Monday, February 25, 2008

Manatee Therapy by Barbara Quinn

I was lucky to escape New York's winter for a few days. I visited Anna Maria Island, near Sarasota, on Florida’s west coast, in aptly named Manatee County home to many of the creatures. The beach was a short walk from my friend’s house, through a grove of banyan trees. The air was clean and soft, the sand silvery bright and so hard-packed that sneakers were the best thing to wear for walking. I didn’t sink into the sand. Rather, I crunched along the shell-filled surface.

Dozens of pelicans flew overhead and then dive-bombed straight down to the turquoise water to catch fish. The shells on the beach were tiny and pastel-colored, reminding me of the sunsets which were muted grays, pinks and blues. Apparently sharks like to feed offshore at sunset so I avoided swimming then and was happy to watch the dolphins cavort. Last year, an egret visited the house in the morning. He moved slowly, stalking insects, his white body in stark contrast to the greenery. A neighbor told me he’s partial to hot dogs. Maybe that diet did him in since he didn’t appear this year.

I enjoyed watching all the different wildlife: the lizards, the green parrots, the cormorants, ibis, herons, and most of all the manatees. I saw several of the huge, brown critters hanging out in local canals. These gentle, endangered creatures know how to live. They are herbivores who eat pounds of grasses in deep cool waters and then seek out the sunny shallow canals where they hang out near the surface to get warm, their brown bodies looking like stones rising out of the water. They’re big and lazy and staring at them makes you slow down too. I had no trouble making like a manatee, eating my fill of grouper and local fish instead of grass, and then lying down on the beach in the sun. It’s time to hit the treadmill before I am mistaken for a manatee.

The manatees are onto something. There’s nothing like plopping down someplace and watching what’s happening around you, especially when the place is warm and sunny. The worries and troubles of daily life slip away. Now that I’m home in winter I lie in bed at night and remember what it was like to sun myself on the beach. And instead of counting sheep I count manatees.


Angie Ledbetter said...

Barb, I felt like I got a mini-vacation through your retelling. on to work. ;)

Nannette Croce said...

Yes, very relaxing.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Very nice...although I hate seeing the mountains recede and then disappear in my rearview mirror, I do miss the ocean, so perhaps its time for a visit to the beach soon.

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