Once upon a time, there was a beach, a beautiful stretch of sand composed of the erosion of thousands of years of life and the solid foundation of rock beneath its surface. The sea would visit it every day, in great blue waves that replenished the beach in life and sediment, yet took away with it shards and fragments to deposit elsewhere.
The beach was so very beautiful. Soft, golden sand underfoot that stretched on for mile upon untainted mile. Clean, crisp air that tasted of peace, and an ever-changing adornment of seaweed, shells, and pebbles to admire.
The beach loved two things in particular. One, the people that visited, leaving footprints and carved initials, and often their troubles there behind in the very sand. And two, the other animals, from paddling dog to cawing seagull, and every other creature in between. The beach lived a simple life, through the presence and enjoyment of others, happy to provide a place of rest and nourishment for all those who chose to visit.
One day when the sea visited, it was not in the usual turquoise and teal shades the beach had come to expect from it. Instead, the waves washed in black, churning up thick, sticky foam that left deposits across the beach’s surface and down into its very pores. And on those waves, those relentless black kisses coming in without stopping was bleakness, in the form of bird and turtle and so many other creatures coated in a thick, black poison that made them writhe and call out in distress.
The beach, helpless, could only watch, as those creatures suffered and struggled, and though the beach could not weep it wished it could, that its own tears might wash away the sadness of what was happening across its surface.
People came, good, kind people, dressed in shapeless suits entirely the wrong colour for the blackness around them, tirelessly carrying the other animals further up the beach and attempting to wash them clean. Some were lucky, and the beach listened to their indignant squawking as they were held down and rinsed free of their poison, given nourishment the beach was unable to provide itself, and eventually released. But others, so many others were not so lucky, their limbs stilling and their songs caught in their throats to never be heard again.
The people stayed for many days, and were joined by others, some who stared out solemnly to the sea and took photographs, made notes, talked in quiet, tense tones with their colleagues. Others tried to help the beach, to rid it of its blemishes, and though the beach was so very grateful, the black poison had seeped too far in. It would take the beach many, many years, and many kisses from the sea once the blackness had gone, to restore it to its former glory once again.
The beach is clean now, so very much later. Beautiful, pristine, a sanctuary for some and a home for many others. But the beach is careful now, cautious where it once wasn’t. Staring out to sea to brace for the day the blackness comes again.
We hope that the beach will live happily ever after, free of its poison…
Okay, lovely people, this week’s Sunday Thinking is little more than a shameless plug for Tainted By Our Choices, which loosely involves elements from the above. I make no apology for that, and would love it if you gave it a read. But even if you don’t, please take a moment to consider the incredible work rescue crews do up and down our coasts when things like oil spills happen, and the wildlife that their efforts save.