Thursday, May 20, 2010

Saved by the Sea

What are springs and waterfalls?

Here is the spring of springs,

the waterfall of waterfalls.

A storm in the fall or winter

is the time to visit it;

a light-house or a fisherman’s hut the true hotel.

A man may stand there and put all of America

behind him. ”

- Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes, when the week has been too long and you realize that even the nicest people are starting to get under your skin, it's time for an escape. I had one of those types of weeks last week. I am lucky to live in a culturally rich city. People flock to cities to cultivate their intellect, open their minds to new people and experiment with foods, art, music - enrich themselves. But people are drawn to nature when they need to clear their mind of the clutter, refresh their energy and come back "home again." For me, the ocean, the waves crashing on the shore or and the sand beneath my feet, takes me to this place. I feel at peace near water. Or sitting on a boat, feeling the lull of the tides, I am both at ease and rejuvenated.

Unfortunately, I can't get to the beach as often as I'd like. I'm lucky when I am able to make it down to my families river house, something I hope to do much more of this summer. But it is because of this effect water has on me that the BP oil disaster is especially devastating, in addition to the environmental and economic havoc it is reeking. How can we be so careless with something so important and fragile?

This is what David Helvarg explores in his new book "Saved by the Sea." Helvarg is a journalist who has covered many international issues over the year, but truly made an impact when writing on the environment. This latest book recounts how he transitioned from a journalist to dedicating his life and work to preserving the world's oceans.

Below is a short excerpt. I've never read nay of Helvarg's stuff, but I plan on reading this book this summer, hopefully somewhere where the waves can reach my toes.

"We broke up, but not cleanly. I moved to D.C., away from her and my other love, the sea. Right after I started writing the ocean book I’d always wanted to, she found a lump in her breast. I was with her through the chemo, which was awful but seemed to work. I finished Blue Frontier (W.H. Freeman) and was on the Deep East Expedition 100 miles off Nantucket when Al Qaeda hit the twin towers. When I got back to land Nancy told me her cancer was back. I was with her for the last few months, in the hospital and home hospice, where we could watch the waters of the bay flowing in and out with the tide. After she died at 43 we had a memorial service on one of her favorite beaches. It was a gusty day, feisty like the gal, with the winds whipping the sand and frothing the cold translucent waves. She used to say I never looked happier than when I was coming out of the water after getting beat up by the waves. But the ocean can also provide solace, give you a sense of being part of something larger, even when large parts of your own soul have torn away."

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