A shoal is created when breaking waves slowly and methodically reclaim sand from the beach and deposit it over time in a new location. The sand builds, millions of grains at a time, growing like a mountain until it rises from the bed of the body of water and breaks the surface.
It can take years to create a shoal, also known as a sandbar. Some sandbars are created by a particularly powerful hurricane seemingly overnight. Many are destroyed that way as well.
Sandbars can be temporary hang outs, perfect for skim boarding and lounging the weekend away, while others give birth to vast ecosystems of fish, safe harbors to manatees, nurseries for sharks, and if they are large and enduring, sanctuaries for birds to nest.
As they grow, sandbars create their own currents, manipulating the flow of water around them. If a sandbar is parallel to the beach, they are often cut by tidal inlets and are connected by underwater tidal deltas providing the water, and the life it brings with it, new pathways and refuge. They can convert irregular shorelines to nearly straight with their immense force against the waves that break over them. They can change the direction of waves, causing them to refract, like light passing through a prism.
The ocean accommodates the sandbars’ intrusion. It is, in fact, a natural cycle of the earth, to build and shift and flex and heal and build again.
There is a new sandbar just east of Caladesi Island that we have watched grow over the last several years. It’s big enough now that it’s starting to attract a crowd; the word is out on this contemporary perfect oasis. Kayakers and paddle boarders flock there. Boaters throw their anchors and let the current dictate where they will float. Manatees cruise the small channel that flows between the shoal and the island. Birds gather on the tiny piece of land that is now perpetually dry and covered in tender foliage. There’s probably a family of sharks taking refuge around this thing, but I am in denial about that. When a piece of seaweed touches my leg, I react as if it were a shark anyway.
Every time we visit this sandbar, I am reminded of how lucky we are to witness and experience it at this point in its lifetime. It is pristine, at its peak, life flourishing around it, fresh and new and growing strong. We learn from it each time we’re there. How the tides effect the current, when the best skim boarding times are, where the sand dollars live, when to move the boats so they aren’t accidentally beached.
The formation of this sandbar means that sand from surrounding beaches is being borrowed; its genesis a result of the contribution of other land masses. This naturally occurring gifting will continue in perpetuity. Even if a storm washes the sandbar away, a new one would begin to form wherever the waves direct it.
I know there is no human equivalent to photosynthesis (duh), but I’m pretty sure my body does this with the ocean nonetheless. Sunshine is an energy source for my soul. I am never satiated. I wilt and droop and am miserable without it. I do not handle winter very well. Thankfully, I live in a place where “Winter” is a famous dolphin and there’s like three weeks of weather that can be considered nippl–I mean, chilly.
As society seems to implode around us, I find myself seeking comfort more and more outside. I carry the burdens of the day in my heart and sacrifice them to the wind, letting the sun melt them away. I seek escape from the fear, suffering, and destruction. But it has reminded me that just as destruction and change and rebuilding are natural cycles of the earth, they are natural cycles of human life as well. History also teaches us this.
For every moment of violence, every clash, every unrest, every desperate moment there is something good, something new that comes from it; something is rebuilt in its place.
There are some trees, like Mediterranean conifers, that do not spontaneously resprout; they can only survive through proliferous seed germination. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you Google that. These trees are dependent on an outside force, in this case heat, to force their cones to burst open so they can regenerate. They literally have to be set on fire in order for their species to survive. To these seeds, a bolt of lightning, a volcanic explosion, or even a careless cigarette butt is like the finger of God.
There is no doubt that recent events have created a tinderbox of emotions, one lick from a matchstick away from imminent disaster. In many places, this is already unfolding; it had been simmering for years, like a pot of water on the verge of boiling, about to spill over the edge, just a few grains of sand away from breaking the surface.
Change and reckoning are not easy things to navigate. They are breeding ground for fear, confusion, misinformation, pandering and manipulation, stress, anxiety, and anger. It is even more difficult for us because we are programmed to engage, for better or worse, through social media platforms whose algorithms are proven again and again to be purposefully incendiary. We are provoked into action by memes, the worst of us spilled out to live on the Internet forever in the form of videos, images, click bait headlines, vicious tweets, and regrettable Facebook posts.
