Delray has always been my “downtown,” but the beach up here in Ocean Ridge is what tends to ground me. Especially now, in the summer, when it’s perfect for swimming, the days are long, and turtles are nesting. We’ve always had a high number of turtle nests, and I always go on turtle walks this month—usually after 10 p.m. and always when it’s a little murky out there, salt smelling, turtle-y, as I like to call it.
This summer I’ve been lazy and I haven’t been once. Each morning I see all the new nests and I swear I’m going to go that night but it just has not happened. I am too deep into a book, or I’ve found one lone “Criminal Minds” rerun I have never seen before, or I’m scoring a pair of Jumbu adventure shoes on Zappo’s.
Until last weekend when the phone rang at about 6:30 p.m., right before Brian Williams and right before I was about to make a ceremonial Tito’s martini (shaken, not stirred, of course.) “There’s a turtle on the beach,” my neighbor Lynn said. “Now??” I said, having almost never seen a turtle laying her eggs in daylight.
So I dropped everything and walked to the end of my street, and there were all my neighbors, a couple of Ocean Ridge police keeping everyone at bay and a very handsome leatherback turtle deeply immersed in laying her eggs.
Watching this for the umpteenth time is sort of like watching paint dry; it takes for-e-ver for her to dig the nest, drop the eggs, bury the eggs, cover the nest and then manage to actually turn that gi-normous body around with those awkward flippers kind of uselessly sweeping out plumes of sand.
By the time she was ready to try to drag herself off the nest, I’d missed Brian Williams, and my martini was talking to me from my kitchen counter up the street. I was ready for this to be over.
And then she began that that lurching slow move toward the ocean. A giant heave, then a heavy pause, then another lurch toward the shoreline. That’s when I couldn’t take my eyes off her, the way she was pulled to the water, and how she labored over every foot of sand. And then she was in, the massive shell washed by the tide, then slipping deeper. The last we saw of her was her head rising out of the water as she swam away, the late sun glancing off the top of her shell.
So. There it was. Just another Friday night in a South Florida summer. The kind of happy hour you almost never get to have.