of it could be under water, but on an average day, I love being surrounded by the ocean, the St. Johns River, and the Intercoastal Waterway. The volunteer lifeguard headquarters you see here has stood sentinel at the end of Beach Boulevard since 1948. It’s an icon on the beach, and remains the headquarters of the Red Cross Volunteer Life Guard Corps.
Each year, there is an official “Opening of the Beaches” in April. The kickoff to the summer season that draws the tourists to the beach. I don’t know if it was because we didn’t go out as much this year, but it didn’t seem as if it was as difficult to get into restaurants, and the only real crowd we saw was after the Sea and Sky Spectacular Airshow.
Just north of us is a small preserved area called Dutton Island, where you can get a sense of what the island used to be before development. Now don’t misunderstand, if it weren’t for development at the beach I wouldn’t live where I do, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy spending time and capturing images in the more natural areas. I spent two or three hours at Dutton Island one afternoon this summer just enjoying being outdoors so close to home.
A beach tradition is fireworks from the pier, and the past couple of years we’ve been on the third floor deck at Casa Marina on the 4th of July for the festivities. It is an outstanding vantage point for shooting the rocket’s red glare, not to mention the cocktails and hors dourves that come with the price of admission. The swarm of gnats that found an eddy in the wind near my beer was a little off-putting, but once they moved on, it was a fine night for fireworks.
Mom brought her Night Blooming Cereus down from Indiana, and it does love the subtropical north Florida climate. It had never had more than two blooms on it at a time, and this summer it had six. It is a very interesting plant that, true to it’s name, blooms only at night and only one night. So you need to be there when it happens. The blooms are spectacular, and they attract a particular moth that pollinates the plant. If you know someone who has one, it’s worth finding out when it’s about to bloom. I have a cutting getting started, but it’ll be a long time before it’s ready to bloom.
It wouldn’t be a beach town without a pier. This is not the pier that was here for so many years. That pier, with it’s popular breakfast spot over the sand, fell victim to Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and a couple of good nor’easters in later years finished it off. This pier is sturdier, with a concrete deck, but somehow without some of the charm of the original pier. But the fishermen and the surfers still can’t manage to get along.
So yes, it’s special to live out on the continent’s edge. For such a small a geographic region, it has many moods. This year was very quiet in terms of extreme weather, in that there wasn’t any. A great relief in light of some of the past years. Of all the places I’ve lived, and I’ve lived in a lot of places, this one feels the most like home. I said for years that if I could ever live near the beach, keep a roof over my head, and food on the table, it’s where I’d prefer to live.
Those goals have been a challenge this past year, but we’re still here, and have no intention of being anywhere else.