A lament for the Gulf
By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — I watched the satellite photos of the Gulf, and the oddly reddish patterns of gushing oil, and thought of lines from “The Second Coming,” the W.B. Yeats’ poem: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed …”
And I thought of the changes I have seen in my lifetime, growing up in a world addicted to oil.
I was a small child, swimming in a sparkling, spring-fed lake, near my grandparents’ waterfront cabin in Northern Michigan.
The sky and the water were a bright June blue. I floated contentedly for a while, then began a slow swim to shore — and swallowed a mouthful of gasoline.
A little marina had just opened nearby and boaters were careless with gas fill-ups for their outboard motors.
On a hot, humid June day, about 16 years ago, I was feeling happy about returning to New Mexico, and mostly glad to be leaving just about everything but a few loved ones and a big ocean in Southern Florida.
I decided to take a nostalgic last walk on one of my favorite beaches on the Atlantic coast.
I packed up some gear: water, beach towel, sunscreen. And baby oil and a soft, old cloth to remove the “beach tar” that had been part of every walk on every beach during my last seven years in Florida.
That was nearly two decades before the great 2010 oil disaster, and the beach tar was already a part of everyday life.
This week, I found myself reminiscing about the late, great, decades of the 20th century, when one could still walk an ocean beach and come home with bare feet that were shining clean and lightly pumiced … a natural pedicure, before we sullied Mother Nature’s beauty salon.
I’ve lived most of my life near large bodies of water. I grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan, and spent summers swimming, canoeing, sailing and kayaking on rivers and lakes both great and small. By the time my son was old enough to join me, fishing licenses carried warnings about industrial pollution.
My next home, in the Pacific Northwest, seemed to be a refreshing change from the downhill spiral into pollution. Progressive Oregon worked hard to clean up the mighty Willamette that ran through the heart of Portland, the state’s largest urban area, and established auto emission regulations, bottle return bills and other helpful measures.
But family members send reports that even that once-pristine area has suffered from chemical spills, medical waste and other ravages.
When I miss large bodies of water in my desert home, I’ve taken comfort in mountain vistas of large expanses of desert, not unlike the oceans and Great Lakes, I’ve thought, unpolluted by petroleum.
But there is no real refuge. On isolated mountain tops and remote deserts, I’ve been tortured by the noise and lungs full of exhaust, generated by ATVers.
I’ve mourned with friends over sites where thoughtless souls have dumped their oil on the banks of the already overburdened Rio Grande, killing fragile plants, fish and animals.
I just heard from my eloquent friend John Flannery of Truth or Consequences, an internationally renowned photographer whose work for National Geographic includes some of the most beautiful earth aerial photos I’ve ever seen.
“From a few of the aerials I’ve chanced on watching TV, the vastness of that unprepared for, ongoing disaster has created The American Dead Sea. BP is henceforth in my feeble mind a corporate serial murderer. Even after they ‘clean up every drop,’ they will have ruined countless lives, some unborn, some never to be born, and slammed open a Pandora’s box of a completely different sort. An aquatic and shoreline Buchenwald,” John laments.
Now, I’m holding vigil with my sister Sally, a retired Florida journalist who has worked with bird and marine mammal wildlife rescue organizations. We brace for revelations of new crimson tides and ponder what to do.
She recently visited Alaska’s Prince William Sound and found the area still has not fully recovered, more than two decades after the Exxon Valdez spill. We wonder how, or if, today’s greater assaults can be weathered in the more fragile Gulf Coast estuaries and the Florida Everglades.
And I think of poets and angels and the closing chapter in the New Testament, all warning of blood red tides, when the seas and their creatures died.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to lcsun-news.com and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.