My favorite beach photograph hangs above the couch in our living room. When I gaze at it, I visualize the beauty of the area and remember the elation I felt that day. We were heading home, and I didn't want to leave. I love Navarre, Florida. The beaches are pristeen. Our vacation had been wonderful. I took home enough memories to refill my happy reservoir for another year.
Years ago we used to camp on the tip of a barrier island right down the road, at Ft. Pickens State Park, in Pensacola Beach.
This picture reminds me of the fragility of life. In a heartbeat, the road was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, and there were no road repair funds for many years. The web site claimed the only way to the campground was by personal water craft or a strenuous 8 mile bike ride and climb over giant dunes which were created when the sand was displaced. We did not attempt either.
A year after the destruction, we drove down the road as far as we could go. Evidence of devastation was everywhere: piles of rubble lay curbside...complete hotels and homes in heaps at the curb. Not an exaggeration. Swimming pools were filled to the brim with sand, making them indistinguishable from land. Huge dunes scattered with metal debris were plowed twenty feet high at the edge of the sea, obstructing our view of the bay and the slapping waves of the Gulf water. I bawled at the residents' loss and suffering. The area looked like a war zone. The signs posted added insult to injury: Debris must be removed by tourist season which is weeks away.
Five years later, the washed out sea level roads, were finally repaired, restored, or replaced. We asked the park ranger if we could drive through the campground for old times sake. "Everything's closed. No restoration yet." She allowed us a quick drive through.
Every single thing was crusted white with salt and sand. Dead live oaks were stripped of branches. Palms with fronds white as snow bent to the ground. Electric box doors on individual camp sites were ripped off. Some hung open wide in a silent roar.
Our red pick up truck was the only bright color in the campground. Lost in our own thoughts, memories, and mourning, we got out with our cameras. I wanted to take home a sea shell, but I knew if I did I would feel like a grave yard thief.
I walked on and recalled memories of a campground filled to capacity, where children's voices once rang out until sundown, and evening camp fire smoke lifted hopes, dreams, and prayers to the heavens. Odors of grilling hot dogs and burgers rode smoke plumes into the tree tops and permeated the entire area.
I was focused on the eye-level images when I heard a squeal. I recognized it as a captured memory of those happy days when kids peppered campsites and the beach. A time when a rainbow of colorful umbrellas and chairs looked like spilled splotches of paint up and down the sugary strip of sand.
"Did you hear that?" I asked Bill when I heard the familiar squeals again. "Or is my mind playing tricks?"
We looked high up into the cluster of dead trees and spied this nest. A bald eagle, I thought with excitement. Then I realized it was a young osprey. The presence of the male and female perched and screeching nearby, reminded me of the tenacity it takes to forge on, and the trust required to rebuild anywhere, much less in a tip top fork of a dead tree.
We stood in that forsaken campground and ballyhooed back and forth at one another.
I was reminded of the comfort and protection young ones feel at the sight of their parents.
The promises of our heavenly father, even when all hope is gone. I began to count my blessings.
Hope and renewal... regardless.