By Gail Tipton
My mother was holding me looking at the waves when suddenly a huge wave broke over us. The shock and sound of the wet spray gave me a baptism I never forgot. I grew up on two islands, one urban,the other rural, and at a very young age I was diving into the waves and buoyed up on their crests, or watching reckless teenagers jump into the East River trafficked by tugs and cargo ships headed out to sea. As a teenager I walked for miles along the sandy shore, mesmerized by the rhythm of the pounding surf and its return back to the sea pulling sand, rocks and shells into its churning wake.
Seeing my feet disappear in this retreating wake taught me to respect the undertow that could drag me under too.But I was also fascinated by the endless horizon and wondered what lay beyond the shores of the Atlantic ocean I knew.
Years later I was lucky to work on another island in the Pacific and experience a culture that depended on the bounty of the sea for seaweed, fish and her water highways for trade. The sea was sacred and honored in poetry, song,gardens, sculpture and paintings.
Later still,I crewed on a tall ship, my berth amidships in the belly of Gazela. After four hour watches around the clock, I would collapse onto my cot and feel soothed by the rocking motion and lapping sound of the water against the hull. Only wood planks separated me from the depths of the ocean. I was indeed in the womb of the world. The energy and life force of that experience has given me a profound connection to oceans.
Water is life. I am watering my plants to help them through a drought, and learn that the same water may have rained on the gardens of ancient Egypt, an overwhelming fact that water is finite. The oceans evaporate, moisture ascends to the sky , clouds form , heavy with wet weight , their white peaks engorged, they release their precious water back to my dry flower bed, to the streets of Bombay, to the parched farm lands,to the mountain peaks of Peru, to Siberian tundra, to Congo’s rain forests, to Antartica’s frozen world. The rain comes silently, thunderously, catastrophically, and creeps or crashes on the land making its way to the shore running through the creeks,rivers & underground passages, washing rocks, sand, silt, oil and chemicals into our ponds, lakes, aquifers and finally into the ocean.
“Lake Tear in the Clouds” empties into the Hudson River which flows to the Atlantic. My toilet flushes, runs underground through my septic tank and continues downhill at about two feet per day to Lake Tashmoo , then to Vineyard Sound and then to the Atlantic. This journey may take twenty-five years but it still leaves its waste-full impact on the oceans it reaches unless it does not contain harmful chemicals and is filtered by roots or berms in its path.
The water sheds all over the world and the air releases whatever chemicals we have produced into this vast network of water we have named ocean. We are all connected by the oceans. What I drink, you may drink. Let us take care of our source of life and thereby, each other and all living things. I have a dream that everyone in the world will have access to clean water, that the oceans will not have to struggle to stay clean from pollutants, trash and sonic bombardments that are acidifying, warming and crippling her fish and coral reef habitats.
The ocean is our original home. We feel the tides rise and ebb within us. Respect her, love her and treasure the oceans within you.
Gail has immersed herself in water quality issues for the past thirteen years by making documentaries about what impacts water as it gives life to humans, plants and marine life. She helped found the Martha’s Vineyard Water Alliance, a monthly forum and advocacy group, and recently made two triptychs about Martha’s Vineyard Watersheds; one is exhibited permanently at the MV Regional HS, and the other rotates between the six Island Libraries.
She is blessed with three sons, their partners, and two grandsons, considers herself “a maker of things”, and lives on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard.
To view videos, go to MVTV. org/ video- on -demand. Enter Gail Tipton in the Search box and a selection will appear. I suggest : Waterstories 11, Beneath the Surface, Coral Reefs & Humans: Interdependent Communities, Wild-Caught Fluke, and Nessie, Helping to Save the Great Pond.