If you’re stressed out by, well, everything, maybe take a moment to check out this manatee cam operated by the Save the Manatee Club in Florida:
The Save the Manatee Club was founded by former Florida Governor Bob Graham (D) and Jimmy Buffet. It operates several above- and below-water manatee cams at fresh water springs. This time of year, when there’s a chill in the air, the manatees flock to warm water springs.
I grew up on a spring-fed river that has manatees year round, but there are more in the winter, of course. The spring water is a steady 72 F, which feels like an ice bath in the summer when the air temperatures are 95 F and warm as bath water in the winter when it’s in the 60s or lower.
Anyway, I find watching the manatees (or sea cows, as the old-timers call them) pretty calming. They don’t make any sudden moves — can’t, in fact, which is why almost all except babies have boat propeller scars. They seem to sleep, socialize or nosh peacefully on aquatic weeds all day.
Florida has set aside more manatee zones for the critters over the years, which is a good thing. Boat collisions kill far fewer now than they used to when I was a kid, when you were allowed to barrel around in a power boat at top speed year-round.
The manatee zones also give them a place to get away from humans if they want to; you’re not supposed to follow them into their designated hang-outs, feed or harass them in any way. They’re friendly and curious by nature; if you slip quietly into the water and don’t splash around and make a scene, chances are they will come to you.
I’ve told y’all about the first time I took my future husband to swim with the manatees: I’d told him about them, but words didn’t prepare him adequately. He jumped into the river and snorkeled over to where I said I’d seen one surface for air.
Minutes later, his head popped out of the water, and he turned toward the boat, eyes bugging behind the mask like Wile E. Coyote after an ACME product mishap. He practically walked on water back to the boat.
“It’s as big as a MINI-VAN,” he explained, after leaping into the boat like a great white was chomping at his heels. Manatees are not really that big, but they are impressively huge. I probably should have mentioned that! I still kid the mister about being afraid of manatees all these years later.
The only downside about sharing a river with manatees is their poop: it looks pretty much like a human turd except two feet long! All I’m saying is, if you’re in the water with manatees and see one lift its fluke, swim away!