Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island

It’s been a chilly week in England; the rain was expected, but I’m more surprised by the fact that it keeps hailing. Over the winter, I coped with the cold by thinking of our 110-degree stay in Las Vegas over the summer. And now, as my teeth chatter during my wanders around Birmingham, I can’t help thinking about a very warm day that I had last month during my stay in Florida.

As somebody who doesn’t like swimming, dislikes spending too much time in the sun because of sensitive skin, and is actively terrified of going in the ocean (our beach vacations have always coincided with sting ray mating season), I shouldn’t have had much motivation for wanting to spend a day on Anna Maria Island. However, I was in a mood for some sort of adventure, and I decided that an afternoon at the beach was just what I needed.

After slathering myself with sunscreen and grabbing a big sunhat, I was ready for a day with the sand, the ocean, and my Josh. We started our trek at the north tip of the island, determined to wander along and find as many scenic views as possible.

The views of the ocean were beautiful. Despite my fear of swimming in them, I absolutely love being near oceans, and the Gulf Coast of Florida was no different. And after a cold, dry winter in Ohio, I was very glad for warm weather on a beach.

A perfect day at the beach
A perfect day at the beach

More than the ocean views, though, I loved all of the wildlife and nature. The entire island is a bird sanctuary, so we saw so many beautiful birds playing in the water and hopping around the beach. I hadn’t expected to see much more than seagulls, so I was excited when I saw pelicans, sandpipers, and all sorts of other birds.

These little guys were my favorite!
These little guys were my favorite!
We saw plenty of pelicans hanging out at the pier.
We saw plenty of pelicans hanging out at the pier.

It had been years since I spent much time at a beach, but I have vivid memories of 10-year-old Elizabeth wandering along Longboat Key’s beach in search of tide pools. While wandering along Anna Maria Island this time, we didn’t technically come across any tide pools, but we did find a lake that the low tide had created. It was enormous, and seemed to be the most popular hangout place for the birds.

The bird pool
The bird pool
The hangout spot
The hangout spot
The pool water looked a little bit radioactive up close.
The pool water looked a little bit radioactive up close.

Birds seemed to make up most of the island’s animal population, but we did also see our fair share of geckos. These are all over the place in Florida, but I still excitedly point them out every single time I see one.

Can you spot the gecko?
Can you spot the gecko?

And of course, there’s no escaping fish while you’re at the ocean. The water was so clear that, after scanning the water for sting rays, I decided to hop in the ocean after all. I hadn’t even thought to bring a bathing suit, so after taking a dip, I walked along through the shallow water in a soggy sundress. It was totally worth it.

If you look closely, you can spot the school of minnows in the center of this picture.
If you look closely, you can see the school of minnows in the center of this picture!

I also couldn’t get enough of all of the beautiful plants and flowers on the island.

Some of my favorite flowers
Some of my favorite flowers

More than anything, though, it was the small things that caught my eye–the ocean waves shimmering in the sun, the texture of the seashells, the swirls in the sand. These aren’t things that you typically see around Ohio, so I reveled in the beauty of the beach.

Some of my favorite textures from the island
Some of my favorite textures from the island

And as if it hadn’t already been a gorgeous day, we met my grandparents for dinner on the beach and had the most spectacular view.

View from the restaurant patio
View from the restaurant patio

We finished eating our meal and watched the most stunning sunset I’ve seen for a long time.

Another observer of the sunset
Another observer of the sunset
Pink and purple sky
Pink and purple sky
Post-sunset clouds
Post-sunset clouds
Somebody chose a perfect night for a beach wedding
Somebody chose a perfect night for a beach wedding

And with a final glimpse at the pastel-colored ocean, we said goodbye to the beach and drove back to Bradenton. It had been a wonderful day, and it was worth every bit of sunburn that I would later discover when we got home!

Love, Elizabeth

My shadow and reflection aligned almost perfectly!
My shadow and reflection in a tide pool aligned almost perfectly!

Post-Graduation Update: I had an interview this week with a recruiter for a teaching company in China. It went well, and she passed my information to a placement officer, who will find a school that matches my qualifications and preferences (I’m hoping to work in a smaller city near Shanghai). Then I’ll interview for that specific position, and if all goes well, I’ll be packing my bags later this summer and moving to China for a year!