Sometimes you need to start over. For me, anyway, this is that time. On New Year’s Eve, the last day of a terribly challenging year, I put myself on a red-eye flight out of California due to land at dawn in Miami, Florida. As far as I was concerned, I couldn’t fly east fast enough to meet the New Year. We crossed over into Mountain Time somewhere near midnight, so I am not sure if I missed the changing of the calendar to 2013. It was still dark when I landed, but the sky was getting grey and it was definitely dawning on a new day: January First. The sun was rising and I couldn’t wait.
On the more practical side, what to do when you arrive on New Year’s Day in the wee hours of the morning? Don’t bother going straight to your hotel because it’s bound to be fully booked with last night’s crowd. Instead of waiting in the lobby for several hours for check-in, I thought it might be wiser to take advantage of the early morning light in Florida. But where? Where the pros go: Crandon Park beach. Crandon Park used to be part of the largest coconut plantation in Florida, before the land was donated to Miami-Dade County in partial exchange for a causeway to connect Key Biscayne to the mainland. Speaking of which, the Rickenbacker Causeway is a beautiful stretch of road if you have the chance to take it.
When I landed, I had no idea what I would do. I knew I needed to go somewhere, but I just hadn’t managed to prepare. This isn’t like me, but as I said, it was a rough year. So I sat in the Hertz Rental Car parking lot searching my smartphone for a place to go. I found Crandon Park thanks to a new phone app named EveryTrail. It had a nice driving tour lined up for photographers with excellent advice for scenic places. The author even wrote about which specific parking lots to turn into depending on what you wanted to see. How nice! There was a time when you could never have gotten away with this lack of planning. You’d have had to ask other photographers, look at magazines or call the hotel and ask the concierge to ask around. If you hadn’t planned, well, all you’d have gotten would have been some shots of palm trees and the highway. Not anymore. It’s amazing to me how much the smartphone has changed things. I am so much more likely to get exactly what I need. It makes me more adventurous, more willing to try something new because I know what it’s about, what people thought of it, and how to get there – all at the touch of a button and done in less than twenty minutes. Really, it’s fantastic.
After a short drive and a couple of low-priced toll booths, I arrived at the beach. I felt a little silly in my black wool pants and my leather dress shoes, but since there was literally no one else there, I ignored the feeling and walked onto the sand with my camera. As I went, I noticed a lot of vultures in the park. Big, brown and ugly birds that flew away once I’d come within about 15 feet. There were some small white waterbirds as well, with long pink beaks, and also peacocks. When I went back to the car later, I noticed there were four male peacocks walking slowly in my direction, eating as they came. I tried to get some good pictures and they did let me get within about three feet, but they are hard to photograph as they are very long birds and they keep moving with no thought to posing. Still, it was fun to try. On the beach itself were coconut palms (lots of these), and the occasional broken coconut in the sand. The ocean was that lovely blue-green one finds near the Caribbean and there were cheerful yellow lifeguard stations all along the stretch of the shore. It was so beautiful and so peaceful. And it was empty; there was not another creature except the birds. There was only me and rays of glorious golden sun breaking through the clouds. The tranquility was exactly the reassurance of hope and grace that I wished for. What a wonderful beginning. My advice? If you must face the dawn of a new year alone, face it seaward in a southerly clime.