In the early 1990's I traveled to Clearwater, Florida for a conference. I arrived at the conference the day before it began and since the conference hotel was on the beach, one of the first things I did after arriving was walk out to the beach. I had heard of the beaches on the gulf side of Florida all of my life and I could not wait to see a beach with no waves white sand that squeaked under your feet, and water that was so clear you could see fish swimming by your feet.
Clearwater Beach did not disappoint me. I walked for miles down the beach, waded into the water, watched a horseshoe crab swim by my feet, then sat in the sand and looked out over the calm, gently rolling tide. I was mesmerized.
Toward the end of the day, I walked back toward the hotel and the sun began to set and it seemed that everyone on and off the beach turned to face the sun. The music that a band was playing in the distance stopped and in the golden sinking of the sun below the water we all became one people, watching the wonder of God's hand, feeling the silent quietness of the sunset.
I walked back to my hotel room knowing that I had to bring my wife and children to this place so that they could experience what I had experienced.
I went home and described my experience to my wife and we planned to vacation in Clearwater the next summer. The following months I talked about Clearwater to my children, describing the beach, and the water and the sunset. They began to talk about Clearwater as if they had been there.
Vacation time finally arrived and we left for Clearwater. We stayed at the same hotel that I had stayed in earlier. We went down to the beach. And what we saw was a nightmare. Dead fish were everywhere covering the sand and hundreds of sea gulls swarmed down to peck out their eyes. The once clear water was filled with brown, slimy seaweed, and dark rain clouds hovered overhead.
After talking with several people we found that Clearwater was having what they called a "Red Tide", so named because the seaweed make the water look a reddish, brownish color during the several days it is passing through.
"I can't believe you thought this was a good beach." commented my wife.
The children had fun, though, throwing seaweed at each other.