Beloved hit The Dock of the Bay was made famous by Otis Redding. Its worldwide appeal makes sense to me because I have intimate knowledge of what life is like, literally, sitting on the dock of a bay..
Consistent, yet always changing, the Choctawhatchee Bay has been my home away from home since childhood. My earliest memories are from this comfortable perch, being mesmerized by the weather, wildlife and water as the tide moved in and out with a timely rhythm.
Every weekend, my family found sun and solace on the bay. We waded in the shallows, paddled kayaks under the moon, enjoyed graduations and wedding celebrations, and even spotted alligators (from many yards away). Best of all were the boating trips to Crab Island, where we’d float among an endless sea of vessels. Glorious sunsets put days to rest. The warm foundation taught me how to live in the moment and find happiness in simple pleasures with loved ones.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, families all over the world became shackled to their homes. Perhaps many were temporarily trapped in apartments or in homes with limited outdoor space. Daily liberties felt stripped away. Families desperately tried to entertain children and provide healthy normalcy. For many, that meant seeking opportunities to explore nature’s amenities. Beaches were closed, and the temperatures were hot. Not surprisingly, outdoor excursions, like kayak and paddleboard sales, exploded. Boat sales especially soared. People flocked to public boat ramps and docks, which made me smile.
Simple joys offered by Mother Nature were treasured at new heights. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway became a hit, and it’s “Ditch” was discovered by new boaters. The children, coated in sand, slid down the steep, dredged bank and catapulted with force into the dark water. All the while, mothers and fathers enjoyed cold beverages and moments of relaxation without hearing complaints of boredom.
Choctawhatchee Bay’s equally cheerful and calming environment has anchored me for decades. As I watched strangers discover my bay in new ways, some for the first time, I was thankful that my home is one of open skies and endless waves, of sanctuary and freedom. Along with those appreciative families, my children and I made the most of the brackish water. Away from the world’s woes, we created lasting memories so that, no matter our circumstances or concerns, we can always sit on the dock of the bay — and smile.