They call people like me snowbirds. True, I migrate south to Florida each winter, hopefully before the first snowfall, but that’s where the bird analogy ends. I don’t travel in flocks. I don’t like clams. And I sure can’t fly. I jog. On the beach. Every morning. Birds run on the beach. Sometimes they sprint. But I’ve never seen one jog.
We have a rule in our Florida home. Family or guests, everyone has to earn breakfast. You can walk, jog, run, or swim—but no exercise, no food. So if you come to visit us, be prepared either to get up early or to call breakfast, lunch.
I can’t say I’m very speedy. More and more, I blame it on age. (My younger brother was a first-year baby boomer.) As I head down the beach, I pass people who are walking. The people who pass me look like they’re running. So I figure I jog.
Why do I jog? So I can take a mid-winter cruise and not worry too much about what I eat? Yes. So ten years from now, I can still wear a bathing suit in public without complete embarrassment? That, too. So my husband will tell me I have nice legs? Most definitely!
But the real reason is how it makes me feel. Wind in my hair, salt water splashing on my feet, the rhythm of the waves a metronome marking my pace, I feel as streamlined and free as the royal tern swooping and diving into the gulf to catch breakfast. For a few beats, I imitate the quick-stepping snowy egret dancing along the shoreline, a white-tuxed Fred Astaire wearing bright yellow spats. Sometimes I turn and jog backwards, so I can watch a dolphin pursue a school of panicked fishes.
Sunday is my favorite day to jog. I have no important phone calls to make—or to wait for. The post office is closed. Even the library is closed. Sunday is the day I jog to the far end of the beach.
If the last tide has carved out a sloping beach, one foot lands a bit lower than the other. My sense of balance is put to the test. But no matter, on the way back it all evens out! Sometimes the sand rises into mini-mesas and then breaks off into miniature canyons, where rivulets of tidewater flow in and out. I try to calculate how many more steps that adds to my run. Then I remember that the important thing isn’t some time/distance ratio. The important thing is simply movement.
Most of the time, I jog barefoot. At home I have to wear my jogging shoes. At home, it’s more like work. On the beach and barefoot—well that’s play! I love to jog at the edge of the water, right where the sand gives a bit under my heels. I sidestep the potholes—gee, that’s just like home! — and vault over yesterday’s sand castles.
But sometimes there are too many shells. It’s risky to land on an up-turned shell that can gash or puncture, spoiling a whole week of barefoot jogging. Sometimes I have to weave around shoals of shells like a drunk driver loose on the freeway, cutting in here, swerving there, picking and choosing my path. Sometimes I even have to slow to a gingerly walk, because there’s no sandy passage to be found.
This morning, I realized that days are like that. Life is like that. One day it’s lovely sand as far as I can see. The next, I have to navigate around people, schedules, responsibilities. Another, I might have to put everything on hold and reassess my goals, my possibilities, and my methods. But through it all, I am alive. And that’s pure joy.
Carole Jean Tremblay writes and runs—no, jogs—in Marco Island, Florida. Her children’s book “The Old Man and the C” (Pineapple Press) and her political novel “Cybercash” (pen name: C.J. Howard) are available at Sunshine Booksellers in Marco Island, Barnes & Noble in Naples and on Amazon.com.