Deep Conversations in Shallow Water
Levi the Poet is visiting. I took him to Sebastian Inlet.
Levi has become a close friend and Sebastian Inlet is a place that has meant a lot to me for as long as I can remember. Even when living in Florida hasn’t made sense, which is how I feel lately, the Inlet has always felt like home. There are memories from every stage and season. It’s where I grew up surfing—first learning and then competing, fishing with my dad, snorkeling inside the inlet, jumping off the catwalk, eating at the snack bar, so many moments of both solitude and socializing in between. On top of all of that, my dad was a park ranger at the Inlet before I was born. When friends are in town, I love to share this place with them.
Campbell’s Cove is on the south side, near the center of the state park east to west. The shallow calm water makes the cove a great spot for kids. I have sweet memories of being there with my nephews when they were younger, swimming and looking for fish and pushing them on boogie boards.
I spent most of 2021 in a relationship with a woman who had three young daughters. Her kids loved the cove and I loved being there with them. All three were under the age of ten and all three were brave in wanting to explore the rocks along the inlet. It meant a lot to be trusted by each of them, especially in moments of fear or uncertainty, when they weren’t sure where to step or how to get from one rock to the next. It meant a lot that their mother trusted me with them. I imagine others observed us as a family, and I spent many days wondering if we could be the thing they saw.
I looked her up recently, for the first time in a while. The search revealed a new last name and a baby registry. I laughed with Levi about this, how when you go looking for an update on someone you once knew, maybe someone you once loved, “She’s married and she’s having a baby” is a serious update.
And yet remnants still remain. The single brown crayon in the night stand next to the bed in the guest room, which I found while cleaning before Levi arrived. The smiley face on one of the small rocks on the dining room table—I hardly ever eat there so the table is more for storage. My family came over for dinner a few weeks ago and my nephew asked about the happy rock. The fancy moisturizer that she mailed me near the end, I still use it when my face gets dry, the gift still giving nearly two years after knowing her.
From my house we drove south. We parked under the bridge and walked along the inlet, onto the jetty, all the way out to the tip. There were no waves but it was a perfect sunny day, perfect other than the heat on this mid-May afternoon. The water was especially beautiful, shades of teal and clear and turquoise. I kept taking Levi’s picture.
After the jetty we walked back the way we came. That put us near the parking lot and we could have easily headed home, but I decided to show Levi one more place. I’ve been to Sebastian many times since the girls were in my life, but I hadn’t properly returned to the cove until two days ago. It’s not a place that haunts me but there is certainly a sting.
As we got closer, I told Levi I wanted to put my feet in the water. I slipped off my sandals at the water’s edge. Deciding to join me, Levi removed his shoes and socks, rolled up his pants and then the scene was what you see in the picture at the top.
We talked about the things that I’ve been typing—what the Inlet has meant over the course of my life, what the cove has held in recent years, adventures set within the safety of these rocks. Levi shared some things as well. I don’t have an epic ending except to say that I did not expect the shallow water to feel so good. Beneath the glaring sun we took turns giving language to moments sweet and bittersweet, this new moment marked by the kindness of a listening friend.
To be honest, I would keep writing but it’s Levi’s final night in town. And so I’m off to pick him up and find some dinner. It seems weird to choose writing about a person over spending time with that person, and I’m trying to be more intentional about friendship. Because I don’t want to miss out on connection. I need places to unpack the heavy, and of course the light as well. I would like to be known, and I want the people I love to know I love them. What a thing to find a friend who feels like home.
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Learn more about Levi: levithepoet.net
There are three small-group conversations coming up between now and the end of the month. I hope to see you soon.
Oh my gosh dude. I’m sitting outside the hotel crying. You used my favorite line - “friend who feels like home.” Love you. Thank you. Thanks for sharing your world with me. I’ll tell you this in person in two minutes when you pick me up.
i like when two of my favourite writers, with very different styles, are real life friends. this made me smile and reflect on the places i like bringing my friends to :)