Tag Archives: land sky sea

a blue bottle cap

I walked along the beach in the trough where the waves had broken at high tide. A smooth flow of sand and debris betrayed the streams earlier bed. Trash was strewn along the packed powder, at times slightly covered over or just protruding. I had to pick it up. It seemed a feeble effort with the oil just offshore, death lurking so near. What was just a little more plastic, a little more petroleum spun to serve my convenience? But I couldn’t leave it. I started picking it up, bottles and wrappers and bags. Just a few feet filled my hands anew. When I was nearly to the end of our boundaries, I came across a blue bottle-cap, free of its bottle. It stared me down like a great eye. I thought of the kaleidoscope of color that floats upon our oceans, blown together in great drifts of debris. Tiny drops of blue and red and green and yellow… caps, crushed by wind and wave and the surf’s pounding. I thought of the fish that find them attractive to eat and fill their bellies with the killer candy.

Plastic is mildly toxic; what it absorbs in the ocean like a magnet – chemicals, pesticides and poisons is deadly to the fish that ingest the plastic and to us who eat the fish.

Some of the girls saw me bending to grab some trash and began to lift a little of the burden as well. We met above the blue eye. “Remember these?” I quizzed my student, holding the blue cap aloft. She thought a moment, and then she raised her eyes and voice, “In the fish, in the stomach of the little fish!” Then she told her companions about the plastic caps and their travels.

Every effort is not wasted.


Leave a comment

Filed under observation


I walked a river bed of jewel-toned stones; rounded and smooth like beads to be strung. When the mountain stream passed over them they shone and colored the clear water. The spongy black soil beneath them gave gently as our feet fell. Along the river’s banks towered a majestic jungle. The valley came to a close far off, at the foot of cloud draped volcanoes. It was hard not to succumb to that kind of beauty, to not sit down and simply stay… until food, and water, and breath itself were exhausted.

Leave a comment

Filed under observation

the land

The soil of Costa Rica is deep brown/black and loamy. Plowed fields look like furrows of ground coffee. Volcanic soil makes for sweetness; pineapples, whose spiky plants fill acre after acre, grow too luscious and succulent to describe. Banana trees and giant aloes filled with fluid to rigor, soar. Great scarlet combs of color fall from roadside limbs. Limes and oranges bob from branches. Toucans sit atop leafless pinnacles and azure birds and butterflies dart before you. Humming birds dance between hibiscus. Black and orange orioles, larger and more brilliant, sit upon painted fence posts. Monkeys howl greetings to the morning sun.

In the cool of the forest, giant primordial trees perhaps 10 feet in diameter, spread wide their roots to secure another century of creation. Lizards and m&m colored, poison dart frogs and the much feared bullet ant, race in and out of its sheltering crevasses. Leaf cutter ants parade here and there with their flags raised high. Parrots fly in formation and sloths wind themselves around strong branches.

These riches are everywhere. The land shows no favoritism. It was breathtaking in the gardens of the landed, at the entrances of the plantations, in the uninhabited jungles, in the front yards of the country homes and in the shantytowns. Nowhere that man had left some soil to the sun’s gracing, did it not return its thanks. I saw soil piled upon a table top, secured with some round river stones, that bloomed into a garden. Children picked sweet wild fruit from every tree, and every plant seemed to hold some secret wonder.

Only in one place did the beauty that was Costa Rica dim. In the city, Limon’, the soil gave way to man’s cement and metal. The homes, cramped and rusted, were made of stronger stuff and everything seemed concrete.  The soil was pushed aside, covered over. Man’s progress seemed an ugly effort. No shop nor statue could in any way compete with the beauty and bounty of the poorest man’s land.


Filed under observation

“May day, May day”

May 1, 2010

“May Day” is the international signal for help, it is to be raised only in gravest disaster.

I’ve read from Gulf residents’ accounts that the smell arrives first: a burning, choking, somewhat sulfurous, acrid smell.

“May Day.”

The slick waters are sloshing, skipping over the booms, man’s feeble effort against wind and wave. Sea birds’ feathers are filling with the floating film. Their flights forever cancelled, grounded helplessly, they wait for a delayed death, from the petrol they have preened from their plumage.

“May Day.”

The thickness is settling in the shallows, surrounding, penetrating the cytoplasm of cell animals and algae, life at its most basic. The oysters’ yawns siphon a tank without warning. Tiny ones, too little graduate to greater depths, who stayed in school, will soon shine on the sandy bottom like a coinage in a fountain.

“May Day!”

Tuna, torpedo, tiny as you may be, toward open waters. Swim sea turtle, away from man’s menace. Dive deep dolphin, power below the death. Away whales, neither do our shores offer real relief. Pierce yourself pelican, pour out your heart’s blood, lay your own life down, man has come to take it.

“May Day…May day..Ma”


Filed under observation

keeping vigil

School just let out. I just walked to my car and thought about loading up on cash and gas, which seems so traitorous, and heading south, just driving until I run into the coast line. I feel all the things I felt whenever I got “the call,” the call to come, and to come now, when my grandmother was dying. I am tense, anxious, fearful, but very focused and undistracted about what I must do and in what order of importance. 1. get kids covered. 2. get fuel and cash 3. get going.

