We stumbled upon it completely by accident. We married in July, but waited to take our honeymoon until September. It was a lovely time of year, and we decided that Disney World might just be the most magical place of all to spend it. We also decided that to get there we might just drive along the coast to take in the view of the ocean as long as we possibly could. What we did not take into consideration was the extreme rural nature of some parts of Northwest Florida, and just how dark it can get in said areas. The sun set, and suddenly we were cruising down a very long and very dark stretch of two lane highway. Seriously, it was the kind of dark from which one would expect Bigfoot to emerge. It seemed like we drove for hours, and then suddenly from nowhere (literally) we found ourselves at the end of the road-and not in a metaphorical sense. We were literally at the end of the road. We found ourselves looking at a picturesque fishing village, and the most beautiful harbor I'd ever seen. To the left there was a bridge that seemed to curl into nothing, but which actually was the gateway to my paradise. For the last 12 years Mr. Big Prize and I have taken between two and three weeks of our year and spent them in our little chunk of heaven. The town itself is close to 200 years old, and it's ancient buildings are now filled with quaint boutiques whose owners love tourist dollars but resent the tourist themselves. Men who fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers made their living from the sea wake every morning with the dawn to gather oysters from the brackish waters of the bay. Our friend Captain Jack (yes, his name really is Jack and he really is a Captain) takes us on upriver trips to spot exotic birds and American Alligators.
Across that curling bridge is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, completely devoid of high rises and drunk college students. On any given day one can spend hours relaxing on the white sands and watch the dolphins play in the surf just a few yards off the beach. Every morning the sands are littered with hundreds of exotic seashells, many of which have found there way into my home. Sea turtles have been coming to my paradise to nest for hundreds of years, and when we rise early and are lucky, we can see a "drag" where a mother turtle has lumbered onto shore to deposit her precious and endangered cargo. It really is pristine, and heavenly, and now it's in danger, and I'm livid.
Yes, I'm livid. I'm livid British Petroleum for creating a horrific situation which now puts all of that perfection in jeopardy. I'm livid at our government for allowing big oil and the big money that accompanies it to be the real power in our country. I'm livid that millions of gallons of death are pouring into the gulf on a daily basis, and no one seems to be able to stop it. And I'm livid at myself. I'm livid that for years I've talked big about alternative oils and demanding change, yet have done nothing and said nothing and expected nothing. I'm livid that men like Captain Jack, and those hardworking oystermen may now lose everything, because there is murky threat creeping toward them and there is nothing that they can do to stop it.
I just got back from my paradise, and while it remains all it has ever been I couldn't help but wonder if it was the last time I'd ever see it in that pristine state. Would those dolphin calves swimming in the surf survive the imminent threat? We didn't see any turtle drags this trip, but on our last day there a dead sea turtle washed up onshore. She was relatively young, and was perhaps returning to her home shore to make her first nest, but instead, something ended that journey too soon. Was it the oil seeping into her home, or perhaps some other man made enemy that took her life? We'll never know, and we can't save her, but we can make changes that will save the lives of the incredible and diverse life in the oceans of our world. But we have to make the changes to make that a reality. I'd say saving paradise is worth it, wouldn't you?