It’s Labor Day weekend here in the States – the unofficial end of summer.
This summer has been busy. Lots of trips: Utah, Wyoming, Canada, West Virginia and North Carolina – for eclipse and beach.
Every year we stay at the same beach town in North Carolina. It is a very small town. Well, I guess you could call it a town … there is no stoplight or grocery store or nightlife. Just a perfect beach and a lighthouse and small stores accessible by bike.
And every year I want to stay longer and every year I dream of buying a home there. Why not make it permanent? I find peace there. We’ve certainly invested enough in the town’s economy over the past 20 years. We visit in all seasons, so the winters don’t scare me. In some ways, it seems like a no brainer.
Ah – but the seas are rising. Climate change is real. Maybe this barrier island won’t fare well. Is it a good investment?
I looked it up. It turns out that these barrier islands could survive rising seas and angry hurricanes – but man won’t let them. We have shored up the shore – built jetties and structures on the ocean-facing side of the barrier island to protect homes and businesses, while blocking natural inlets from occurring, which would rebuild the island on the sound side.
We are insisting on control. On status quo. We are in charge, damn it. Fuck that ocean and those inlets and Nature’s plan – we’ve got roads and tourism and plans!
It won’t work, of course. No matter how much sand we bring in to fight the erosion and no matter how deep we dig our heads into that sand. The future is mapped out (quite literally) and the science is real.
Poor scientists. It must suck to always have the answer and have no one care. I wonder how many of them drink too much? Why do they keep doing it – shouting the facts, and facing down the unhappy officials?
I guess it is like parenting or slaying drinking demons – what choice do we have? The fight might be all there is – so we better fight hard.
This morning I went on my summer’s last beach walk on this disappearing spot of perfection. I walked south and watched my dog chase the sanderlings and seagulls. No, I won’t be buying anything permanent here. I will just visit as often as possible, until one or both of us has disappeared into the sea.
As I turned to walk back, I thought of this poem, that Richard Rohr uses so beautifully in his book Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. It is one of my favorites.
BREATHING UNDER WATER
I built my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you;
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.
A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always, the fence of sand our barrier,
always, the sand between.
And then one day,
-and I still don’t know how it happened –
the sea came.
Without welcome, even
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning and I thought of death.
And while I thought the sea crept higher, till it reached my door.
And I knew, then, there was neither flight, nor death, nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling, you stop being neighbors,
Well acquainted, friendly-at-a-distance neighbors,
And you give your house for a coral castle,
And you learn to breathe underwater.