I am trying to discern a way, any way, to get to the coastline before death does. I’m thinking of maybe leaving early Sunday, spending the day, driving home late. I want to be there. I want to hold vigil; to walk and weep. I know I am not the closest of kin, maybe I would qualify as a cousin. I am not from there, nor do I summer there, nor do I hope to ever build a home there. But I am a casual camper who cannot imagine life apart from the Gulf as I know it. I have been to many other beaches; dirty, obviously polluted, cloudy water pooling around my feet, and thought, This is no beach. They call this a beach?

I cannot imagine never showing a grand-baby his toes, tingling with fish kisses in the clear shallows. I cannot imagine inedible shell-fish and retrieving only empty crab lines, clear days with no porpoise parades or the graceful swooping flight of the gangly pelican.

Like a child of any age, about to loose a parent or grandparent, who cannot envision life apart from their existence, I struggle to find focus in a life without the gulf.

All throughout the week, a strange thing has occurred with me. Never once has my spirit uttered silently or aloud a word, save, “Lord,” which could in any way be construed as prayer. I have many times been awakened and all but drug ( I like storms) outside by the Spirit to pray and speak to a storm. I have walked about praying without ceasing during recent hurricanes, tornadoes, bombings.  I am by no means anti-prayer when it comes to disasters, natural or man-made. But no prayer has escaped my lips toward the circumstances of the spill. There has seemed no ounce of authority resident in me in this regard.

I  sense a mourning congealing in me, a deep wail echoing up toward my throat.  Today,  I feel like one merely awaiting a due death, and I feel a drawing,  “Come, come now.”


Filed under observation

just a few miles offshore

Just a few miles offshore lies the forward edge of a spill from a hemmorraging oil well. Nearly 125 miles wide, the oil, as yet still flowing from the well and pipeline 5000 feet below the surface, is spreading, slowly,  thanks to favorable winds. Tomorrow, Not So Good Friday, brings less heartening news. A high pressure is developing in the Gulf and winds should turn and begin to push the oil directly toward the coast. In the path of the oil are some of the largest and most important estuaries in the United States. Forget the possible contamination of the powder white gulf beaches, forget the devastating effect to the tourism and subsequent trade in the coastal region, forget how such will ultimately greatly inconvenience us all or further increase economic hardship in our region. Hear me say with greatest gravity: our estuaries are at risk. They are the nurseries, the hope and future of our oceans. Estuaries are easy to damage and difficult to cleanse. Though in health, estuaries also cleanse the outflow of our rivers before their plunge into the great seas.

Just a few miles off of our shore…death awaits only a “good wind.”

I am a water lover, born under the water sign, in the “dawn of the age of aquarius,” indeed. All my most vulnerable, most altering moments have come in the context of water: in it, on it, next to its pounding. I can barely separate God from His most powerful representation, water.

My father served our nation and my state forty years as one of water’s great defenders…deep in my blood is that calling to do so. I have been watching, praying for and loving our oceans since I first toddled toward my t.v. to lay my hands upon Jacques Cousteau’s colorful Calypso.

I have the common southerner’s love of our soft and warm, motherly coastline. I crave her nearness and comfort at times of great stress. I run to her in pain and distress and change. I love the Grand Ocean as well, especially the poorly named Pacific, who tosses and propels and  bellows like the best of Fathers.

Just a few miles offshore the evidence of our greed, our selfishness and nearly total disregard for a more excellent way lies awaiting a wind that may well send it back upon us.

1 Comment

Filed under observation

the vine

I went to Athens this week to visit my parents and the cousins and a few good friends. We went to the Mary Lyndon House, the original mayor’s family home.  It is on a little rise and faces due south. It has the most wonderful lighting. At the time of our visit, about 1:00 p.m., the front rooms were luscious with light. I would so love a studio office there…The fund that saved the home also built a first class art museum and community center with every kind of art studio for classes…I miss home.  I saw lots of local works. They were beautiful and provoking. But nothing bore into me, stained me, until we were pulling out to go home. The yards of fairly old, 1920’s-1930’s, homes butt up against the parking lot of the Mary Lyndon. There was a rusted and crumpled fence, not chain link, at the edge of the property. All through that fence wound what looked like Forsythia, but the vine was larger and more supple and it was beginning to leaf but not bloom. That image impacted me…I don’t really know why, yet…It’s tied to something…a time, a story, a figure. I am not yet sure.

I drove around Wednesday afternoon in the rain looking for places, architecture, yard props, people, shrubbery and scenery. I saw hundreds of homes circa 1850 to present…. but the only thing that I SAW was that vine. All that called was the vine and this same place, not too far from Mary Lyndon, that has always spoken to me, and still speaks… I can hear it resonate and murmur. I can get near…But I can’t  find it – I can’t get to it. I drove all the way around the property looking for a way in. But buildings have been built, fences erected. It’s covered over and corralled…but its speaking…still.

So I am going to meditate on that vine, what it made me feel and smell and taste and breathe all over again.  I’m going to let the story come to me on its own, in its time…I felt a little tremble on the walkway of the Mary Lyndon, on those bricks laid so long ago…My breath caught looking out the great beveled glass window, front and center on the house. But that vine, who knows how long living…pulled…still pulls…the story is there. The story is there.

Around the edge of the place that speaks was a fence, not chained…wound round with vine…I remember now.

Leave a comment

Filed under observation