To the sea

Key Largo is an island in the Florida Keys, an archipelago off the south coast of the U.S. state. It’s a popular holiday destination where onshore and offshore state parks provide opportunities for wildlife encounters, fishing, kayaking and diving.

Even the most abbreviated account of Key Largo displays an intimacy with the sea. The word archipelago itself betrays the distinct element:

archipelago (n.)
c. 1500, from Italian arcipelago “the Aegean Sea” (13c.), from arci- “chief, principal,” from Latin archi- (see arch-) + pelago“pool; gulf, abyss,” from Medieval Latin pelagus “pool; gulf, abyss, sea,” from Greek pelagos “sea, high sea, open sea, main” (see pelagic).

The elements of the word are Greek, but there is no record of arkhipelagos in ancient or Medieval Greek (the modern word in Greek is borrowed from Italian) so the word perhaps is an Italian compound or an alteration in Italian of Medieval Latin Egeopelagus, from Greek Aigaion pelagos “Aegean Sea.” The Aegean being full of island chains, the meaning was extended in Italian to “any sea studded with islands” (a sense attested in English from c. 1600) and to the islands themselves.

There is naturally an affinity of the residents of Buttonwood Bay for the convenience of the 3 local pools which are well appointed, having large changing rooms with showers and toilets, chaises longues and deck chairs, each with a pergola and several round tables. As well the gated pools are surrounded by large, varied vegetation (palm trees, grape bushes and other subtropical plants).  One pool is virtually secluded.

Today I felt it my duty once again to remove myself from the nearby pool where I had happily been reclining in the blazing midday sun on a chaise longue for upwards of two hours and tricycle instead to the sea for its salubrious effect. If the truth be told, I was anxious too to regain my dominion of the townhouse to investigate what had unfolded while at the pool as an internet or cellular problem. At home and after an agreeable discussion by telephone with a Bell Canada representative in the Philippines, the issue was clarified sufficiently to my judgement because we together confirmed the problem wasn’t me or my device rather the network server (which in this instance is AT&T or Verizon pursuant presumably to a contractual association with Bell Canada).  Indeed we were able to confirm on our townhouse WiFi that there was an extant problem with AT&T on Key Largo (perhaps arising from cable repair). In any event, as I say, I quelled the disturbance just to know what the problem was.  As it turns out by the application of some technological gymnastics on my iPhone I was able to surmount the obstacle (at least momentarily) which again settled my simmering annoyance with technology.

It was in the rapture of this electronic evolution that I mounted my tricycle and pushed off for an improving ride, ultimately directing myself to the sea.

When I arrived at the shaded avenue leading from the laneway to the sea, I could see there was only one other gentleman relaxing in a folding chair upon the beach, reading a book. After stationing my tricycle by the sign prohibiting golf carts, I grabbed my stick and shuffled across the gravelled shells and stones to the picnic bench where I began the ceremony of secreting my personal belongings into my shoes and removing my white linen shirt. I lay my stick against the wooden bench then covered my belongings with my stripped cotton towel.

The sea surrounding the Florida Keys is notoriously shallow.  It is an issue for boaters.  For those of us swimmers the bother is limited to prolonging the moment before which one can plunge into the water. This is an endurance of some consequence for me because walking upon the soft sand mixed with an occasional bit of stone and sea shells inhibits my mobility in the early stage of entering into the sea proper. Eventually however I made it into sufficiently deep water to take the invigorating plunge.

I adore the salt sea water!  My eyes are open when I take the plunge.  I find the reputed “sting” of the salt water actually calms and improves my vision. And I could tell in an instant that my hair had arisen from the erstwhile assault of the chlorinated water in the pool. The sea water was cooler than the pool.  It was energizing. The moderate taste of salt covered my lips, contributing to the lustral effect of the swim.

In the distance beyond the floating raft is a ring of elongated buoys serving as navigation markers surrounding the immediate area dedicated to swimmers. Upon these buoys commonly rest sea gulls. It amuses me particularly the way they stand regimentally, each facing the identical direction. I am tickled by their colours – white, grey, yellow and orange. Below is a photo I took on Key West many years ago. It captures the dignity of the creature. The birds standing in marshalled order on the buoys today were unusually indulgent of my interference of their afternoon convention. As I approached the buoys I was predominantly floating on my back so I wasn’t disrupting the water inordinately.  And when of necessity I slapped my arms upon the water, I attempted to preserve tranquillity as far as possible.

Regarding anything precisely at sea level, as one is wont to do while swimming, affords an uncharacteristic view of the sea.