Here’s a new term for me: “the fringe of the sea.”
This the space between the eastern shore of Ambergris Caye and the great Belize Barrier Reef. From space, I imagine, the relatively calm and shallow blue-green expanse must look like a colorful collar. This fringe teems with life, aquatic and human.
In many ways it is a highway, too. At its busiest, it is filled with water taxis, sailboats, barges, para-sailors, jet skis, resort boats, pleasure boats, kayaks, fishing boats . . . . If it floats, it will make its way up and down the coast.
Beneath the aqua and emerald waters you can spot turtles, dolphins, sharks, a thousand varieties of colorful reef fish, brightly hued corals — and conch and lobster, too.
From the shore, the white rumble of the surf against the reef seems so close — and in some spots it is.
The fringe can be deceptively calm and empty.
Last Sunday afternoon, I paddled a kayak out to the reef to snorkel. The sky was a hazy blue and the water seemed reasonably tranquil. Best of all, there wasn’t another water craft in sight as I shoved off from the Grand Caribe Belize Resort’s beach. By the time I reached the buoy closest to the reef, the waves were tossing and numerous kayaks materialized from resorts up and down the shore — at least seven, plus a fishing boat or two.
My selfishly envisioned moment of solitude and tranquility at sea was pretty well dashed.
Still, the fringe is a mighty long body of water. I had plenty of it to myself — and a blissful two hours of snorkeling and paddling about. The fleeting glimpse of a six-foot shark, a beautiful barracuda with a curiosity streak, and a pair of quite-shy dolphins made this little trip a huge success.
To my delight, I opened a newsletter today from Holy Cross Anglican School, which happens to be just down the street from us, at the entrance to the San Mateo settlement. The newsletter contained four poems by students in Miss Delvi’s Standard 4 (Sixth Grade) class, all on the topic “The Fringe of the Sea.”
I was so pleased to see that this body of water elicits many of the same emotions in these kids that I feel.
On Ambergris Caye we often feel that we are in the presence of a miraculous gift. If there were no reef, there would be no Ambergris Caye. The reef holds back and ameliorates the forces of nature. We have ripples lapping at our shore, rather than thunderous, ripping waves. You can actually see the force of the Caribbean’s waves and hear the energy disperse at the edge of the reef.
Each of the poems chosen for the Holy Cross newsletter focuses on a different facet of this jewel — the brilliant fiery sunrises, the people drawn to the fringe, the fishing boats, the gentle waves, the brilliant colors of the water.
The roar of the distant surf is among the first sounds an island baby hears. The Caribbean breeze is among the first sensations. The warm blue-green waters among the first pleasures. Island children learn to walk on the sand. Food from the sea is the first nourishment for the child.
I am just a visitor here. For these kids, the reef, the shore and the fringe are part of their DNA. They have grown up alongside the fringe as naturally as an American kid grows up alongside a lake or river or baseball field.
You can feel that in their writing. Here are the four poems published in the Holy Cross newsletter:
Poem 1 – by Carlos and Angel
We like to wake early to smell the nice breeze and the waves are very noisy.
We like to rise up early to see the beautiful blue water and walk down the water to find shells.
To hear it swaying near to us with green and blue water, and endless boats weave patterns and sets a mood.
We want to take some breeze and the sky sunshine up in the sky and walk bare foot all in the water.
Poem 2 – by Ryan and Nathalie
At the fringe of the sea I can hear the waves crashing into the reef.
I can see men fishing with their boats and nets.
At the fringe of the sea you can see the sun rising up in the sky.
It is perfect for you to get a tan at the fringe of the sea
At the fringe of the sea you see the palms swinging from side to side.
Poem 3 – by Shayantycia
Happiness is walking by the sea, hailing the people who live along the sea.
Happy or sad, we move along the sandy shore, passing peacefully in the shallows, past the fishermen on the beach.
I see them bringing in their boats full of gleaming fish.
The sound of the sea shore is in my ears.
I see the wind making the waves go in and out.
Poem 4 – by Paulene and Victoria
People come into shore as the violet and flaring red sun rises the people who catch the fish, the fishermen that are upon the calm still sea go looking for some fish to sell.
So that some people get inspired and so that one and all has a fish feast to share among all.
By the fringe of the sea as the sun dies down and as beautiful flaring light appear again.
So the fringe of the sea is waiting as its flaring golden sun shine and spreads for another day. The fringe of the sea will forever be.