A mourning at the beach

Day 24: We Slice Open the Time Machine

Going through old documents in the computer and found this journal entry from May 11, 2010, thirty one days after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

dramatic gulf view

May 11, 2010

Last week, my husband charged up his video camera so he could capture how the Gulf looked before the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon disaster reaches our shores.

Except he kept finding excuses not to go. Finally, on an absolutely splendid afternoon, I got him to come with me.

But he put on jeans instead of shorts, even though it was 80 degrees outside, and we were headed for the beach. And he told me he wasn’t going to bring the camera after all.

My husband is a native of this area. He grew up around these waters. He crewed the fishing boats  before he even got his driver’s license.  For a few years, he was a shrimp boat captain, following in his father’s footsteps.

He gave up shrimping and went on to other things, but he’s always had a boat, even if it was just a rubber dinghy tied up in the  yard.

So he knows the Gulf well. He grew up fishing in the bays and the bayous. For all that I grieve over the disaster in the gulf, I know his grief is greater. It’s personal.

In his lifetime, this area has changed to be nearly unrecognizable to him. Even in the near 20 years that I’ve been here, the beaches of South Walton (to the west of us) have changed from sleepy little beach towns to endless condos and mansions that stand like giant boots upon the neck of a dream.

But you could still find pockets of wonder here and there. The dunes of Greyton Beach. The Gulf Island National Seashore, and several city, county, and state parks, all of which have preserved as much of nature as possible.

Until now.

We drove to the Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island, and made our way to the second floor deck. It was Mother’s Day, and throngs of people were there, hanging out at the restaurants, playing volleyball, swimming in the gulf, doing all the ordinary things that people do down here on a beautiful Sunday afternoon on the Gulf of Mexico.

The sand was as white as snow. The sky was as blue as I’d ever seen it, pure blue except for one bright red kite that floated gently above our heads, to the music of the Gulf’s sweet breeze.

No smell of oil. No hint of what’s to come.

My husband stood beside me, utterly still. Completely silent. Despite the laughter from the outdoor restaurant and the endlessly moving crowd below, it was as if the two of us stood alone in that place,  attending a funeral. But the grave was as wide as the world.

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Update: March 24, 2016. Fortunately, the Gulf of Mexico has proved resilient. Six years later, our stretch of water is still breath-takingly beautiful, and safe. For now … we hope.

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4 thoughts on “A mourning at the beach

    1. It really does have that dreamlike quality. But it’s real. It’s Spring Break down here, and I love to see families at the grocery store, stocking up for their week’s worth of memories. They come from places that have 33 degrees and rain. On the other hand, as I write this, it’s very stormy. Mother Nature in all of her glory!

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  1. And I love “the grave was a wide as the world.” I have some sense of this emotion from when Mt. St. Helens erupted, burying my mom’s childhood camp and her father’s fishing holes. Not quite the same though, as at least it was natural causes. But still, that sense of mourning for a place.

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