Monday, August 2, 2010

Paradise lost

This is a column from just a few weeks ago when the news seemed much bleaker from the Gulf of Mexico..

Paradise can be more than just a place, sometimes it refers to a place and a time, maybe more. I can name only a few trips Emmy and I have taken where things were near perfect and we referred to that place (and time) as ‘paradise’; one was a paddle/portage trip in Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.
We stumbled upon some sort of Twilight Zone or time continuum slot between the black fly and mosquito seasons, our insect repellent went unused! It was 14 days of perfect weather. We swam and studied wildlife and did nothing resembling our day to day grind in the ‘real’ world.
Our other “paradise” was in and around the Gulf of Mexico. Emmy and I have fond memories of our time spent there. A few months before Katrina, we explored beaches and marshes in Texas and Louisiana. We had a fantastic time on the beach, reading and dozing and wading into water just slightly cooler than air temperature. We saw alligators and armadillos and a huge sea turtle. We saw exotic birds, so colorful I thought they must have escaped from a zoo.
Emmy Lou is far more adventurous than I when it comes to water sports. I found this out just a few days after we were married and still on our honey moon. In the middle of Tupper Lake, she stood up in our canoe and dived into the water and swam away. I thought maybe it was something I said.
As she swam away, I hollered after her that she was on her own; I wouldn’t be able to do anything to save her should she start drowning or meet another calamitous fate. My definition of swimming was well put by Paul Stookey; to me, ‘swimming is, staying alive while I am in the water.’
Through the years I have cautioned Emmy to stay near shore or near the boat- she doesn’t listen.
In the Gulf, the water was waist deep for what seemed like miles. I saw no need to wade further than fifty feet or so from shore. As I sat enjoying the shade from our camper’s awning, Emmy Lou waded out so far she was barely a spec in the flat water. I saw a dorsal fin slicing its way past in the shallow water, not seventy five feet from where I sat. With my knowledge of sea life, it could have been a great white shark or a beagle fish. Emmy was too far away to hear any warning from me, so I said nothing. Someday that girl will be consumed by something higher up on the food chain than she, all I will be able to do is say wistfully, ‘Told you so’.
At dusk, as we lay on a blanket, watching the water and the light of day fade, we noticed specs of light popping out in the sky. After the first night, we realized that not all of the dots were stars. Low on the horizon, some were the lights on oil rigs, their iron work not visible in the brightness of day.
In my ignorance, I could never imagine that just one of those far off specs on the horizon could be the cause of so much damage to the shore we enjoyed, or that vast body of water. I guess BP didn’t think of that either. The difference is; I never drilled an oil well, British Petroleum has drilled more than a few and should know better.
After making the mess, adding insult to injury, BP followed the practices of many highly successful insurance companies by ‘slow-walking’ business owners and others through claims, saving money when the process overcame the claimants and they gave up and walked away.
Each day there is more news of oil spreading, damaging another business, or destroying another beach or marsh or killing another type of animal. We are losing the Gulf a little at a time.
I can’t help but wonder how much of paradise will be left when BP proclaims “Mission Accomplished”...


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Pat said...

Beautiful post, felt like I was there. I share your sorrow, too.

immanuel suresh said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and it reminded me of john steinbeck's story of canary row which i read long time ago and later i also read the background for the book " the log of the sea of cortez" and i could relate to many an inspiring situations u have also experienced. Now also sitting at this conner of this world and reading of the oil spills i feel sad. wonderful blog Immanuel suresh