Saturday, June 05, 2010
Long ago in the middle of a speaking tour, addressing audiences from city to city, I found myself one day in a beach town. I had arrived late the night before, too late to see anything, and would be in the city for only one day before needing to leave for the next town. I wanted to see the ocean, though, if only for a moment. I wanted to breathe the ocean's air and drink her fragrance. So, during my lunch break, I left the conference center and walked two or three blocks to the ocean's edge. No time to change clothes, I went to see the beach wearing my business suit, stockings, and brand-new Etienne Aigner dress shoes. As I stepped off the street's asphalt, I removed my shoes and walked on the sand in my stockinged feet. The ocean was calm and beautiful with sparkling sunbeams dancing on the surface. It was a beautiful day. As I walked along the water's edge, though, I began to notice my feet getting dirty. After a few minutes the bottoms of my feet were black, coated with a tar-like substance. The beach looked clean, perfectly normal, but immediately underneath the beauty of the rolling sand something was terribly wrong. By the time I got back to the street, my feet were hopelessly sticky and gooey. The asphalt was blistering hot and I couldn't walk back to the conference in my bare feet, so I slipped my feet back into my new Italian shoes. I had never before (and have never since...) experienced anything like this in my life. As it happens to be, that beach had been the victim of an oil spill quite some time previously, and no matter how pristine the beach appeared to be, the tarry substance was always just below the surface. I was a mess. I was committed to the rest of the day in front of an audience with my fee, my hosiery, and my shoes filled with tar. I was in agony. At the end of the day I had to seek professional advice oh how to clean and how to heal my feet; my new shoes were ruined and had to be disposed of. Stains on my feet lingered for weeks.
I grieve for the enormous tragedy of the oil spill in the Gulf. I cannot watch the news. Every time I see an animal covered in the oil, struggling to move or struggling to breathe (or sometimes being already deceased), I break into tears. I don't talk of this event with anyone because just in the thinking of its horror I start to cry.
We did this. We have been responsible for the health and well being of our earth and every creature sharing it with us, yet we did this. I hope we will learn to do better. For now, all I can do is grieve.