Sunday, April 24, 2011

By the water

Last Friday was Earth Day, Lenin's 140th birthday, my 38th birthday and, this year, Good Friday. The April 22nd I was actually born on (1973) was Easter Sunday.

Friday morning we were at a small beach town in Delaware, the last stop of a short vacation we took for the kids' spring break, cheap because it was the off season. I got up to run in the morning, it was in the low 40s and the boardwalk was nearly deserted. A sheet cloud covered the Eastern horizon far out over the Atlantic ocean, but as it approached the shore it gave way to small puffy clouds, close together like cobblestones. It was one of those rare moments when you can't see the sun, but its rays are visible shining down through cracks in the clouds, like the illustrations of God's love or holiness in those 14th or 17th century European paintings that so confused me in art museums when I was a little kid, befuddled by why anyone would want to paint so many pictures of a naked guy being tortured.

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We drove back by way of scenic Route 9 along the Delaware coast, the "Coastal Heritage Greenway." The road is at places so close to sea level that there are numerous sign proclaiming that the road ahead is underwater if the lights are flashing, and so forth. Some of the land is farmland, some of it muddy tidal wetlands, a good portion of the latter protected as wildlife refuges.

At one point we drove a couple miles from Route 9 out to the actual shore, and stopped at what I'm guessing was once a fishing village, and is now a tiny pocket of poverty with a few people who try to make a living fishing. It had about two dozen small houses, a parking lot, boat ramp and a small pier which is closed from dawn to dusk unless you're fishing, and this ramshackle and abandoned structure:

Along with island nations and low-lying, densely populated areas like Bangladesh, this area of Delaware is almost certain to be covered by the ocean within a few decades. Unlike Bangladesh, it's not densely populated; the relative handful of I imagine mostly poor folks who eke out a living from the land and sea will be displaced into the rest of what passes for American society.

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At that fishing village, we also got our first glimpse of the Salem Nuclear Power Plant, which sits on an artificial island between Delaware and New Jersey. It dominated our view all the rest of the way along the "Scenic Route," which oddly enough begins at an Air Force base and ends at an oil refinery.