We live on the Atlantic coast, and each morning walk hand-in-hand along the shoreline just after the sun rises, bands of fire yellow and mango dissolving into blue. But this is not the everyday miracle. Every hundred yards or so, a plastic water bottle crumpled in the sand, sticky with seaweed and last night’s fingerprints. The tide has not gotten to it yet. At intervals, clusters of trash cans and recycle bins placed there by the city we live in, white so as to disrupt the shimmering view of the coastline as little as possible. If I don’t pick the bottle up and toss it in the can, the sanitation worker who is not far behind us will. He is quietly making his morning rounds. All around the world, bits of plastic will find their way into the stomachs of whales and sharks and swordfish today. Drinking straws, popsicle wrappers, ziploc bags. When some of these animals die, researchers will find they have ingested more plastic than plankton or fish.
But not here.
If I stretch my arms out to the ocean I will be reaching toward Europe and the Middle East, besieged by identity crisis and war. At my back, a country clawing its way through torrents of hatred and fear, hanging on to its dignity with its teeth. But here, in this spot, this tiny square of sand in Virginia, a glimpse of the divine: a problem with a solution. Infrastructure—the beggar stand-in for Jesus Christ, the child picked last for dodgeball. The unappreciated and unseen. The bottle goes in the trash can, and the dolphin I see with my two eyes, glinting in and out of the water with his playmates, will glide through the sea this full day.
Photo by Gabriel Santiago