Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gulfport, Mississippi

First encounter with the sea this year begins with an airplane conversation with a local retiree. "Where should I go if I have time in Gulfport?" He recommends driving south along interstate 10, at least if I want to "see the destruction" of 2005 hurricanes, Katrina and Rita. And so I trace the asphalt strip, level to the ground and stretching flat on either side between the water and a string of buildings with no first floor. Or rather, with beams-only fully-gutted first floors. The most disquieting characteristic of the floodwater damage is how perfectly intact many upper floors were. Looking upwards the view is of any beachfront strip of mansions, condominiums, community buildings, single-family homes. Perhaps a high number of newly constructed places with the Tyvek paper covering still exposed. Yet at ground level it's clear that it's a ghost town, uninhabited and slowly rebuilding one year after. On the water side a string of oversized road signs proclaiming businesses of which there are few if any signs of the establishments themselves, a waffle house, a mexican restaurant.

The white sand beach and the water itself breathe peace. I pull over and balance across a large conveyance, walking towards a large group of gulls. The birds rise, circling overhead. The water is cold to the touch, clear to its pebble-shell collection a few inches deep. Ridiculously shallow and calm, at least to the eyes of someone accustomed to other seas, to surf and crashing waves. Undeniably peaceful.

Puget Sound

Last year ended with a glimpse of Puget Sound between buildings, under the gray light of Seattle winter. Still waters released memories with the dull shimmer of past night dives among octopus dens.