Everybody feels something when they look at it, unless they are hollow. Standing in that sand, looking into that blue-green, liquid forever, I felt relieved. It was forty years ago this summer. I was going on twelve, a boy from the red dirt, what people call the Alabama highlands. My leather work boots, my future, lay under my bed in Calhoun County, three hundred miles away. I didn’t need shoes here. I felt the sand pulled from beneath my toes, felt clean water rush around legs as pale as bone, because a serious man, a working man, did not strut around in short pants. My bathing suit was a pair of cutoff jeans, and when I turned the pockets out I found a handful of sand, white as a wedding dress, pure as salt. For some reason, a reason my grown-up mind cannot see, I laughed out loud. ¶ What I do recall, more than the lovely dunes and raucous seabirds and tiny fish that rode the waves straight into my cupped hands, was a feeling that I stood at the edge of something, not a place to fall off but to float away. The Gulf of Mexico, so vast, was just the beginning of a big world that did not end at the terminus of a dirt road, or a mill gate, or a bald hill stripped clean of pulpwood. From here, why, a fellow could go almost anywhere. ¶ And my momma thought she was just taking me to Pensacola.
My whole life has been bathed in these waters. I lived through a thousand undertows, ten thousand hush puppies, two honeymoons, five hurricanes, a never-ending sunburn, untold jellyfish stings, a dozen excellent drunks, two Coast Guard interventions, a hammerhead as long as a Boston Whaler, and one unfortunate misunderstanding in the Breaker’s Lounge. Here I saw the most beautiful mermaids God ever constructed, the ugliest oyster I ever ate, and a hermit crab with a Rebel flag painted on its back. As a child I moved ten tons of sand, one plastic bucket at a time, and as a grown man I waited two hours outside Captain Anderson’s in Panama City for a piece of grouper and some French fried potatoes.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The Lost Gulf
absolutely beautiful essay on the Gulf oil disaster's impact on him and others in the Gulf.
Posted by Bill at Wednesday, August 11, 2010