I give her all of my prayers for healing. I give her back all of the love and acceptance she has given me.
I know I shouldn’t swim in the Gulf of Mexico.
I know it’s a rolling toxic soup of oil and corexit and all manner of human engineered carcinogenic demons. I don’t care—I love the Gulf. I’ll always love her. I’ve been exchanging energy with her since I was too small to walk or even sit on my own. Propped up by my parents, toes in wet squishy sand, hands splashing and heart singing. I fell in love and in love, I remain.
Some of my earliest happy memories are of weekends spent with my brother and father in St. Pete. We watched storms roll in from hotel balconies, great dark masses of clouds swirling over thunderous silvery green waves. Lightning streaking across the black sky, wind whipping my hair across my sunburned face. When the storm had passed, we’d walk down to the beach.
When I was really small, my parents say that I would march straight to the water, face scrunched up with the determination to walk all the way across. I spent hours as a child, diving under its crashing breaks and floating on its gentle swells, staring at the deep blue sky above me as the waves rocked me into my first meditative experiences.
My dad would warn my brother and I about the giant undertow that could carry us far down the beach before we realized we were out of sight, or worse, out to sea, dragged down into murky depths. I wasn’t afraid. I was never afraid of anything the Gulf might to do me. I knew she wouldn’t harm me. She was my mother, my protector, my confessor, and my limitless potential.
As a teenager and young adult, weekends were spent on my dad’s boat. Racing across the blue-green water, I would perch at the bow and imagine myself flying. I learned to wake board on her glassy surface and tried countless vain attempts at waterskiing. I watched fireworks reflected in her inky mirror every Fourth of July and had my very first proper kiss on her grass covered dunes.
Much later, when my seventeen-year marriage suddenly imploded and I was left with utterly no sense of who I was anymore, I sought refuge in her and beside her. As I gazed across her seemingly endless horizon, I realized that I too was limitless.
I’ve bathed naked in her silvery moonlit waters, purifying myself in her. I’ve soaked up the yang of the sun and the yin of the moon, lying beside her. She has caressed me with her gentle winds and kissed me with salt air and spray. How can I turn my back on her now?
So I wade in slowly as soon as I arrive. I send my love out to her through my fingertips as they skim across her surface. I walk further in, deeper, giving thanks and praise to her wondrousness. As I sink into her, I am enveloped in her loving embrace. I give her all of my prayers for healing. I imagine filtering her through myself, just as she has purified me all these years. I give her back all of the love and acceptance she has given me. She is still beautiful, strong, untamed. Man cannot destroy her. She is too vast and too powerful. I have to believe this.
Editor: Sarah Winner