Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Spirit of the Gulf

As the oil seeps into the coast, the realization of what this means is also seeping in. For me, it was a little selfish at first. My family and I were planning to vacation in Orange Beach, Alabama this summer. It is the first vacation that we've taken in four years. After the news of the spill, we were still hopeful, even if it was somewhat naive. Maybe the media had blown things out of proportion, you know how the media is, right? Maybe we could move up the date from August to June, before things got too ugly.

Then I began to see the images of the devastation to the coast of my home state, Louisiana. Heartbreaking is a word that I hear and read over and over again to describe those images. And still, truthfully, it's easy to see them and feel angered and frustrated, but also somewhat detached. After all, we live in the northern part of the state, we're practically Texans. No one claims us. We’re too far north to claim the word cajun and too much Louisiana to be Texans. But it's still my home. I’ve lived here for 36 years. The gulf is the only waters that I've known, besides the lakes and bayous Most people who live in the southeast live for summer vacations near that warm, blue water. Not so much now.

And then, Dan, a blogger friend in Miami, was invited to participate in The Spirit of the Gulf challenge. He did it beautifully! He was inspired by other bloggers, and in return, he passed it on. You can see that inspiration at Diahn and Mark's blogs, just to name a couple. While we're all angered and frustrated by the spill, so close to home, so near to the devastation of Katrina, the spirit of the challenge is to celebrate the strength of those warm waters, and the people who make their homes and livelihoods near those waters. This past weekend, Jimmy Buffet did just that in Pensacola Beach, Florida. Now, I'm not a parrothead, but if you live near the gulf, you know Jimmy Buffet. Not personally, of course, but you won't hit a resturant or bar on the coast without hearing his music. He encouraged people to come on down! Don't take on a "sky is falling" mentality! He said the people of Florida are "tough people" and have survived much, and that we should "batten down the hatches". And yes, it's true that he's about to open a multi-million dollar resort in Pensacola so maybe his speech isn't completely altruistic, but still. He's a Floridian, I think his words ring true. I think he means them. They speak to the spirit of the gulf. They speak to the spirit of the American people.

And while this disaster is devastating, there's no denying that, if we can't do anything to change it, why not turn that frustration into something positive? Why not send some positive energy to our gulf friends of the land and sea?

Back to our vacation...we've been waiting it out, watching the news, hoping we could still go to the sugar sands of Orange Beach. But this past week, we've all started to think we should head to the mountains! Just like everyone else I know who's cancelled their gulf vacations. Who wants to see that kind of tragedy? If the beauty is soiled, why go there? But now? I'm thinking maybe we should go. Like my sweet husband says, "So, the beaches aren't so beautiful, we'll find a place with a pool." Spoken like a true optimistic. And why not? My one little family isn't going to save the coast, but if everyone stays away, it only makes things worse. Why not go and do what we can by showing our support? Why not go and talk to the locals and let them know that we're not abandoning them? Why not go and see if while we're there, there's something that we can do, no matter how small, to help? Why not let my children see the devastation that man can cause, but also, the restoring power of nature? Why not.

So, here's a poem. It's an older poem that I've reworked slightly. I'm not sure it works for this occasion but it's my offering for the Spirit of the Gulf challenge.

Take this mess from my plate,
give me silence.
Take back your cell phones,
your e-mail, texts and twitters.

Take back your SUV's,
drinking fuel like Coca-Cola,
and your colorful, sleek mini-vans.
that seat your family of four.

Take back your toilet paper in bulk,
paper or plastic, and your super centers,
selling underwear and roasted chickens
under the same, expansive, blue roof,
little old ladies in the produce aisle

pushing the latest frozen, quick easy meal.

Take back your talking heads, your status quo,
lying politicians, your analysis of any given
situation at any given time and the word,
the excuse for everything that ails you.

Take back your road rage, your syndromes
and little pink pills that make you numb.
Take back your self-centered teenagers,
taught the world revolves around them,
building massive bombs with Leggos.

Take this mess from my plate,
give me milk and honey.
Give me long, lazy days on a gulf beach,

toes snuggled into the warm, sugary, sand,

the mesmerizing, rhythm of the surf
as it spills onto the land.

Give me food for my soul and keep your toys,
I don't want to play.
Let me know who wins.


Diahn said...


Suzanne McDermott said...

Beautiful, Melinda. Thanks so much for your words and photos. You are welcome to put the Spirit of the Gulf laughing gull icon in your sidebar with a link to the original challenge. The more the merrier. I'll put a link to this post on the original challenge page. If you are on facebook, please add a link to this post on the wall. If not, let me know and I'll do it for you. Good to know you.

Melinda Owens said...

Thanks, Suzanne. Glad to be part of something so positive! I added the laughing gull icon to my sidebar and also, to facebook. Good to know you, too.

Jingle said...


Linda said...

Absolutely PERFECT!

sheri... said...

melinda, this was a powerful read! i love the conclusion that you come to, tis better not to bale with all the rest of america for the peoples of the coast don't need salt in the already gaping wounds. hubby is right, you can still have a great time but this vacation might have more purpose than any you've had before.
this seems silly to mention in comparison to the seriousness of the gulf but this is the first time i've seen your new profile picture and i love being able to see your eyes!

Dan Kent said...

Absolutely beautiful poem and post and tribute. Wow.

RHCarpenter said...

Beautiful post and poem!

Lisa said...

What a sincere tribute to the gulf and its beauty. The beaches along the gulf are food for the soul, and I really like that you give them their due as the escape from what's wrong with the world. Both pieces are inspirational!

sheri said...

hi melinda! haven't seen you post in a while...hope you are simply enjoying your summertime? just wanted you to know that i've been thinking of you and looking forward to whatever it is you're up to sharing!