My wife and I walked a local beach the other day. All things considered, it was pretty nice. Sure, there was an occasional whiff of red tide death, enough to keep the vultures in a holding pattern overhead. But Karenia brevis, for that day at least, was at such low concentrations I never even cleared my throat.
Occasionally, one of us would bend over and pick up a particularly roughed-up shell, one that has that Charlie Brown Christmas tree look about it. To me, these are more interesting than the perfect ones, because their journey has been more adventurous.
The Japanese language doesn’t always translate easily into English, but that culture has a term, “wabi-sabi,” that I will use when I come across a shell with some chips or weathering across its surface.
As best as I can translate, wabi-sabi means an appreciation or love of something which is imperfect. It could be as simple as a beat-up shell, or a tree permanently leaning to the left after a vicious hurricane. The concept is an artistic appreciation of what is real, not what is flawless.
My neighbor, Java Jack, reminds me that Navajo artisans would intentionally weave an imperfection in their rugs, as an acknowledgment to the spirits that their earthbound work is nothing if not somewhat flawed.
People tell me that Florida used to be a paradise, with sun and clear water and lots of fish to catch. I remember that too, part of which may be due to a dreamy recollection distanced by many decades since I was a kid. Heck, I don’t remember my dad ever yelling at me, but deep down I’m pretty sure it happened.
Was Florida ever truly perfect? Juan Ponce de Leon must have thought so during his travels along both coasts of Florida. Beautiful and unspoiled — right up until a Calusa archer uncorked an arrow into his thigh. As he made his escape, only to die soon thereafter, he likely realized the peninsula was not without its negative aspects.
Florida, with regard to nature, probably becomes less perfect with each passing year. Certainly we see it with our own eyes and hear stories constantly about one tragedy or another. For those of us who were here in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we braced for years of oily sand, mutated birds, and a scarcity of aquatic life.
At least that’s what the expert on Channel 7 news breathlessly told us.
Yet here we are. BP coughed up enough cash to quiet the hordes of angry parasail companies and motel owners who lost business. Nature, in her own way, shrugged and moved on. We haven’t killed this pile of sand and limestone yet, despite those who think we have.
Often, nature’s demise is predicted when the Army Corps of Engineers shows up with another federally authorized, cash-infused project intended to solve the problems created by the previous federally authorized, cash-infused project.
It’s understandable when we hear of FWC’s indiscriminate spraying of aquatic vegetation. Anglers and nature lovers alike are infuriated when they hear, “Oh, no; it only kills the bad weeds,” knowing full well that’s not true in any sense.
The Sunshine State isn’t the only place with imperfections. California seems to be in the news a lot lately. They either are in a historic drought, blizzard or flood depending on the day of the week. And from what I hear, weather is just one of their many challenges.
They say it’s hard to find a U-Haul in California at present, with so many residents leaving. Despite our issues with clean water, ecological disasters, and clogged roads, a lot of them are coming here. I don’t see many U-Hauls heading north to Buffalo or Pittsburgh.
The unfortunate citizens living near East Palestine, Ohio, have a real conundrum on their hands. Do you believe the politicians who stop by for a photo op as they drink a glass of tap water? Or trust the railway CEO, who is “deeply sorry” his train went sideways while filled with hazardous waste?
I admit to sometimes being in a sour mood, what with all the bad news around us. Yesterday we went for a boat ride, fully bracing for the stench and deceased fish we’d seen for weeks before. On cue, as if God was determined to humble me yet again, the water that day was clean and gorgeous and wonderful.
It might not be that way tomorrow, as we are still slaves to the tides and currents and winds, but for those few precious hours wandering around Lemon Bay, it was, dare I say it … perfect. Wabi-sabi can wait.
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