One’s sense of place is built not only on the living but also on those who are gone. Years later after my family’s far-off travels, they returned permanently to Tampa and Madeira Beach, and their friends, the mortar that bonded them here, were waiting with open arms. So much a part of their beginning, this place became a part of their twilight.
My family and I have continued what was begun. We’re drawn back yearly, sometimes more, to the sands of a small beach town. I jog the beach taking in the subtle differences that seem to change the view, but not the landscape. Sunsets, miraculous and soothing in their endless consistency, mark time and add color and warmth to this slice of Florida.
Familiar faces at Dockside Dave’s and The Frog Pond, who have chosen this place as their nucleus, beckon our return. The “Texans” they call us, and we migrate each year to who and what we know, remember, and treasure. Calming and warm like Madeira’s Intracoastal Waterway, their presence as much as anything brings us back.
As I watch the sun dip its orange edge in the distant horizon beyond Clearwater, I take solace in the faces of those who recognize me year in and year out and the pleasant and welcomed ghosts who crowd my sense of place.