On John’s Pass and Boardwalk

Hello, everyone—

I’ve been #reallybusy this week with a paper I’m writing for school (soon to be published on Defy Augury in May!), so I wasn’t able to write another article aside from my satire. As a result, this brief descriptive essay I’m sharing with you today might be a little off-topic.

Nevertheless, I have a reason for posting this on Defy Augury. Shortly before I wrote this piece (around a month ago), I’d read E.B. White’s “Once More to the Lake.” On the surface, it’s an essay with a man talking about a lake they keep visiting every year, but when I read carefully, I found that the lake was not the center of the story, but that it instead was a tool to point to a greater theme. In writing the piece below, I mimicked that style of descriptive essay, trying to interweave a message that not only appealed to the five physical senses but through that appeal reached the spiritual and intellectual depths of the heart. 

Consequently, in a style similar to E.B. White’s, I chose a place special to me and while describing it, made it a symbol of some intangible concept—in this case, the art of finding beauty in brokenness. Enjoy!

Near the town of St. Petersburg, Florida, there’s a little boardwalk called John’s Pass, running along the green eastern edge of the Gulf of Mexico. One visitor could say it is a tourist trap, a place that thrives by starving unwitting prey of their money. The other could counter the claim and say it is a dear place, the quintessential emblem of Floridian culture and wild beauty. What they would not realize in their arguments, though, is that the pass embodies a mixture of both ideas.

It wouldn’t surprise anyone if this boardwalk was not named after Saint John. All who visit must pass bars, obscene storefronts, and the smoke of a million feisty, foul-smelling cigarettes. Many of the wooden buildings carry with them some splinters of secret sin, some dream of a fulfilling, tranquil life now deserted for the scant dress of women or the luxury of addiction. The briny sea seems to sling itself against the dock like a frenetic man here. Those who wish to keep clean walk in heightened watchfulness, wondering woefully if any hope can arise from this black place.

Nevertheless, as the greatest darkness requires light for its creation, so there is bright goodness to contrast the alehouses of eerie ruin. The visitor needs only to fix his gaze upon the innocent people and to the cheerful, shimmering sea. In the midst of brokenness, he can smell the smooth and creamy desserts at the Kilwin’s shop or lick his lips in delight at the Bubba Gump restaurant’s trademark shrimp. He can see families laughing as they enjoy their weekend getaway on the beach or witness the chirping dolphins arrive to ensure the happiness of each lonely guest. If the worn traveler wishes to rest, the sea blows a playful Floridian breeze through his hair, as if inviting him to dance in the sun and saying, “Do not forget, do not forget—there is beauty at John’s Pass! We only need you to see it!”


~Sarah Merly

March 31, 2018

Isaiah 53