Living on the coast of Georgia, my intrigue with the tide has returned. As a child, I recall my parents taking us to the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Florida – including Pensacola, Orange Beach, Ft. Walton, and the surrounding areas.
As a child in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Gulf Coast was wonderfully undeveloped. The hotels and motels were single floor buildings dotting the coast line. Real Estate developers had not ruined that area yet. Staying in one of these units was indeed rustic, and opening the windows and doors out to the beach to allow the breeze, brought by the tide, was a wonderful treat. To hear the variances of high tide and then low tide, and then high tide again, indicated an Arcadian rhythm that I always found soothing….and alluring.
I recall many years ago, while in Pensacola with my parents, and my paternal grandparents. We stayed at one of those Holiday Inns that sparsely occupied the gulf coast line. It was early summer, and as an eight year old, being there was the most wonderful holiday feeling in the world. I was able to sit right outside the hotel room on the beach and make sand castles. My family gave me just enough independence to do that for however long I wished, as long as I did not go near the water without them. I’d even made a friend with another little girl, and while I waited for my family to hurry and get their beach wear on, I’d sit with her, and we would make castles, only to knock them down and start over the next day; the tide beating the sand was always just over our shoulders, and we would take turns looking beyond the dunes to watch the waves.
Late one afternoon, my grandfather came out to check in with me. I’d gotten a bit of sun, but clouds were forming out over the water, and there was a wonderful break in the heat.
“Tadpole, go get your grandmother, and let’s walk on the beach a bit before the storm comes in!”
“Ok, Granddaddy!!” I was excited that he wanted to go walking with me. I retrieved my grandmother, as I explained to my parents where we were going.
“Don’t stay gone long, we have dinner in a little while,” my mother called after us.
As we got to the shore line, the winds were picking up, and storm clouds were forming fiercely; they were still out far enough to warrant a bit on the beach. As we approached the tide, my grandmother and I rolled up our pants and she took off her shoes, so that we could stand in the water. The tide started becoming a bit more strong, as we watched the rip currents forming. Jelly fish were being deposited on the sand, entangled with sea weed.
“This way, Tadpole,” my grandfather directed. We moved parallel to the water to move along.
“Let’s stay this way, honey. Your Granddaddy is worried about those rip currents.”
“Ok,’ I said, but continued to eyeball the tide. The sound I so loved was right here, and I wanted to swim and be more of a part of it. I quietly wandered ankle deep while my grandparents stayed on the sand. A clap of jagged lightening and then thunder off in the distance had their attention. It had mine as well………
“The storm is coming in directly, ” my grandfather said. By this time, I had wandered knee deep. He stepped forward and tapped me on the shoulder, just in time for a wave to splash me in the face. I quickly turned back to the beach and got back on the sand.
“That’ll be about enough of the wading out that far,” he told me, slightly sternly. His patience was not yet out, but close.
The wind began blowing harder, when my grandmother noticed a fishing boat out on the water. We watched it as it began to turn around and head back to the marina, just down the coast line a bit. By this time, I was soaking wet up to my knees. A few more steps of our own, then we turned around to go back……..just as the fishing boat had done.
As we got back to the motel, my father was in the doorway looking at the rolling clouds, and another lighting bolt out over the water. He was relieved to see us; within seconds, the rain began.
“How was the walk?” he asked, obviously relaxed now that he had his eyes on the three of us.
“That Tadpole has no fear,” Granddaddy said with that Bradley grin. “She was knee high in that tide when I had to convince her to come back to the shore.” Dad laughed at the thought of his youngest not fearful of anything. It was indeed a conundrum for him. And later, for me.
The tide has always shown me one thing: lacking fear can cause a certain degree of strife, maybe, but it also can help create a life well lived. And a full life, as long as that lack of fear is directed in positive way.