Beachkeepers Diary #5 Death (and life) Along The Tide Line

Another Island note…

In a mindless trance, I follow the variegated boundary from Atlantis to Hidden Beach.  The border is clear—smooth sand seaward, granular chaos inland.  This is the tide line, that ever-changing terminus where the sea exhales the last of its aquatic mojo and the power of terra firma takes over.  It is also where I, as a beachkeeper for Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, look for tracks, flipper marks, and indentations of turtles making landfall or hatchlings leaving land to pursue a lifetime at sea.

It is now November and I have walked the tide line dozens of times since June.  I have become a keen observer, not only of clues of turtles, but of death along this aquatic demarcation.  For many in the sea, this wet/dry zone becomes their final resting place.  Sponges, sea fans, and soft corals gather here.  So do large amounts of seaweed in shades of jade and burgundy.

And, of course, there are the fish.  I spot a bloated porcupine fish.  Its mouth forms “oh” or perhaps “oh, no”, it’s last gasp of life.  And there is a palometa. Its normally long-fined grace is gone, lifeless.  So too is its silvery glow, now changed to milky white under the blazing sun.  I see a foot-long spotted eel.  Its last wiggle of life leaves behind a definitive track in the moist sand.

There are other reminders of death upon the tide line.  Near Vista Blue there is a rock monument to Victor, the son of my good friend, Jan.  Last year, 19-year old Victor took a header from a skateboard.  The impact crushed his skull, and within a week, the young island boy died.  Jan built this monument of rock and old coral at the place where Victor’s ashes were returned to the sea.  Every time I pass by the monument I speak out loud, “Hello, Victor.”

But the tide line is also a place for life.  Semipalmated Sandpipers and Rudy Turnstones (I call them, Bloody Ruddies because of their orange-red feet) peck the beached sea plants, a Mecca for insects.  Quick crabs scurry for holes while I pass by.  Kite surfers lurk at the edge, preparing their gear for aerial acrobatics above the surf.

The tide line offers a tranquil place for introspection. For me, the line represents the metaphorical ebb and flow of life.  I think about my own journey on the planet and contemplate how much quality time I have left.  Bucket list, anyone?  Other deep thoughts enter, but the sea and beach always roust me out of my mental gymnastics and back to reality.  The sound of a wave smacks the sand.  A dozen flamingos, pink sticks in line formation above, honk as they pass overhead.  I look at the indentation of a flooded turtle’s nest that was washed out days ago, and in the process, wiped out 50 eggs.

In the next moment, I recall another nest this season that had a hundred hatchlings scurrying to the water to begin their lifetime at sea.

And so it goes along the tide line.  Time, in its endless procession, marches on.

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