My Bay Reflection
In half a century, both the Bay and I have changed
by Mick Blackistone
Over 50 years ago I cursed the bays and the rivers of our beloved Chesapeake. It’s hard for me to believe, as I look back, how ironic that was considering that I’ve spent most of my adult life earning a living from her, raising my son and granddaughters on her and arguing passionately on her behalf as she remains silent in what could be her own demise.
I cursed her when the submerged aquatic vegetation was so thick along the shore I couldn’t start an old outboard motor without first rowing out 200 yards. I cursed her when my father would sit on the wharf and ask me to jump overboard and throw him up a few oysters that he would shuck on the spot. I cursed her when blue crabs pinched my toes when I waded through marsh grass and seaweed. I cursed her when I would catch mighty, frightening eels on my line when all I wanted were a few perch. It seemed, at the time, that I had plenty to whine about.
A decade later, 40 years ago, at the same spot, I could start the motor at the pier, in clear olive-green water. It was pointless for my father to ask me to fetch up a few oysters; there were none in the mud. Blue crabs never bothered my toes; there was nowhere for them to hide. I stopped catching eels and, at times, perch as well. Things sure seemed to change for the better …
I was about 20 then and began spending my time away from the shores of the Bay. College and my first real job in Washington took time and created many pressing distractions. Then there was marriage and a baby to raise. All I could do, at best, was to think about the bays and rivers I haunted as a boy.
A decade later, 30 some years ago, I moved back to the rivers and the Bay. My son learned to waterski, fish and crab. Well, he skied, but fishing and crabbing came with varying degrees of success. For the first time, our community beach was closed from time to time due to pollution, a word seldom if ever heard in my past but used more frequently in the late 1970s. I began to question what was happening to the vitality of the ecosystem that I enjoyed and, yes, cursed as a boy.
For the next 30 years, my Bay reflections were pierced with sadness and disappointment. I knew what Pogo said: “We have met the enemy and it is us.” I knew what Dr. Suess’ Lorax said when he went screaming about saving the trees. I knew that our Native American grandfathers said the earth is not ours, we are borrowing it from our children. I knew these things and more. I knew the political and environmental rhetoric. I knew initiatives. I knew the political promises. I knew these things and more. I knew, and know now, things we need to do to make it right. So do other Bay-loving baby boomers who, perhaps, have similar Bay reflections to mine.
I suppose, at the end of the day, a Bay Reflection could end with fond memories. Or I suppose it could turn into a new motivation to make things right for our children and this precious natural resource. It is for each of us to decide. For me, I’ve decided to continue to argue and act passionately on her behalf, as she remains silent in what could be her own demise.
Mick Blackistone, of Fairhaven, is an award-winning author of books for children and adults about the Bay and the environment, an activist for watermen and the Bay and a lobbyist on maritime and safety issues. His last story for Bay Weekly was Christmas Past: When the Woods Were Ours, and Dreams Came True (Vol. xiv, No. 51: Dec. 21).