I came to an “aha” moment a few months ago as I was doing something mundane at the kitchen sink that if anybody asked me what my greatest luxury is, I would say unfettered access to clean and potable water. That festival in India where 80 million people show up to the Ganges and bathe…well, that is not for me. Go ahead and say it Olivia and Allison, “Mom, you’re racist.”
And so I faced my fears a few days ago, had my own Ganges moment, when my brother-in-law and sister took us motoring in their sailboat upriver away from the tainted Gulf water to the brackish shores of the Fowl River, a spring-fed recreational river that does flow out to Mobile Bay. My brother-in-law insists its one of cleanest rivers in Mobile for its lack of pumped raw sewage. Great. Cold comfort.
A number of anonymous souls over the years dedicated to the fun of all mankind have maintained sturdy knotted ropes tied to a tree for boaters to use along the shoreline. There are 2 x 4s nailed to a tree and two boards not unlike water skis nailed to a branch extending out over the water. It’s a quick scramble up the trunk and then a quite literal walking of the plank to the bow’s edge. A friend, or an uncle in our case, hands you the rope and coaxes you to resist your very rational fear of what you are about to do and then you swing out into the river and let go.
I neither scramble nor resist rational fear easily. As we motored out in the 106F midday heat index with no breeze, all I could think about was the state of the water and what had I gotten myself into. But it turns out when heat stroke is upon me, I will jump into any water no matter how questionable. Olivia, always the thrill seeker in our family, climbed the tree despite the hundreds of little crabs moving up and down the trunk like spiders. She declared her fear quite clearly and she jumped. Once the kid had shown us how it's done, we adults all gave it a try and it was indeed fun, once. And despite the thorough sinus wash by the sketchy river water, I lived to see another day.
Dauphin Island is the Jersey shore for people from as far north as Birmingham, even for beach weekends and holidays through these ungodly hot summer months. The outdoor swimming pools are naturally heated to a very unrefreshing 90 degrees and the view from the beach is that of working oil rigs just off shore, still pumping away despite the current disaster. It’s a scrappy little island unapologetic for its ramshackle tourist services and coarse vista. Swimming and boating in full view of oil rigs is an acquired taste.
It’s so absurdly hot during the day that the beaches are empty much of the time the sun is up and fill with people at dusk. The Cullens of Twilight would be at home here.
But at last I am able to walk on the beach without burning my feet. There’s a faint breeze and it’s carrying the smell of oil tonight. I can only post photos of the very normal and very not normal of the Gulf Coast during these fragile days in its history.
I found this to be questionable parenting but my brother in law said, "it's probably ok."
A dolphin grabbing dinner just 50 feet from where we stood on the beach, rigs in the background