The Artist Date is a dream-child of Julia Cameron. We’ve discussed her book, The Artist’s Way, and highly recommend both the book and the weekly date. It can be life-changing. It can open your creativity like nothing else. This week, we’re paddling in the lagoon on an artist date with Kathryn Neel. Bath toy included.
My Artist Date found me paddle-boarding among the barrier islands of the Indian River Lagoon near my home here in Florida. This lagoon is North America’s most diverse estuary with more than 2, 200 different species of animals and an almost equal number of plants. It is also home to one of the most diverse population of birds anywhere on the planet, as well as sea turtles and bottlenose dolphins.
This particular day, however, brought me face to face with another resident of the lagoon.
I had started out relatively early in the day dropping my paddleboard into a little inlet of the lagoon that was part of park near where I live. It was early enough on a Sunday morning that the tourist and locals weren’t up and moving around much. I could hear the creak of swing set chains moving in the breeze and the scrap of the sand and water against the bottom of my board as I pushed it out into the lagoon and stepped onto it.
Out on a board there is just the sound of your breath, the rhythmic dipping of the paddle in and out of the water and the sounds of nature all around you. Brown pelicans keep an eye on you as they dive bomb unsuspecting fish. An Anhinga swims past with just its head and neck showing. Frogs and other creatures keep up a chorus as the sun slowly climbs over the mangrove trees and the sunlight refracts off the water. You can taste and smell the salt in the air.
I was blissed out paddling along when my board got a fairly hard bump. At first I thought I had run aground on a sandbar, but no, no sandbar. Maybe a tree stump? Then I got another hard thunk from underneath the board. I wasn’t worried about alligators, this water was too salty for them, but what was now pushing my board around the lagoon like a bath toy?
Grey flippers and a flat grey face with black marble eyes and stubby whiskers appeared next to my board. My mystery was solved; swimming next to me was a baby manatee.
Sitting down slowly on my board, I watched as the baby swam closer and pushed on my board first in this direction, then in that direction. I truly was a bath toy. He swam over to my leg, which was dangling in the water and rubbed up against it. His skin was reminiscent of a wet elephant. He blew bubbles and waved his flippers at me and then disappeared as quickly as he came. Perhaps his mother was calling him away from the strange creature on the board; you can never be too safe after all.
There are some things that will never be replicated in a virtual high tech world and a chance encounter with a baby manatee in a lagoon is one of them.
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