As I sat upon the sugar sand facing the emerald waters crashing upon the shore, I felt as if I were in another world, far, far away from the troublesome news I had heard on the television that morning. I inhaled deeply, drawing in the warm, salty air from the spray drifting across the shore filling my lungs with its refreshing aroma.
“You okay honey?” My husband had been watching me as I shed my sandals and crossed the powdery, white sand to sit quietly on the shore and wipe a tear from my cheek.
“I am actually wonderful,” I replied. “I become a different person when I am here. You know that. Here I am not a sixty-five-year-old grandmother, but an Okaloosa Girl.”
“Yep,” he chuckled. “I can see it in your eyes.”
I first saw the Emerald Coast two years ago when my husband was assigned temporary duty there to repair some C-130’s. He is an aircraft mechanic at Robins Air Logistics Center, and we have been in Middle Georgia for sixteen years now. The closest “ocean” is about three hours from here at Tybee Island. I have been there several times. It is nice, but it is not Okaloosa.
I can’t tell you exactly what it is about Okaloosa that captured my spirit, but since the first time I topped the bridge on the Choctawhatchee Bay and spied that emerald green water, I was captivated. We spent a month there, and before we left, I had a tag on the front of my car that read “Okaloosa Girl.” When I returned home, my daughter asked why I had not had “Okaloosa Lady” or “Okaloosa Woman” instead of “Okaloosa Girl.” It was then I told her that it was because when I was there I felt like a girl, carefree and happy and full of life.
I have always loved the water, having grown up on a small creek, the Mattawoman, which emptied into the Potomac River. We spent many hours fishing, swimming and skiing on that water. I was sixteen years old before I saw the Atlantic Ocean in Ocean City, Maryland. Much like when I crossed the bridge to Okaloosa, I was captivated by its size and beauty. I knew then and there that I was meant to be near this great body of water.
I am a Pisces, and although I don’t really follow Astrological predictions, I do think there must be something to the fact that my sign is a fish. I feel like I belong in the water. I am happiest when I am near it or in it or on it. I can go to the shore and lay all the problems of day-to-day life at the edge of the sea and walk away feeling refreshed and clean.
The ocean has always made me think about the Creator. It is always there. It hides tremendous power under the surface that can go from mirror flat to raging heights in a matter of minutes. There is so much mystery beneath the surface. I am at peace at the edge of the shore as the waves pound relentlessly against the sand.
My dream of living out the rest of my days looking at the beautiful waters with the dolphins playing offshore, is about to become a reality. It is only because of the generosity of Lucy, a dear friend who left me the money for a sizeable down payment, that we will actually be able to retire here. I knew this particular condo was meant to be mine when I stepped out on the balcony at one o’clock in the afternoon on the day we looked at it for the first time. Usually you only see the dolphins close to the shore early in the morning when they are feeding. This day, the water was in a calm state, nearly glassy and of course emerald green. Just as I stepped out onto the balcony an entire pod of dolphins, at least a dozen, came swimming by to play directly in front of the balcony. It was an amazing site, with baby dolphins and their parents jumping and splashing only a few yards off the sand. It was an affirmation for me that I had made the right choice. This was to be my new home.
This is Okaloosa Island, at Ft. Walton Beach. It is a two and one half mile sugary white sand peninsula sticking out into the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It is quiet, peaceful and full of life. There are not only the dolphins I love, but, soaring pelicans floating along just inches off the water in search of breakfast, occasionally rising and then diving rapidly into the water to claim their prize. There are tiny ghost crabs that only come out after dark, their shells a ghostly white that helps them hide in the powdery sand. Gobs of giggling children with flashlights “hunt” them for capture and squeal loudly over their tiny treasures when they finally succeed. Sometimes there are so many flashlights on the shore it seems as if the stars have fallen from the sky to light the edge of the surf. Then there are all those lovely sea birds that fish each morning along the shore, squealing and squawking their pleasure at the new day. Schools of thousands of small fish swarm close to shore each morning their splashing sounds audible from my balcony.
I am retired. My sweetheart still has about seven years before he can retire. In the meantime, when we don’t have it rented, we will be slipping away to this paradise we will eventually call home to renew our spirits and fill our lungs with its sweetness.