Saturday, June 26, 2010
This is my beach. Siesta Beach. On Siesta Key, on the Gulf Coast.
This is my beach. It has white sand I walked on every day when I was a teenager.
This is the beach that saved my life, kept me off drugs, the beach that was my boyfriend
for all those years I didn't have one.
This is the beach my grandmother and I walked along in winter, imagining the white sand into snow. It's the beach I kicked soccer balls on while walking its miles with my best friend.
It's the beach where I lost the key to my father's Audi while my parents went to England on vacation, before I had a license to drive.
It's the beach that mysteriously coughed up the key so I could drive home, astonished.
For how many years have we been using the phrase "of mythical proportions?" The oil in the Gulf of Mexico has reached "mythical proportions." They are now saying that since the underwater robot (what planet are we on?) bumped into the cap (the one we actually watched that 24 hour spew cam to see if it would work), the problem is worse than before. Now, the hole in the earth is actually broken. We have broken the earth's crust.
Mythical proportions are too much to think about. I can't comprehend what this means. I see the dead baby dolphin being carried out of the tide. I see the oil-drenched pelicans. These are the things I understand.
I am so afraid and sad. My 7 year old daughter cries about this.
I grew up on Siesta Key, Florida. Our house was actually on a very small island off the island of Siesta Key. Mangrove Island, it was called. It was named this because the entire island was formed out of sand caught in the sharp roots of black mangroves. Standing at the edge of it, I could bounce and feel the island move. We speak of fragile environments. I grew up on something caught between branches.
From the age of 12 to 20, I inhaled Gulf of Mexico salt air. Pungent and sharp, heavy in the lungs, it was a coarse place to live. Yet unpaved, Mangrove Island was a crushed oyster shell and sand escape hatch from the progress going on elsewhere on the island. And sharp and stunning things grew there--yuccas whose black tip still rests deep inside the skin of my hand from a day I reached under one to retrieve a tennis ball I was throwing to my dog. Hard black dock spiders clicked their pincers against the salt-worn wood and barnacles of our dock at low tide as I brought my canoe to shore. My feet were often bloody from the razor edge of the oyster shoals. But there were softnesses, too, like in the way the pelicans would roost on the mangrove branches then burst into evening flight as I paddled past. There was the slap of a mullet, its brief flight above the bayou's surface done. And there was sunset after sunset after sunset, spent walking on the silk sands of the beach.
In all that is happening in the gulf, all that is mythical and incomprehensible has no choice but to take me back deep and down into my own mythology. The mythology of place, of the home that was rendered unreachable years ago when our house was sold then torn down and replaced, the island paved. But now it is even less touchable. I think of the brown pelicans, of the young heron that I rescued once from traffic on the quiet island, how its long spindly blue legs struggled against my hands.
I can't reconcile any of it.
I am at a loss.
I am beyond angry and frightened. I am wistful and gazing at how on earth this problem can possibly be solved, and, on a more personal scale, how it can be grieved.