We anchor in the afternoon off Lynyard Cay. With the first sandy beach of our trip beckoning, I am quick to get into the water. Uncharacteristically, I huff and puff after a short swim to the bow, where I hold myself against the anchor snubber to breathe in the splendor. I settle my breathing and swim to shore.
To the west, nimbus clouds of many distinctions block the waning sun. A green-black ribbon of land splits the sky from the sea. To the north, a spit of green juts westward, a stand of trees testifying to the prevailing westerly winds. Beyond that, clusters of shadowy islands litter the horizon. I know from our approach, the island is inhabited. As we passed an isolated compound made up of two over-sized houses, we joked it was Mic Jagger’s estate.
To the south, a nearby headland dotted with habitation caps the sea. Buildings shimmer brilliant white against a green lushness I am unaccustomed to seeing.
At the terminus of the sand, I join Mark who has appeared under the shade of a large mangrove fruited with a collection of jetsam marked with dates and cheery messages from sailors. Nearby, a ceramic toilet, throne-like, is situated as if a castaway should preside over the display and the anchorage. It is an oddly harsh symbol of man’s nature in the otherwise densely natural landscape. As I stand reading the messages on the floats, a pea-sized hermit crab transits my toes. I lift my foot to show the delicate creature to Mark, then walk back to the water’s edge.
A bagel shaped, nubby, black sea creature washes up at my feet. I squat to inspect, flipping the animal over to scrutinize a greenish center. I call to Mark, looking toward the hanging garden of buoys. He is no where to be seen but Emily is swimming toward the beach. She and a starfish arrive simultaneously.
I pick up the stone-like starfish.
“Look what came ashore!” I joke. We walk ankle deep in the sea toward each other taking long neanderthal strides. Leaning forward we lurch through water we churn with sand into a milky white. Holding the star’s underside toward Emily its stiff points curl magically toward me. Mark suddenly reappears as Emily strokes the creatures underbelly prompting sticky tentacles to protrude and blindly arc around their tiny reach. The star’s arms are pointed back at me. Its center is deeply puckered.
Mark laughs and says, “Look out, his stomach may come out his mouth.”
As if in cahoots with Mark, the star widens the orifice.
“Eeeuew!” Quickly I lay it in a Sasquatch-sized foot print Mark has left in the wet sand.
“I walked to the Atlantic.” Mark boasts.
“How far was it?” I ask, thinking I have no intention of making the trek in my tender bare feet.
“Allll the way across the island” she says with a wide gesture. “… about 200 yards. Come on.” he says more to Emily, then looks at me. “Let’s go look.”
“I don’t have shoes.” I state the obvious and add, “My feet are so tender.”
“You’ll be fine. It’s mostly sand.” he says assuringly as we start up the narrow path past the motley monument to cruising.
The sound of the Atlantic, feral and turbulent, bellows from just beyond our view as we tramp up the sandy trail. Waves crashing on an exposed coral shelf boom, then the sea seethes as water strains in retreat. The brush thins to reveal raw sugar colored sand trapped above the reef by the wrath of the ocean.
Craggy gray coral spires are cached with pools of tepid seawater, evidence of a retreating tide. The raw majesty is blemished with tangled tendrils of gaily colored fishing net knitted into the sharp rocks. Bright blue tangles, yellow knots and red bights of polypropylene punctuate the seascape. Scanning the scene, I realize I expected the litter. I easily accept it, impotent to change the fact that it exists. Casting my eyes toward a wave washing up to my bare feet, I step back as a wave deposits an orange and white toothbrush. It looks newer than the one I have at home. My flesh, my bones will be dust before all evidence of this discarded tool is gone from the earth. Another wave buries it a bit in the sand, then skitters seaward.
Ashamed, I walk away.