We asked readers to write a short story about this photo taken on the south beach of Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas. That is Fort Jefferson that you can see in the background. The only requirement was that it be 500 words or less. We were amazed at the creativity, the variety of subject matter and the emotions that one photo could evoke! Below is the first prize winner of the contest. She painted a beautiful picture with her words and then gave us a twist we weren’t expecting. Enjoy!
by Kim Workman
I have spent nearly a decade traveling the ocean; drifting with the ebb and flow of the tides. I, a lone traveler experienced many wonderful adventures.
Although my travels were vast, somehow my heart always leads me back to the Dry Tortugas. It’s as if I had a homing device that beckoned me there. It would become a necessity after my initial return.
My earliest memory of the Tortugas was that of being a tiny speck on a glorious island surrounded by a rainbow of color. The ocean and the sky melted together to form one enormous turquoise canvas nature created. The sun shined so brightly it caused the grains of sand to sparkle as if they were crushed diamonds. Everything was new and exciting.
I rushed toward the ocean leaving my prints in the sand as evidence I was there. As I neared the water I saw others enjoying the same amazing experience. I remember seeing the gulls swooping down as if to greet me, and fish zipping quickly past leaving only a blur of their existence.
While swimming amongst the chaos I realized I and others like me had created the excitement. For you see, I was a baby green sea turtle, and this was my introduction to the world.
Instinct made me realize I was fortunate to reach the ocean. I swam for the only refuge in sight, sargassum seaweed. That golden carpet saved my life! Breathless I immersed myself in it, now feeling safe with only my tiny nostrils exposed I took a deep breath. My Shangri-la had become survival of the fittest.
Looking around I realized I was in a floating nursery. Although some like the frog fish, and the sargassum shrimp were permanent residents, babies like me would use this floating sanctuary for protection until we were able to care for ourselves. I settled in and found comfort as I drifted with the current.
I traveled the ocean on my magic carpet of seaweed. The swift moving current landed me in the Sargasso Sea where its calm waters and nutrients sustained me.
Once I matured I traveled to exotic places of which I cannot divulge. That is a secret only shared amongst sea turtles. Humans call this, “the lost years” for they
know not where we go. Some things must remain a mystery. We need that time to spend with like creatures to learn the ways of the ocean.
My heart still stops for a second when I return as I relive the beauty of that magical place I was born. My offspring will now experience that beauty, and as humans go, they have done a pretty good job protecting us, ensuring some will live on, like me.
So, if you’re ever beach combing and you come across a few stakes driven in the sand marking a spot, think about a sea turtle’s story you once read who drifted the world and returned to that place where her life began.
We love to hear from our readers! If you would like to be a guest writer for Island Jane Magazine send your story idea to firstname.lastname@example.org.