All the Greens (and So Many Blues)

We’re at about the midpoint in our six weeks in the Keys. I’m getting a feel for what this place is like compared to my expectations and what we can and can’t do. Mostly I’m working on enjoying what I can do.

We made these reservations back in April when we were stuck at our first-ever camping spot with the Airstream. It felt magical to think about gong anywhere then, much less somewhere warm, where I’ve never been, and the beach!

Turns out the virus is just as rampant now, almost a year later. But here I am at the beach anyway, and I’m making the most of the interactions with nature that I can conjure amid all these people on vacation during a pandemic.


This key seems to be mostly long-dead coral, and I can simply walk on that for a good ways out, depending on the tide. I walk carefully, looking down at where I set my feet and slightly away to where critters might be before they see me coming.

Even when the water is quite shallow, a few animals lurk in nooks. This crab caught my eye even though I wasn’t looking for him; he saw me towering above him and reach out his bright claws in his most menacing posture. He’s about three inches, here.

And this conch (I’m guessing that’s his claw at the bottom) has had his home invaded by an enormous hermit crab.

I walk as much as I can on the sand bars and sandy sections created by the flow of the tide, avoiding the grassy sections (because that’s an alive place) and the slimy sections of coral that are slippery. I can see where I’m putting my feet in the sand and know I’m not near jellyfish or sea urchins or the grey skate I keep seeing out of the corner of my eye.

Still, sometimes I find I’ve been wandering without looking up, and I’m way out away from dry land, and there’s no clear path back. That’s when I wish I were snorkeling so I could swim back without worry that I’ll step on someone or damage something alive.

But it’s so darn shallow, and the water’s cold, and my mask no longer fits tightly (it’s old), so I walk. (I will try snorkeling again with my wetsuit on— soon.)

There’s also interesting walking by the marina, where fish gather hoping someone will throw fish parts in the water near the fish-cleaning station. (Fish wish for fish.)

This one nurse shark is there all the time, accompanied by what Tracy tells me are small tarpon. I don’t think there’s anything small about these fish at all.


You have to be super vigilant while kayaking to spot wildlife, since the coral right around here is mostly long dead, but I do get glimpses.

The colors of the water are beautiful enough without any visible life.

But here’s the comorant who fishes underwater right at the beach where we launch the kayaks. I thought it was a grebe, but I’m catching only bits and pieces of bird knowledge from listening to Tracy, and apparently it’s a comorant.

Yesterday while kayaking I caught a glimpse of a bright orange star fish, several sponges, and many swimming fish out of the corner of my eye.

The highlight was rays, though.

I saw individual rays that were grey, swimming alone far out in the deep water.

And I saw a few large dark ones that revealed their white undersides when their fin tips curled up as they moved forward.

Here where the current flows quickly under the bridge to the Key, I stalked several large dark rays and a few spotted ones.

But then suddenly I didn’t need to stalk at all: a school of about 20 rays passed under me, silently, in formation, not caring a bit about my long kayak shadow above them.

A friend says, once when this happened to her, she could feel the rays bumping up against the hull of her kayak. Oh my! I was so overwhelmed by seeing them all, by their antipathy to my presence when I’d been trying so very hard to find them.

I barely got photos (here you can see a few as dark patches, maybe eight in the photo?). If I’d felt them, I might have dropped my phone in the water or peed in my swimsuit! They were on a mission, fishing the current under the pier. You can bet I’m going out there again.


As a kid I used to lie on the beach all day and sunbathe and let time dissolve into nothing more than when I felt like turning over. The rhythmic sound of the water. The heat of bright sunlight on bare skin. I still get lulled into almost a meditative state.

People at the small official beach with chairs set out for them tend to talk loudly and mess around with their dogs—just to distract and annoy me, mind—so I’ve started going under the bridge over to the coral section to sit and vegetate.

What’s soaking into my mind and heart here are the colors more than the animals I get special glimpses of. The light in the air and on the water, and even on the sand and the long-dead coral: it’s all both astounding and calming. You can’t take it all in or feel all the emotions at once, or I can’t. I end up just looking out and feeling glad to be alive.

5 thoughts to “All the Greens (and So Many Blues)”

  1. Hey now…do you have carbon fiber paddles? I ask because I have carbon fiber sculls and they are NOT cheap! I think all travel has a certain amount of tedium…or at least that was my experience. I found it difficult to slow down enough to appreciate the “off days”. You’re doing way better than I ever did. I’m afraid of the ocean. I would not be anywhere near those Rays or sharks no matter how small. I find I like to be ON the water but not IN the water. First time i was in the Keys I could not stop looking at the water…(better stoned but that’s my opinion of life in general!) Be good…MM

    1. Yep, Tracy gave me those carbon fiber paddles for my birthday (or might have been Xmas) back when I first got the fancy kayak. They sure are lightweight.

      Yeah, I struggle some with the downtime, but then I think, “what else would I be doing?”. This seems way more than good enough 🙂

      I’m surprised by you being afraid of what’s in the water! Seems like the woods and desert are just as dangerous.

      Yeah, the color of the water, Gah.

      1. I was bullied as a kid and held under water a few times so I think that played a part. Plus…I don’t like being in an environment that I can’t see what may be lurking under me ready to take a bite. My mother was afraid of being in the water and I may have picked up some of that from her as I was always striving to “be my mother’s daughter” so to speak. Also…I no longer get email when you answer a post so may not see all your replies.

        1. Ack, that bullying is terrible. My mom had a strong phobia of snakes, and my sister must’ve learned that but transferred to spiders. They were both nuts about their individual phobias. Made living with them in the country kind of tricky – there was always screaming and running.