When your foot presses into firm, wet sand, it leaves a brief, but detailed imprint on the earth. And though, with the next wave that washes over the beach, that footprint is gone, there’s no shame in knowing you left your mark on this place, at this moment in time. And a fleeting moment it was.
If you’re lucky, that next wave of warm Gulf water will lap at your ankles, and in seconds, you’re part of two worlds. As the wave pulls back, you can feel the sea tugging the sand out from under your bare feet, seductively inviting you to take one step closer, one small step toward the water world where we can only visit, despite our best efforts to conquer it.
The ocean pulls at me. The sound of surf breaking over the sand and onto the beach is a siren call that I resist only because the draw of the mountains and the allure of cold, clear water running off the shoulders of the world keeps me grounded at altitude. But occasionally, I answer the call of the salt. I guiltily turn my back on the mountains and the rivers and the wild trout that swim there, and I venture to the sea to be romanced by water.
Down here, the air is soft and warm in April. The breeze coming off the Gulf, pushed north from the Yucatan, doesn’t blow so much as it embraces. Like the water is stirs into waves and whitecaps, it finds its way into your soul and it, like a footprint in the sand, remains until something else comes along and washes it away.
The water here is bipolar. The violence of the surf is countered by the clarity and the stillness of the bay, and the vagabond angler can pick his poison. He can shuffle his feet in the sand and wander for miles in knee-deep water, watching for darting targets just under the surface, or he can face the waves and the wind and cast blindly into the breakers, knowing the next wall of white could slap him in the face and test his mettle.
Either choice is honorable, for eventually, the waves meet the bay, thanks to that ever-present breeze that pushes water through cuts and over sandbars. Through these cuts swim fish so strong, so hardy that connecting with one, even briefly, will turn a trout angler’s blood cold for a split second and make him question the sanity of standing in their world while trying to pluck them from it.
I answered the call of the salt, and while I’ll return to the mountains, my beloved cold, clean water, and my trout that swim there, it might be a while before that mark, left by a warm, salty breeze and the pull of a mighty fish on a tight line, is completely washed away.
The ocean calls to me. Now and then, it needs an answer.