"We’re lost. I don’t think Gandalf meant for us to come this way."

I don’t know why, but the words of The Lord of the Rings keep coming into my head as I try to wrap my head around just how awful the Gulf oil spill is. I think about what happened in the Mines of Moria because the dwarves became too greedy and dug too deep.

So I am devastated in anticipation of the oil slick reaching the coast of Florida on Monday. This isn’t to say that I am any less devastated about the oil slick destroying miles and miles of protected wildlife refuges in Louisiana and Mississippi already.

But the place that I know most intimately is Pensacola Beach and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The National Seashore extends from Florida to the barrier islands off Mississippi’s coast, where we collected shells that turned out to be hermit crabs with Grammy when I was a young child after taking the ferry out to Ship Island for the day.

Here is the picture of the first time my sisters and I were ever on Pensacola Beach. Our family had just moved there from rural Mississippi, and it seemed like such an amazing place:

I have been in love with it ever since.

I don’t think there is a better place on the planet to take a nap in the sun:

The World Below the Brine

The world below the brine,
Forests at the bottom of the sea, the branches and leaves,
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds, the thick tangle, openings and pink turf.
Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white and gold, they play of light through the water,
Dumb swimmers are among the rocks, coral, gluten, grass, rushes, and the ailment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existence grazing there suspended, or slowly crawling close to the bottom,
The sperm whale at the surface blowing air and spray, we disporting with his flukes,
The leaden-eye shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy sea leopard, and the sting ray,
Passions there, wars, pursuits, tribes, sights in those ocean depths, breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do,
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed by beings like us who walk this sphere,
The changes onward from ours to that of beings who walk other spheres.
— Walt Whitman

The Tide Rises the Tide Falls

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,

But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands.
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls

Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I have loved this beach for as long as my memory recalls. It has been men go to place to think, read, or cry. Its clear waters have brought me clarity. I have watched dolphins ride waves parallel to the shore. I have carefully tread past sea turtle nests. I have been thankful for peace and thankful for beauty there.

Please pray for this place to make it.

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