Friday, November 01, 2013

A Red Flag Afternoon

It's a beautiful day. I steal out to the beach with a book and contemplate the gorgeous surroundings I've found myself in, my gaze straying to the view and not the page. The water is inviting, seductive. If I stick my toe in, will it be cold? It is October after all, but it's also still 85 degrees. Maybe I could just walk along the edge, test the water, as it were.

The woman next to me speaks up, catches my attention because it seems she's reading my thoughts. "Don't go in the water," she says. "There's some bacteria in there that can attack your brain. Nine people have died."

I blink at her, trying to comprehend that something so beautiful could house something so harmful. A brain damaging bacteria? There? I tell her that's hard to believe and we talk for a few minutes about it-- how the cabana guys have been stopping people all afternoon, keeping them out of the water. "It's not even safe to stick your feet in," she tells me.

Well there goes that idea.

As the afternoon goes on we watch the cabana guys stop kids and adults from venturing into the dangerous waters. But there's no signage so they must be vigilant.

Later that day a flag finally flies. It's our warning. A literal red flag, waving in the warm fall breeze: Danger ahead. A sign that this place? This loveliness? It's hiding something dangerous. And the message isn't lost on me.

Sometimes things look beautiful and yet they cannot be trusted. Sometimes what we see isn't what we get. Sometimes the things we reach for (or dip our toes in) come back to bite us. We are filled with regret over something that once drew us in with beauty and appeal. And so I keep this picture on my computer and I remember the balance I must strike. Lovely mixed with caution. Beauty mixed with wisdom. Before I run headlong into the surf I should look for the red flags. And when they're not there? I should listen to the people around me who know more than I do.

And beware of brain eating bacteria.
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Melanie Backus said...

I love your post. It speaks volumes. Sometimes we are so hasty and don't take the time to look before we leap.......we must be watchful , we must remember!

Carol Baldwin said...

Good post, good advice. I like the last line--I'll remember it!

Rachel O said...

Totally tracking with you.