My upper body muscles are sore from kayaking. I performed a few imaginary strokes to confirm it wasn’t yoga. I biked three hours in the morning around the island photographing sights, stopping at shops, and marveling at the thirty-one flavors of paint colors on the island homes, which caused me to need an ice cream break. Jordan bumped into me on his bike and dropped his purchases into my basket and waved as he pedaled away. He is so handsome and becoming such a man.
Two hours into my biking adventure I encountered Jack alone bicycling. He informed me he was on an adventure, like his other two brothers who went touring the island, and he wanted to confirm the directions he was given. I said, let me take you there you can have your adventure on the way home. He was relieved. Anna Maria island is the sort of place where a ten year old can bike to the shops alone and stroll the avenues without cause for alarm. So we learned the route on the way there and he found his way home, and what a proud smile he had when he strolled in the house with a new shark tooth necklace and a bag of candy.
Jack and I passed Kevin biking along with his new island tshirt hanging from his handlebars. He was on his way to the library. Not kidding. He was gone a long time, and I was a bit concerned he was lost, but he had been sitting in the library reading a few books knowing he wasn’t able to check them out. I didn’t see him again until many hours later when he kayaked out to the spot in the bimini bay where I hovered in my kayak for an hour. He thought I was stuck and he was coming to rescue me.
The nature encounter of my life was occurring while Kevin appeared. While kayaking I am always hoping and praying that a dolphin will come to play next to me. I really want to look into their eyes. I wanted the thrill of their sliding up, over, and into the water so close that I could touch, and yet not pay the high price that Disney offers for the experience. Well, I didn’t see dolphins. But I saw something, big, rolling over the surface. So I paddled up close to see what was there. I found four manatee playing in warm shallow water. They have cow faces, big oval bodies, flippers that fold over their belly while they cruise on their backs, and a big mermaid fin. They are as large as my kayak, slow moving, playful and curious.
They saw me and wanted to come say hello. I was really nervous that they would tip my kayak over. I didn’t actually want to swim with them. I wanted to watch them and talk to them and memorize the encounter with vivid color for as long as I live. I tried to keep about three feet between us, but they kept coming towards me. Their big faces surfacing at the side of my kayak blowing air before they dipped under my craft. It was fascinating. I didn’t want to leave, and I’m going after them with Craig again today to see if they will be there again playing in the warm water. My animal loving heart burst with gratitude for the experience with these manatee.
I was so glad Kevin paddled out to rescue me because I needed a witness to prove I wasn’t making up the story. Not that I do that, but this was one unexpected and rare event, it was good to have a witness. When he arrived I said, “Kevin look there are manatee playing right there”. He stopped, clearly frightened and paddled backwards. He had read the sign “slow for manatee” as “slow for maneater”. That’s so Kevin. We watched them together for a while, and I explained to him about their friendly curious nature and there is no fear of them because of their gentleness.
For the rest of the day I floated in a bliss that can only come when something unbelievable happens. I only regret I can’t take my camera in the kayak with me. The risk of losing it is too great. Somehow I’m going to have to capture an image of them as I see them playing in my mind. I’ll probably visit Florida a hundred times and never have another experience like I did that afternoon. Only God. He is so kind to me.