Monday, February 6, 2012

Take a Walk With Me

The air feels balmy, without much humidity but just a hint of softness. Puffy clouds scud across a mostly blue sky. I hardly notice them, though, since my eyes are riveted on the waters of Biscayne Bay.

I live on a small island on the bay. Every afternoon, I take a walk around the perimeter, starting on the marina side, which overlooks the mainland. A gentle breeze ripples the American flag that flies overhead. Water laps softly against the sides of sailboats, motor boats, yachts. But I barely notice. I'm looking for signs of sea life.

The afternoon sun shines directly on the clear, shallow water, giving me a view of everything within it. I continue walking, but slowly, scanning for movement. I see a southern stingray and wonder if it notices me. Then I come upon a school of silvery fish swimming in manic circles. Further along, a solitary barracuda hovers. Once I saw a nurse shark swimming in these waters, but not today.

As I reach the end of the marina where the land curves around and the open bay appears, the wind picks up and I take a deep breath of salty air. I feel as if I'm breathing in health. A brown pelican circles over the water, then does its bizarre plunge-dive, landing bill first, wings open. It looks like a crash landing to me, but when the bird comes up, I can see that it's got a fish in the pouch below its bill.

I pick up my pace and shift my gaze across the water. The skyline of downtown Miami comes into focus, all shining glass, and still further away, I spy the high rises at the tip of South Beach.

Now I'm on the open-water side of the island. In the distance, Key Biscayne shimmers in a blue haze. On either side of the path, coconut palms hold court, their fronds chattering softly. There's a pretty wooden bench on the grass next to the sea wall. Most days, I like to sit there for a while and contemplate the scene.

Today, though, I decide to maximize my aerobic benefit and keep going. I soon circle around to the domestic side of the island, where there's a fenced-in dog run for the small dogs permitted here. It's a charming little spot, with a couple of hillocks and small trees, plus a table and chairs for the human visitors. At this time of day, I usually see several dogs and their owners in the space—the dogs cavorting with one another, their owners mellowing out over glasses of Chardonnay. I stop briefly to say hello, then continue on to the island's tiny beach, where I often find the three Muscovy ducks currently in residence on the island.

This is invariably the highlight of my walk. I chat with the ducks and offer them water by turning on the nearby water fountain, which has a hose attached for their benefit. I'm trying to train the ducks to come when I say "water." So far, my success has been variable. They come when they're thirsty, but waggle their tails and ignore me when they're not.

Usually, I circle the island twice each afternoon. That may seem repetitive, yet it's not. The sun, the sky, the sea, the fish, the fowl, and even the dogs create an ever-changing tableau. Writing about it doesn't do it justice. I wish you were here, so you could see for yourself.


  1. i loved reading this!! sounds like a wonderful grove isle afternoon! hope you and eric are doing well.

  2. Barbara, as usual, beautiful ... but I'm wondering about something. Would you say that this was written as you were walking ... or were you mainly at that time experiencing the beauty... and then when you returned to your keyboard did that thoughts come ... or both? Did it become more beautiful as you wrote? That's been happening to me. The reader feels he/she is walking with you... which is great. I just wonder how your process worked.

    Seems like only "Kims" can comment on your blog today.

  3. Hi Kim (Mosley),
    Very interesting question--you always make me think! I wasn't planning to write about my walk while I was on it, but I was wondering how I might convey the sensual experience of a given moment. When I returned home and sat down at the keyboard, the moment turned into a more extended reverie.

    Regarding whether the experience became more beautiful as I wrote about it, I would say that the primary reason that I write is because it helps me to transform the ordinary into something of beauty (for me at least; hopefully for you and other readers). With a beautiful walk like the one I described, writing about it helps me derive more lasting pleasure from the experience. It sounds as if you're experiencing something similar with your writing.

  4. Wordsworth wrote, Art is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recalled in tranquility.

    Making art is kind of an experience of an experience. Pollock tried to make painting an experience itself, making both art and experience one.