Tampa Bay looks like a sheet of aluminum foil that’s been crinkled up and then smoothed out again. It’s got a stern gleam.
I stand on the rocks at the edge of Davis Island beach and watch the fissures of small waves painted gray-silver. I’ve never seen the water like this, because I’ve never been up to breathe nature at 8am before (I just taught a 7am yoga class).
Many say morning is a most auspicious time, the time of day when everything is still precious, tacked in possibility, before the ripe noonday heat sears everything. And then, the sun opens from cloud cover and the bay sweeps transparent; the silver sheen is washed away to reveal the rocks and crab holes at the shallow bottom.
The beach is pretty empty at this early hour, except for a city crew emptying the public garbage bins. One guy tells his coworker, “This is the shittiest job in the world.” She shrugs, ties a plastic bag, hurls it in the back of their pickup truck with the City of Tampa logo on the side. As I stroll along the shoreline, I notice an old guy in the distance playing the ukulele. He’s got to be at least late sixties, wearing the old dude uniform of khakis and orthopedic sneakers.
It’s late November, and windy, which pushes the water to the ragged shore where I stand in my sneakers and sweats. That sound, that gentle lapping—it’s as if nature were whispering Remember me? I can heal you, but in the distance Tampa’s downtown cranks and grinds with the waking city.
The factories on the edge of town hurl like giant, dumb mechanical gods. Across the bay the Big Bend Power Station chugs warm, clean water in to a canal where hundreds of manatees gather to warm their bodies every winter. It’s actually quite lovely and fascinating, this intersection of nature and machination.
Do the steel pilings, earth movers, bollards and swinging cranes anger me, when I think of the environmental sacrifices in the name of industrial development? Sure. Do I live in a cushy society that benefits from all that metallic purl and heave? Sure do. Boy, am I feeling conflicted and postmodern on the beach. Ukulele notes pluck the wind over the waves. At once the grinding noise of the city quiets, and music fills the beach.