Saturday, September 13, 2008

Just a little ponder on the beach

What I Thought on my Summer Vacation
To the Editor:

In August, I gave respite to those who vent against my endless plea for justice for Palestinians. Having spent the summer contemplating the behavior of birds and fish and tiny crabs hiding in crevices, my awareness of the vulnerability of every living being and the earth, itself, renewed my consciousness of how much balance matters not just in the Middle East, but everywhere and for everyone.

Terns dive head first and osprey feet first into the ocean and come up with fish, sometimes, too big to carry off. My realizations intensify. Nature is not kind. A bald eagle attacks the osprey flying by with the fish in his talons; the osprey drops the fish; it falls back to the sea; no one benefits. Well, there's always fertilization, I guess.

I have thoughts of having a successful mosquito genocide, becoming more and more aware that we human beings are not alone in our desires to be the fittest, the fastest, the winner, the taker. Life with its challenges of success and failure touches even the strongest bird. I find an ailing gannet, a bird with a 6-foot wing span, sitting helplessly on the beach, rather than soaring at sea on an updraft as he should. I put him in a box and house him for the night, away from predators. The cozy box is temporary. The next day, we set him afloat, knowing that he may or may not survive.

We humans are told that we inherit the earth and everything in it. Perhaps? Sea and shore life and death like purple jelly fish wetly dragging tentacles behind them to scare swimmers one day, drying out and deteriorating in the sand the next, make me feel that it's the earth that inherits us, man and beast alike. Better make the most of what we have before we're forced to drop our sustenance without recourse.

On the other hand, it's comforting to think that our short lifetimes on earth are mere visits after which we simply blend into the whole again.

In this near-perfect retreat, far from people who choose to debase rather than debate or to misinform rather than search for reasonable balance, I finally break down and check for news. In The Tribune, argument continues and those who would deny Palestinians their human right to pursue productive, happy lives are at it again, blatantly blaming all Arabs for the nasty attitudes of some, as though only Arabs have unsavory thoughts, the rest of us as pure in our thinking as little creatures tucked comfortably into dunes to avoid being swept away by the tides. It's time to join the dispute, again.

When I leave this "gentle" island, I wonder whether or not I'll remember how easily life sifts through the hands of need and, then, how violently, through the rocky fist of greed. Will I remember Prince Edward Island lying amid a pristine sea innocently massaging the shore, and forget that, actually, the sea is awash in centuries of blood?

I live near Savage Harbour. The locals say that savage refers to our population of mosquitoes and sand and black flies, but, in truth, the name was given by Europeans who took most of the island away from the Mi'kmaq, tribes who had been here for ages before the conquerors even knew that to sail around, they had to lose their fear of traveling flat.

Ecologist Farley Mowat explains how human interlopers caused the extinction of spear bills and Eskimo curlews among species gone forever. Throughout the Atlantic provinces, white bears and brown, cod and salmon, whales and seal pups skinned alive and left to crawl out of the water without life preserving fur have fled or learned that survival means becoming invisible, lost to human enjoyment. There is no reprieve for cuteness in killing fields.

In successions of dispossession, the British colonialists chased away the French settlers, the Acadians and whole shiploads of farmers and fishermen and their families drowned at sea. They did this seven times and, still, the Acadians returned. We are made to seek renewal.

Survival of the fittest doesn't have to mean destruction of all others; it surfaces when desire for impossible certainty takes precedence over human responsibility for our fellow earth travelers. A lot has gone from this red clay island and on a windy night, the howling sounds of sea and air remind anyone awake that we are fragile and far from safe.

Those who remain: Scottish, Irish, Acadian, Mi'kmaq, people born on the island and people from away sing together about their diversity and pleasures and everything seems at peace. This is, however, an eroding island and the dangers we face have little to do with who our fathers and mothers were, but a great deal to do with how we manage what we have and who we are, now.

The same is just as true in Palestine, Israel and Ames. I don't think I'll be forgetting my summer reveries anytime soon.

Elizabeth S. Mayfield


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