Home is a feeling not a place. For me, home is a beach in Florida. People ask me all the time why I love the beach. I usually hear things like, “The sunburn is brutal.” or “Ugh all the sand that sticks to your feet.” None of that bothers me. Why do I love the salt water that burns my eyes, the sand that finds its way into my bathing suit and the sun that dries out my skin? The short answer is it is magic here, the beach, Perdido Key is home.
I grew up with the Theo Barrs Bridge in my backyard. There were only five families with kids who lived on the key in the late seventies and eighties. Our days were spent riding bicycles to the beach every day after school with a stop in at the Curiosity shop for a soda and a candy bar. At night we chased fireflies and looked for crab with flashlights. I met the love of my life on a school bus at the corner of Don Carlos Dr and Siguenza Dr in 1982. Today, he and I live a few miles from the key and make a point to get our salt fix in as often as possible. For us, cherished memories live on the key.
Things are different now. The Curiosity shop is no longer open. Now we sit on the deck of the Sunset Grill, enjoy a drink and a good meal on the beach where my friends and I used to build sandcastles. The view as I drive over the bridge has changed too. I can’t see the Gulf without looking around or past tall condos. It looks different but the feeling is the same. As soon as I top the bridge and look over to my left at the boats on the canal the stress of day to day life beings to leave me.
When I get to the parking lot, the second one to be precise, at one of the beach access spots and climb out of the car, take a deep breath inhaling the salt air crisp and clean one word resonates in my being, home. The soft sugar white sand has a distinct sound when I walk across it with bare feet. Not a squeak, but more of a swish chirp. There is something special about the way my mind relaxes when I stand on the edge of the water, just where it stops before it bubbles and retreats into the Gulf. There is no antidepressant better than standing with toes in the soft white sand.
The waves lull me into a peaceful rhythm causing my pulse to match the steady swish of the water. If I stand there with my eyes closed, face lifted to the sun and let the serenity of the key absorb me, for a minute the rest of the world will disappear. If I open my eyes and look to the horizon I may be lucky enough to see a pod of bottlenose dolphins playing in the turquoise water. My feet sink into the sand as the water covers them. All that is left is my soul and the natural tranquility of the place. The beach accepts me just as I am and I become a part of it. The only thing better than the beach on a sunny day is the beach at night. The same peaceful rocking of waves but the stillness of the night brings a special calmness as well. The moon glistens off the water shimmering like a million diamonds. And if you are lucky, if you come at the right time of year when the fairy-like bio-luminescent plankton is blooming you will see a cosmic blue-green glow across the water. It’s pure supernatural.
This place is home. I will never live anywhere else. The salt water is in my blood and the sand is in my soul. Come for a day or come for a lifetime. All it takes is one time and you will say, “yeah, I get it, magic.”
Believe in magic.
A shorter version of this article was published in the 2018 Perdido Key Chamber Visitor Guide.