Angle to Key West: Innocence (1/7)

Santa Rosa Sound

Navarre Beach, Florida – January 7, 2013

Past midnight in New Orleans a man showed me a spot on a map, a bit of land off Santa Rosa sound. He pointed to and tapped his finger.

“This is where you need to go,” he said. “It’s magical.”

He used to live in Pensacola and grew up on those beaches. He splashed around as a baby in the sound, grew tall enough to stand in the Gulf’s waves, skipped school to camp out on the white sand for days and soak in the water. Then BP’s rig blew up.

“I’ll never go back there,” he told me. “They killed it. I felt the water change. I felt it die.”

His voice came low and quiet, dead, like he could see the oil ripping his childhood memories away from him, cutting him away from his true love, snapping his connection to the world. I thought of my beaches, of St. George Island and Cape San Blas. The ones where I crawled around in diapers and chased my dad into the waves. I thought of watching the television day after day, watching that line of oil advance toward them, waiting helpless for the oil to color my childhood pictures black.

“I will never go there again,” he said. “But you should go.”

I found the spot. White sand stretched under glassy water. Jellyfish danced underneath me. A long crescent beach hung into the sound, drifting, building, fading with each storm.

It was beautiful, but I wasn’t sure.

Every black speck in the water, every blemish, every off-color patch of sand, popped to life. I noticed anything less than perfect, anything out-of-place, anything I would have brushed aside before. Now I wondered where it came from, why it was there, if it was safe to step on with bare feet. I thought about the pain in his voice. I saw his eyes and their faded glow. I heard his promise never to return.

“It’s gone,” he said. “It’s gone forever.”

He meant the beach, his childhood memories, the water he loved, but he was really talking about our innocence.

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4 responses to “Angle to Key West: Innocence (1/7)

  1. I like this story. Sometimes we make a choice and sometimes choices are made for us. These choices change our lives and become milestones or transtucent membrane that separate a life that once was from a life that now is. We may have our own BP oil rigs from the past that skew our older memories and have changed our future.
    Thanks D. Paddle on.

  2. The Gulf is still beautiful in so many places —.no question about it, just enlarge the picture of Daniel’s blog today for a reminder. The Spill is a wake up call (not the first or last wake up call on this) that the natural environment and our Gulf are fragile and we need to be better stewards — every single one of us. What can we do? DO SOMETHING. From driving a fuel efficient car, to car pooling to providing a donation to environmental groups, to talking to your favorite uncle who works at Exxon to help corporations have better consciousness about these issues. Do something. And do it now and do it often.

  3. I am so glad that you are responding to the reflections of others re the environment. Now, the MS coast is fighting the drilling for gas on the barrier islands. We are loosing our clean air and water to greed.

  4. The Earth with her oceans of amniotic fluid cries out, “What did I do? Provide you with the joy of the dolphins, the flight of shore birds, the smell of salt air, fish to eat, sand between your toes…and you trade all this for the use of thick tarry stuff to power your machines so that the air, water, soil are made unusable by all my dominion.” Our Mother weeps. We stand mute by her edges, feel powerless beside the Greed. But we are each a reflection of that same Greed, addicted to the use of fossil fuels…at any cost.

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