Sanibel Island


Further down Florida, in a standard resort, room facing east so I could watch the sun rise out of the bay this morning.  Fort Myers lines the opposite shore, but here it is all quiet and even the “guests” are subdued.  It is warm, and lovely, and if we get bored there are bike paths everywhere.
My problem has been that I get extremely attached to wherever I actually live.  My philosophy has always been something like that old song “love the one you’re with.”  Huntington, New York, Long Island _ I get quite chauvinistic, and bored when I am gone for very long.  I admit I have been this way before anywhere I happened to be _ and surely I would be the same if I lived here.  I think that is an admirable trait _ or at least one that keeps me happy most of the time _ but it makes me a somewhat jaded travel writer.
Tue –

Along this coastline, units are limited to two or three stories.  That should not prevent them from having charm, but in fact the coastal architecture has all the pizzazz of soviet-era blockhouse construction.  Well, folks come here for the beach and nature, not the magnificent housing.

This time our window faces east over the bay and for the second day in a row I have watched the large red ball hurriedly float up into the clear air.  It’s been a while since I watched sunrise, since I am at least civilized (and old) enough to not leave my house before coffee and shower and breakfast.  For those of you who have not enjoyed the experience recently, sunrise is just like sunset in reverse.  Both phenomena are free for those who have the will (well, free in this case if you can spring for a place on the beach…)



A pathway through preserved vegetation at the lighthouse.  Sanibel is half nature preserve, so many of the old swamps and thickets remain undeveloped.  If you wander some down the thick black mud trails, filled with fallen palm trunks that might be alligators, watching an occasional snake frantically slither away, you get some idea of how far islands like this were from paradise in their “natural state.”  And that is even without remembering the clouds of mosquitoes and other noxious pets that were wonderful for the ecological balance.
My problem is that I expect paradise to be fashioned for people.  That has been true since my childhood tales of Eden (lion lying down with the lamb, no mention of mosquitoes) right through adulthood.  I want nature in comfortable doses.  I want to get to beaches or canyons in hours without effort; I want food and water when I arrive; I expect to be able to easily wander around and appreciate the wonders.   I do not think I vary that much from everyone else_ what the world now works on is how to balance our needs with the non-human requirements of all the places that are far from paradise and always should be.


Looks enough like a tropical paradise, deserted beach stretching away under a palm tree.  Just like all the photos I take, however, this is hardly the whole picture.  What you cannot sense nor hear nor experience is the roar of traffic overhead _ this is from under the causeway link to mainland Fort Myers.  Streams of cars and trucks in both directions never cease.  And those deserted beaches stretching into the distance are actually walled off mostly from the public by carefully guarded resorts and estates.

Sanibel prides itself on being a nature preserve _ and a huge percentage of the island is indeed undeveloped.  Unfortunately, that means there is one road in, one road out.  With lots of tourists and residents and sightseers  that means infinite automobiles, and that makes for dead-stop traffic jams almost all day long in each direction on the only road that goes anywhere.  And doubled prices for anything you buy.  If you ignore all that,
ride the beautifully maintained bike paths, walk the wide sand beaches, just give up and spend whatever is necessary to eat _ well, then it is all beautiful and perfect. 

A large part of Sanibel Island and its surrounding waters is kept as a nature preserve.  This is Tarpon Bay, which can be explored by taking boat tours or rentals of pontoon boats or kayaks.  It is a constant that we can only appreciate nature these days by using some form of modern machinery, and powered vehicles to get there.

It got “cold” here overnight _ below fifty! _ everyone is dressed like the snowstorm hitting New York will arrive any minute.  We have purposely isolated whatever hemisphere of the brain worries about tomorrow so that we do not think much about whether or not our fight will make it back tomorrow night.  Living for the moment and enjoying it fully is truly one of the things we should learn from experiencing the rest of the natural world, wilderness or not.

Sat –

Shells thrown up after a storm a feature of any sandy beach.  People come here expecting to find exotic treasures, and they are often filing out along the surf before dawn.  This is just the common debris, the stuff nobody cares about because it is abundant, although each piece was surely as important to its inhabitant as any of our homes are to us.

I find myself getting as grumpy as any old nineteenth century traveler, for example Mark Twain, mostly because of the way things are oversold.  “You’ll love Sanibel” cried everyone.  We imagined a beach like a shell store, lined with exotic and magnificent beauties, leaving no room for the sand.  This is _ well, there are shells.  But there are shells at Caumsett as well, and to my eye more variety than here.  But nobody has tried to convince me that Long Island is a shell collector’s paradise, so whether there are any or not does not really engage my cynicism.

Like all lighthouses, Sanibel Light has a story to tell.  As do we, unexpectedly still here for a few more days after a last minute snowstorm canceled our expected flight yesterday.  But you can read the public story of the 1884 structure on your own, and our tale is more one of the joys of the internet and easy communication than of anything else.  It is so easy now to find out what is being predicted, what an airline is doing, finding numbers to rearrange things.  What could have been a nasty stay in a bleak airport became a lovely, if expensive, extension to our stay in the warmth.

We were rewarded today by a score or so of dolphins playing close inshore only tens of yards from the sand.  Almost as if they had been paid to put on a performance, they dove and chased fish for hours, as crowds lined the shore and snapped pictures.  The sad note is that a sight once so common as to be unworthy of notice along any seacoast has become rare enough to merit hysteria whenever it now occurs.



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