I’m in Jacksonville for a few days and low tide was at 7 AM yesterday morning, so I decided to take Fiona to the beach. It was a perfect beach day – chilly, but with the wind coming off the mainland and buffered by the dunes. In all the world, Guana Reserve is my favorite place to hike. As you can see from the above photograph, it is beautiful and deserted. It is always like that – an amazing, underutilized resource…
Fiona and I were about 2 miles from the north entrance and having a large time. She was running around, I was looking at the sea and saying a prayer, communing with nature and God. Guana is the place I went on the first day of my sobriety. It is where I rekindled my spirituality. I feel large and small and grateful whenever I am there.
I was holding my hands up to the heavens deep in thought, when out of NOWHERE a policeman on a 4-wheeler turned up. I clipped Fiona’s leash onto her collar assuming he’d pass by. With a beat like Guana, I figured he had some important turtle nest securing to do or perhaps an emergency splint for an injured sandpiper and I could get back to my meditations…
I have developed a healthy respect for the police over the years. God knows I had reason to fear those flashing lights when I was a drinker, but here we were on an empty beach praying and frolicking. The sheriff (are they real cops?) screamed to a halt and got off his toy police car like I had just committed armed robbery. I knew from the moment he stepped off his rig we were going to be at odds.
He said, “Miss, you are in violation of the leash laws.”
I said, “What? Where did you even come from?”
He looked at me for a long moment and said, “I ask the questions. ID please.” I kid you not – that’s what he said.
I laughed. I said, “You’re kidding, right? You have realized there is no one at all on the beach but me? And I don’t have an ID with me because I’m on a beach.”
You will notice all the italics. I had instantly switched from an inspired acolyte to Mrs. Thurston Howell III wrongly accused of stealing sugar from the communal kitchen…
“I don’t make the rules, lady. I just follow them and your dog was unleashed.” He got out his little clipboard with his little citations and while I sighed and harrumphed and rolled my eyes and muttered under my breath, he wrote me a ticket.
As I write this I wonder, would anyone have handled this situation with good grace? Would Mother Teresa or Gandhi or one of the pastors I admire have accepted the fact there are detours on the path to enlightenment? Is there anyone out there who would have thought, “Okay. There are leash laws, and my dog was off the leash,” without adding a snarky, “On a fucking deserted beach…”?
Should I have gotten back to thanking God as soon as Cartoon Cop went on his way?
These are not rhetorical questions.