And the more we consume and engage, the greater its power to influence us grows. (Hello, remarketing!)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not a ‘fake news’ jerkbag who buries her head in the sand. I believe in the foundation of our press which is to provide us with information. This is absolutely crucial. Informed people make informed decisions that lead to positive change. As Mahatma Gandhi reminds us, “Freedom of the press is a precious privilege that no country can forego.”
Plus, I’m totally posting this blog on the very platforms I’m calling out!
But I am also not an idiot. Half the shit you see in the media is just that: shit. We are not consuming the news. We are being fed a contrived set of skewed perspectives systematically engineered to show up on our phones. That’s why it’s called a ‘feed’. Think about that for a minute.
While turmoil can be a natural part of evolution, it is amplified by the media, often negatively, purely for the purposes of entertainment, or to be more specific, revenue generated from that entertainment. While I was earning my master’s degree in Mass Communications, I learned in an ethics class exactly how much human life was worth to the media. The race, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation of the person or group determined how many had to die in order for the story to be considered newsworthy. The statistics were staggering, and while this was many years ago, today I feel like this convoluted logic remains. Except now the measure of newsworthiness is rooted in how much hate, how much emotion, how much vitriol can each story generate. And it is drowning out all the good and brightness the world has to offer us like thick, dark clouds smudging out the sun. It is also drowning out the purposeful and natural evolution of our society.
We are in dangerous waters right now; a fuming, roiling ocean churns around us. Waves are, from a purely fluid dynamics standpoint, a constant fluxing wall of force whose sole purpose is to come crashing down once it reaches its crest in order to release its energy. We are battling these waves right now and navigating how to react to the energy they bring.
But when I put my phone down, the seas seem to calm, and I get a much clearer view. I see the lifeboats that have been dispatched. I see the “helpers”. I see the communities coming together, the friends, families and coworkers supporting each other, the organizations and companies providing relief and driving change, the younger generation rising up to fight the good fight and an older generation standing behind them with pride. I see the tearing down of hate to make way for humanity. I see the good.
I am not ignorant to the ugliness and danger. I am not naïve. I know it’s there. I live with it every day. I live in Florida, for goodness sake. Every craptacular thing happens here, usually first and worse than anywhere else. But it is in my nature to both think positively and have a healthy dose of skepticism regarding every piece of content I read. This is how I survive. (This might indeed be my privilege talking, and I recognize that as well, so feel free to call me out.)
Consider this: hurricane season every year. Hurricane season plays out like the fantasy life of every weather person from Texas to Maine, but especially in Florida, because no matter what, it’s hitting here first. It’s not that weather reporters are wanton people, hardly at all. It’s that a category 5 storm barreling down on you with the certainty of impending catastrophe is absolutely the story you’re going to follow. Hurricanes=ratings. If there is two inches of rain and a wind gust of 6 mph happening, you’re going to hear about it, repeatedly and in incredibly frightening detail. No doubt hurricanes are serious; the wise Floridan is prepared with supplies and a plan, and they also avoid the news during hurricane season.
Between coronavirus, social justice protests, murder hornets (who thankfully disappeared quickly), upcoming elections, and now the Sahara Desert dust storm (what in the fresh hell, seriously?), the insanity of 2020 is culminating like, well, a hurricane. People are literally losing their minds over a piece of cloth that covers their mouths for the 20 minutes they are at the grocery store. It is the perfect storm to leverage an agenda.
I have no idea what the rest of this year or the rest of this fledgling decade will bring us, but I hope it will bring us reformation, a new beginning, growth.
I hope history will look back on us with respect for those who fought for change, admiration for those who survived and those who helped us heal mentally and physically, and disdain for those who incited fear for capitalization purposes. I hope history forgives us, but doesn’t forget.
For my own part, while it might sound like all I’m trying to do it escape to a sandbar (some truth in that TBH), I’m actually trying to do what I can to BE the sandbar. To change the direction of the waves by using my voice, to straighten a crooked shoreline by leading by example, to provide a place of peace, to take up space and change the environment around me—and to encourage others to do the same.