It is early morning. I walk a variegated boundary between smooth sand seaward and granular chaos inland. This is the tideline, an 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 look for tracks, flipper marks, and indentations of sea turtles making landfall. This is my second year as a beachkeeper for Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, a grassroots nonprofit that lives up to its name.
My personal challenge in this role is to stay on task. That is difficult as the rising sun bounces gold off the bottoms of puffy clouds and back down upon a cobalt blue sea. The color show gets me pondering. The tideline is the DMZ of land and water, death and life. There is a beached porcupine fish. Its mouth forms O or perhaps Oh, no! in its final gasp of life. I see the carcass of a foot-long spotted eel. Its last wiggle leaves a spiral track in the moist sand. But the tideline is also a place for life. Sandpipers and plovers peck at stranded sea plants, a Mecca for insects. Quick crabs scurry for cover while I pass by. I even spot an American oystercatcher, the beach’s standup comic with its cartoon beak and electric yellow eyes.
Yes, the tideline offers a tranquil place for introspection. For me, it represents the metaphorical ebb and flow of life. I contemplate my own journey on this planet and other deep thoughts. 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. Whop! A dozen flamingos, pink sticks in line formation above, honk as they pass overhead. I look at a turtle nest that was flooded days ago by a high tide, wiping out fifty eggs. Then I recall another this season that had a hundred hatchlings scurrying to water’s edge to begin their lifetime at sea. And so it goes along the tideline. Time, in its infinite procession, marches on.