East Pass, St. George Island – January 15, 2013
I thought I knew St. George Island.
I used to come here when I was a kid. I remember staring out of the car window at the island and trying to hold my breath for the entire length of the bridge. I built sand castles and collected shells while my dad fished hip deep in the waves. In high school, we’d drive out and have bar-b-ques near the beach, swim in the water, and forget to put on sunscreen. I’ve squeezed into the lighthouse tower with a dozen friends just to see if we could all fit. I’ve hunted hermit crabs in the shallow water and watched stingrays glide away. I spent the better part of a day swinging in a hammock with a girl I loved. I remember ice cream in the gas station and how long the boardwalks seemed when I was a kid.
I’ve been here a hundred times.
But I always went to specific points–the boardwalk off a parking lot, the sand in front of a beach house, the gas station. I never saw the island stretch for 19 miles. I never woke up on one end, stared at houses crowding the shore and watched them build as I paddled, growing tighter and bigger, their docks reaching out into the bay. I never saw the bridge rise off the horizon with a strip of commercial real estate hung on one end to welcome everyone from the mainland. I never noticed the houses fade away and disappear at the state park. I didn’t catch how the trees build, thin out in the middle, then build again around coves and wild dunes, the way they finally give out, bending low and crooked, dropping away until there is nothing but sand and ocean.
I’ve been here before, but never like this, never seeing the full picture, never connecting points like stars in a constellation.