Tag Archives: the gulf

deep greens and blues

I grew up going to Panama City Beach every summer with my parents and sister. There is nothing like the squeak of that sand, the brilliant  greens and blues of its sea and sky. Panama City is brightly beautiful. Sun glasses are a requirement at PC. My older eyes cannot exit the room anything but blind apart from them.

My kids are getting old enough for me to let them play in the waves: boogie boarding and body surfing, while I sit on a bluff carved by the morning tide. Usually, I ride every wave as well. But yesterday, I took the opportunity to sit and stare out into the deep greens and blues. The sky was cornflower colored with wisps of white and the water had that sunburned brilliance that is so hard to communicate to those who have never seen our gulf. I tried to drink in those colors, stain my mind with the pigments…afraid that the sea will dim, will be dank the next time I make my way there.

I have stood along the stony shores of Maine, the waves dark and threatening. I have tiptoed the cool waters of Cape Cod’s finger. I have ridden good, strong waves at Myrtle Beach, seen the brown, sandy trails of sea turtles at Hilton Head, come to know the specific briny perfumes of Jekyll, St. Simons, and Cumberland. I have driven down Daytona, searched for shells at St. Pete and found sanctuary from a named storm at Madeira. I have dug my feet deep into gray-brown sand above Santa Rosa and felt the 747 sounds of the Pacific roar through me. I love the beauty of all of these beaches…New England’s steel grays, the South Atlantic’s muted blue greens, the Golden isles sepia tones, but nothing cuts through like the color of our gulf – blinding beauty – stronger than even our sun.

I have also seen the foam and stain that is Mississippi and Texas. Motor oil is my favorite color plastic worm, but my least favorite color ocean.

God, please continue in your mercy.

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“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”

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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.”

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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.

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