Recommitting to Restoration
How do you think our Bay conservation efforts are going? You love Chesapeake Bay, and so do I. But are we stopping the blooms of pollution? Can we foresee plentiful crab feasts? Will we dive off our piers this summer to splash and gambol in the Bay’s once-inviting depths?
Sadly, I suspect the answer to all these questions remains a fairly plaintive no. We love Chesapeake Bay. Yet when we read of the press conferences, court cases and experimental programs to control pollution, we often turn the page, check out our horoscope or do the crossword puzzle.
We Fight to Save What We Love
Perhaps we need to re-examine how we demonstrate our concern for nature and Chesapeake Bay.
“We will not fight to save what we do not love,” observed Stephen Jay Gould, paleontologist and essayist. You may have read Gould’s amusing and accessible essays about evolution and related theories. Before his death in 2002, he engaged in the growing debate surrounding environmental conservation, climate change and global warming.
Chesapeake Country essayist and poet Elizabeth Ayres is Gould’s successor in that tradition of informed love as motivator. Her writing pulses like the waves against the sand; she pokes about in the ethical and intellectual debates of environmental science with the same thoughtful curiosity she employs uncovering shark teeth and naming the prints of birds and mollusks in the sand. Ayres’ essays draw us back to those familiar, natural settings of our childhood and our imagination: Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
At Point Lookout, Maryland, earth turns into a sharp needle, stitching St. Mary’s County into the Chesapeake Bay, and all along the beach, a snaky filament of white cotton surf tries to thread itself back into the needle’s eye.
In this, her second book, Invitation to Wonder: A Journey Through the Seasons, Ayres’ essays, like Gould’s, open our eyes, our hearts and our minds to splendor, resilient yet fragile. (Some of the essays from this collection were first published in Bay Weekly.) We reexamine, through her essays, simple gifts: seashells and bird songs, butterflies and docks.
These boards. Grayed from wind and water. Green-stained from moss and algae. White-streaked from bird droppings. Time-buffed to a rich patina. My bare feet want to linger here, flesh warmed by the sun-drenched wood …
As I read, I too stand barefoot on the pier.
Ayres grew up near the Bay. Her life, after years of exile in the city and the desert, brought her back to Maryland’s shores. In her reflections she captures the power of the moment:
No shelter here. No defense against the wind that soughs across the weed-wracked field to do time’s evil work: Pry the rotting boards off. Peel the rusted tin away. Strip the flesh from this old tobacco barn, pick it clean to the bone.
She conjures memory-moments common to us all, and breathes new life into them.
Clouds are alive, the same as you and I. I know myself as I was up until this moment, but I don’t know myself as I could be tomorrow. I’m all possibility, perpetually changing within, continually responding to changes without.
Her descriptions and reflections are visceral and linger with us long after we set down the book.
Ayres believes we will find a way to save the Bay we love — and ourselves in the doing. Her writing helps tip the scales, bringing us out of lethargy, infusing us with the energy we’ll need for such a job.