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Taking can be a gift . . .

I went to the beach today. What better place to spend a sunny few hours on a Sunday? I walked the length of Fort De Soto Park's beach from the fort to the East Beach. I go to the park often. I have for many years.

I remember walking the same walk and being incredibly tired at the end. Since then, I have identified the reason for my weariness. Youngsters tend not to walk in straight lines. Their stride wavers as their attention does, first to a shell, next to a bird, then to a sea creature or boat passing by.

Now I walk in straight lines. Perhaps I have lost the wonder to waver on my walk but I have gained the skill of observation and a sense of guilt.

It is nice to see that people enjoy the pleasures of walking in such a serene environment.

Young families, older adults and occasional young romantics were there today. They seemed to enjoy just walking or sometimes stooping to examine a piece of what the Gulf threw up on the shore, sometimes placing that perfect shell into a pocket or, more often, one of those offensive-to-environmentalists plastic grocery bags.

The beginning of my guilt today had little to do with the small treasures taken home from the beach. It had to do with losing the cap of my suntan oil and having my beach bag reek of cocoa butter. It had to do with the plastic fork that flew away at a picnic and was never found. It had to do with the soda can that missed the garbage can and the bobber that fell from my fishing line and a million other remembered and forgotten intrusions on the beach I have made.

To assuage my guilt, I have decided that I will take a plastic grocery bag on my next lazy Sunday walk. I won't take home small treasures of shells or bits of driftwood as the other collectors do, but a greater treasure by far: a bag of all the garbage that I forgot last time I was there enjoying the beach.


J. Nathan, St. Petersburg