Living in sanctuary a dream come true that I didn’t know I had

You’ve all witnessed me talk about how much I love the oceans that surround us here in the Keys. It’s why I moved here just over two years ago and what keeps me here every day. 

So, when I was first asked by the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation to represent the sanctuary and talk about what it means to me, I found it funny that the words weren’t flowing. 

How do you sum up the magic of a place, the wonder of it? How can you do it justice?

It took me a bit and I ultimately had to go for a swim at our homeowners’ park in Tavernier at sunset to remember — it’s the blues; it’s the touch of the water; it’s how it all makes me feel. 

It was an honor to represent our little chain of islands and our waters to the rest of the world. It’s a pleasure to share my wonder with you now:

There’s something special about the blue of the water here. 

That silky turquoise is alluring — intoxicating, sometimes. It entices my mind to wander to endless summer days and warm nights under the stars.

Living within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is a dream come true that I didn’t even know I had. Two years ago, I moved to the Keys to restore the coral reefs. I stayed because the reefs restored me. In these waters, I’ve found my voice, happiness, and purpose. 

The ocean has always been a place my soul can rest, but here, in this sanctuary, my imagination has found its muse. Anytime I’m at the bow of a boat, ocean spray whipping through my hair, or diving these magnificent coral reefs, I feel free. Life is abundant and wild and infinite. I cherish that feeling each time I go out on the ocean. 

I watch Cassiopeia jellyfish live their upside-down lives in the mangroves and nurse sharks pivot in the sand with their fin tips while they patrol the reefs. I swim among the corals and sea fans, searching for snapping shrimp, Christmas tree worms, and nudibranchs — all the little denizens of the reef that make it so rich and exciting to explore. There is so much to see, do, feel and experience. All of it fills me with wonder and gratitude.

As an environmental journalist, it has been my privilege to tell the sanctuary’s stories and those of the people who protect this enchanting place. From debris dives to turtle rescues, coral restoration to lionfish derbies, the community comes together over and over to protect this place we call home. Even from land, there are more people engaged in this fight every day than I have ever witnessed. In their tireless endeavors and unwavering conviction, I find courage. In their passions, I find inspiration.

It’s truly a blessing to live in a place I don’t need a vacation from and to work alongside people willing to do whatever it takes to protect it. I am grateful every day for my little slice of paradise and the opportunity to share its wonder with the world.