South of Marco Island, the coast of Florida sheers off, like unraveling satin, with threads of islands that form a myriad of inlets, rivulets, aits, and channels overarched by the ever present white and red mangrove saplings. The water can be dyed tea-brown by the leaves of these mangroves, and the slender bean-like seeds wash up on the shores of many of the southern beaches.
Long endangered, to these waters have returned small numbers of the American Salt Water Crocodile, the least aggressive, most reclusive members of the crocodile family. Among the intertwined branches of the canopy one finds the nesting sites of the brown pelican. And in the shallows between the islands, anhingas, herons, egrets, woodstorks, and many other kinds of birds. Facing oceanward, some beaches accumulate the fine white sands that the currents bring, and these are, in turn, populated by waving lines of sea oats and other dune grasses that anchor the islands in place.
Standing on the shore of this beach, on the inlet behind the barrier, and looking east one can see the high rise resorts that bring visitors and their money to Marco Island. Behind these towers the puffy, inimitably beautiful clouds of the Florida sky, tinged with grey as if booding over this coastline.
Pass through the shallow channel and climb over the barrier island, following the path made by many feet--the single path--to find the ocean, ice-green, strangely translucent in comparison to the tannic waters of the mangrove swamp. In these shallows, shells of whelks, conchs, clams, snails, schools of fish smaller than tadpoles flash and turn as one.
The gentle waves lap as though the shore bordered a lake rather than the ocean. The water is warm and cool. Light dancing surface-ice green waters are transformed to fathomless depths with the passing of the clouds.
This is the envoie. Beyond this the ocean to the west, and to the south, the accumulation of that tattered fabric that is the coast of Florida, lovely, fragile, changeable, glorious--as different each moment as only time and tide can be.
Nursery to the young of birds, fish, shrimp, and sea turtle, the estuary that is the wealth of the sea, here exposed to the ancient rhythms of the sea and adjusting to the newer rhythms of human life. Holding breath, in anticipation of the worst, or in hope for the best--whatever the cause--breathlessly beautiful.