Seeing the Light: Back on the Beach


Guest Opinion

During my fifty-some years of performing professionally in symphony and opera orchestras, the chance to play the music of Bach and Mozart was always special. The absolute beauty, purity and perfection of their work provided, as one colleague put it, “a cleansing of the soul.” Since retiring, my soul certainly still needs the cleansing, and the closest thing I can get to it are the three or four (tried-for) times a week I walk on the beach. Only when the beach was off-limits did I realize how much I missed it. Now that it’s available again, I fully appreciate it. It’s there that I do some of my clearest thinking and best writing.

(One positive thing that was accomplished during the shutdown was that I walked/biked down a whole bunch of side streets within a few blocks of my house that I’d never been on in the eighteen years I’ve lived here.)

Meanwhile, nothing benefits my soul more than seeing a pod of dolphins working together herding fish close to shore. Likewise, a squadron of pelicans in close formation gliding just a few inches above the water is a source of wonderment and awe. What in their little bird-brains allows them to do the math necessary to dive in a straight line from 100 feet up and nail a nice fish for breakfast in the water below? Do they have any appreciation for how cool that is?

The people-watching is as good as it gets. There are the regulars who are out there every day. We say “hi” and wave. Some of the joggers seem to float above the sand, others trudge. Good for all of them just for being out there and doing it. The sun-bathing tourists are interesting. Some have done a lot of prep in a tanning booth, others have arrived alabaster-white and will go home red and peeling like a gumbo-limbo tree.

Dogs are fun. Some are being taken for a walk, others are walking their people. At least ninety-eight percent of them are properly leashed. Some are riding in strollers. (Get serious!) I marvel at the similarity of the responses of a puppy and a human toddler at their initial introduction to the Gulf water. About half run to it with glee, the others pull away. The look of either joy or fear is the same in both.

Watching building development on the beach is sad as it begins to look more and more like Hickory Boulevard in Bonita Beach. I remember how years ago I thought how mad the owners of tiny cottages on the sand must be when somebody built what then seemed like an outrageously-large two-story house next to them, blocking their breeze, view and sun. Now, those owners must have the same feeling when a McMansion goes up blocking their same benefits. Some of these palaces are so close to their property lines and each other that if the windows are open, one could hear their neighbors fart.

Finally, transitioning from the sublimity of soul-cleansing to the more mundane, it didn’t take being back for long to be reminded of just how much bikini bottoms have shrunk – almost to the “why-even-bother” size. There are a lot of buns on full display out there – a small percentage of which are inspirational – others less so. (Hey! I’m old; I’m not dead.) I’m glad I’m not seventeen. If girls ran around like that when I was, I’m not sure how I’d have dealt with it. Fortunately, I’ve reached the age where I’m more interested in in the buns one gets across the Boulevard at Mom’s which are laced with sugar and cinnamon and drenched with a gloppy icing.

Like I said, it’s good to be back.


by Jay Light