Saturday, April 03, 2010

Atlantic Morning


Coffee in hand I tumble out on the back porch to see a pod of dolphins crashing through the surf no more than 150 feet off shore. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. No fewer than ten dolphins take turns cresting the surface as a pelican wades patiently behind them.

This is my first time seeing dolphins from the condo at New Smyrna Beach. Mom says they see them all the time.

My family's condo is in New Smyrna along a stretch of beach that doesn't allow cars. Further north the beach is a highway of fumes and tanned bodies; down here the only traffic is people jogging and riding bikes and the occasional sea turtle laying eggs.

Closer to shore a man is practicing using a throw net. I notice when he pulls it in that it is smaller than the ones my father used on Saipan; when he holds it up it is about as tall as him, probably 5 to 6 feet long.

He throws it differently from Dad, too. Dad would hold his 8 foot net about a third away from the opening and loop the rest in his right hand, holding it together between his thumb and index finger. Dad would pinch a length of the net between his right elbow and his torso and then reach into the opening to take about half of the net into his left hand. As he prepared to throw, Dad would pull the net to his right and then swing to his left like he was swinging a baseball bat.

The man on the beach holds his smaller net with his right hand at about the midpoint and lets the center of the net hang. As he prepares to throw he grasps a corner of the net near the opening and draws it across his body, holding his arm out to his left parallel to the ground, the net sprawled across his chest.

He winds to his right and as he swings to his left releases the net. It doesn't open into the wide demi-sphere I remember my father throwing; it doesn't really open up at all. He pulls the circular net back to him by the string attached to its center and starts the process all over again.

A young boy wearing a yellow shirt and a baseball cap walks up to the man and watches from about ten feet behind. It is probably his son or his nephew. The man lets the boy try throwing the net. I notice that the boy is left handed.

Neither man nor boy notices the dolphins splashing around no more than 150 feet past where the net lands. Perhaps they can't see them. I'm on the sixth floor and can see everything.

These two aren't the only ones fishing this morning. Old men with their beer bellies making them look like pregnant walruses dot the shore with fishing rods standing at attention in the sand. They cast their lines and then they wait. One man stands in the waves with his hands on his head, willing the fish to bite. Another watches a young boy on his skim board. I assume it is his grandson.

The beach is alive in the morning. Bikers, joggers, and walkers move up and down the shore as sanderlings run in circles, avoiding the waves if they get too close. Sun worshipers are already setting up their chairs and towels. Umbrellas and shade tents go up. Surfers paddle out to sit on their boards just beyond the break.

A quarter mile out a paddle boarder makes his way back in to shore. I wonder if he can see the dolphins. Nobody on the beach or in the waves has seemed to noticed them, not even the surfers.

As I gaze out on the Atlantic my thoughts go back to my island in the Pacific. With enough wind and enough time I could sail from this beach to the shores of Saipan. My two oceans are one.

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