Back To The Beach

Back to the beach: Life is simply more pleasurable in Seaside Florida town

Back to the Beach: Life is more pleasurable in Seaside Florida town

Seaside Florida beach at sunset
What is it about the beach that makes everything more pleasurable?  Photo by Katie Oxford
Seaside Florida farmers market
Fresh vegetables at the Seaside Farmers Market. Photo by Katie Oxford
Seaside Florida sea turtle volunteers revisiting the turtle’s nest to count how many eggs hatched - August 24 @ 9pm.
Sea Turtle volunteers revisit the turtle’s nest to count how many eggs hatched on the beach at Seaside, Florida. Photo by Katie Oxford
Paul Johnson at Seaside Farmers Market
Paul Johnson provides a smiling face at the Seaside Farmers Market. Photo by Katie Oxford
Seaside Florida farmers market
A palm tree lends a Florida feel to the Seaside Farmers Market. Photo by Katie Oxford
Seaside Florida beach at sunset
Seaside Florida farmers market
Seaside Florida sea turtle volunteers revisiting the turtle’s nest to count how many eggs hatched - August 24 @ 9pm.
Paul Johnson at Seaside Farmers Market
Seaside Florida farmers market

What is it about the beach that makes everything more pleasurable? Here, I read more; food tastes better; dreams are more vivid; going barefoot was invented at the beach! Come to think of it, to borrow a phrase from Coke . . . everything goes better with beach.

I knew this when I was a kid combing the beach on Bolivar peninsula every summer. There, regardless of what the weather was like, every morning felt like Christmas. Instead of running to a tree, my siblings and I made a beeline to the beach. It was sheer bliss.
 
 Taking a long walk on the beach the other day, I stupidly asked a fellow beachcomber for the time. “Beach time,” she smiled. “Exactly,” I answered, “Thank you.”  
But, if Bolivar was bliss, I would find nirvana along the Florida panhandle later . . . in Seaside, Florida.
 
I came here 18 years ago and been hooked ever since. I’ll try to explain why, but as it goes with the beach, words and photographs fall short. I love this.
 
I could say the draw is the white sand and green-blue water; the sunsets; the birding; the turtles and behind all this, the people who run Seaside’s small businesses. (Modica Market, Sundog Books, the Seaside Farmers Market to mention a few). Folks, who not only make this southern community feel like one, they’re friends. 
 
Best of all, present time rules here. I think that’s what people mean when they say beach mode. Taking a long walk on the beach the other day, I stupidly asked a fellow beachcomber for the time. “Beach time,” she smiled. “Exactly,” I answered, “Thank you.” 
 
Whether at Seaside or on other beaches, I’ve felt connected to the Gulf of Mexico for as long as I can remember. John Fitzgerald Kennedy understood this perfectly: "We have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came."
 
Seaside Farmers Market
 
Everyone feels good at a Farmers Market, but put a Farmers Market along the Florida panhandle, and you’ve got heaven. 

Tabletops are full to the gills. There’s produce straight from the garden tumbling out of baskets; rows of relishes and jams you’ve never heard of; pastries; popsicles; hot sauces that’ll take your mouth on a thrill ride; breads lined up like bowling balls and a variety of dog treats . . . all natural of course . . . to mention a few. And that’s just what’s on the tables.

You’ll find visiting with the people who work behind them just as pleasurable. These folks are connected to their work like no others. You won’t find braggadocio or arrogance here . . . only kind, humble and conscientious caretakers who bring their labor of love to the table for lucky us to enjoy.

I've grown to love every one of em’, but I have to admit, I got a favorite. Paul Johnson, originally from Dothan, Alabama, has a smile bigger than Texas and a neighborly nature to go with. Paul and his wife, Marsha, don’t grow the produce themselves. They select produce from a variety of farmers. They represent the buyers at the farm so to speak, and, in turn, present the farm to the buyers.

Paul puts it this way, “We’re your arm to the farm.” Thus, their name, Paul’s Pick of the Crop. Let me tell you folks, they are! The mate’rs as Mama used to say, the mate’rs alone are worth going for. These will take your mouth on a sweet ride.

I promise you’ll leave with your basket and your heart . . . both full.

Editor’s Note: Seaside will be featured in “10 Towns that Changed America.” The program will run on PBS stations in early 2016.