Destin, Florida - September 2010
The sand is still sugar fine, just like it was in the 60's, the 70's, even the 80's. Even last year. But now there is something new. A coating of green that buckles and kicks up under your bare feet like sheafs of wallpaper. And further down past the navy chairs, there's a layer of seaweed. No, not seaweed. This is seagrass that once lived on the bottom of the Gulf. A member of the brown algae family, the grass now lies in great sodden blankets, thick layers of olive- and coffee-colored cloth, that no beach-goer wants to touch. I imagine lying in bed with this blanket up to my chin, but the stench of something rotting, a pond in trouble, reminds me that this is nothing usual, nothing comforting.
If this grass now lies in folds at the edge of the water, then what is at the bottom of the Gulf where the grass once grew? Go ahead, guess. Dispersants, oil, a little supper of BP crude for all you fishes. Sometimes the little fishes float up to the surface and end up on the beach amongst the soft dead grasses. Algae as funereal bed.
Swimmers wade through the algae and into the waves that are laden with more algae, fresh from the deep. If one swims out far enough, the water is clear, a luscious turquoise. Paddle surfers, ocean kayakers, infrequent pods of dolphin do better out there than swimmers. Still, some are determined to get past the brown-green detritus. Heads bob, laughter floats to shore, and soon they head in, once again through the algae, and on the beach the sunbathers eye them, perhaps expecting the brave ones to emerge covered in slime, sporting gills, like so many modern-day sea monsters.