An essay from UnspOiled: Writers Speak for Florida's Coast

"Soul of the Gulf":

I do not have many clear memories of my childhood. But the one that is most vivid is of a day in September when my friend and I hauled oil-soaked ducks in our wagons from the beach in southern New Jersey to her mother’s laundry room. I had not heard my parents talk of an oil spill nor was there any environmental organization instructing citizens on what to do to save these poor creatures. It was just my friend and I trying to figure out why we could not get this oil off the feathers with laundry detergent. As the day drew on and we grew more and more sticky with this dark coating of death, we were tasked with towing the birds back to the beach for their sad

burial in the sand.

For most of the year, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico embrace the western shoreline of Florida with a calm hand. We are cupped in her protective palm until the inevitable hurricane passes into the Gulf, reminding us of the power this body of water has over the borrowed land we call home. The hurricane by whatever its name—Charlie, Wilma, Katrina—is a reminder that we cannot control or dominate nature, that we must listen, for nature always has something to say. We cannot manipulate or destroy in the name of dollars. The Gulf has a spirit that is linked to our own. Science cannot shout down justice. Policy will not replace health. Economics is not  spirituality.

I have not read any concrete evidence that drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for oil will improve our lives. With such a large number of hard-working individuals searching to better their quality of life, the probing and drilling of such an incredible body of water will only add to the helplessness of despair. We know that drilling for oil off the coast of Florida will put our sea turtles, whales, fisheries, shorebirds, and local economies at serious risk. Just as importantly, drilling would impact our sense of place. At a time when humanity is searching for hope, we need the magnificence of our natural wonders. Looking out at the sea—the Gulf of Mexico— with only clouds, a sunset, or the silhouette of a sailboat to interrupt the horizon, we see endless possibilities. With thousands of visitors sharing this experience with residents, the Gulf touches so many every day.

We calculate risks and benefits with statistics from research. But can we analyze the human spirit and how our constant quest to probe nature for economic wealth affects our mental and spiritual health?

Each time we scar nature, we scar our own souls. With every violation of an eco-system, we see the impact heading towards our own well being. Our health is directly linked to the health  of this earth and the waters that balance the elements. We cannot probe, drill, or dig without consequences. If the oil companies try to harness the energy in the Gulf of Mexico, we will see a negative impact on the energy surrounding these waters.

My body and spirit were born from the sea. Through osmosis my cells contain salt water. I am able to feel the ocean’s turbulence when it is roiling and its peace when it is still. I know that  I must live close to this life-giving element of my being. I also must speak for what gives me life,  for the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are vibrating with the terror of the possibility of this violent penetration—she would much prefer to float platforms of wind turbines.

The time has come to consider spirituality alongside science, and to consider that healthy  economics means a healthy natural world and that the actions of the community are linked to our spirit. Do not drill into our soul.

-Linda Taylor

I  just returned from working as a naturalist for a group traveling through the Caribbean.  My specialty is blending nature awareness with Chi Gong movement.  We explored Tobago, the Grenadines, St. Lucia, the exquisite Dominica and St. John.

I cannot express how hard it was to focus on this natural beauty and my presentations in the shadow of what is looming ahead for mother nature and her creatures.  I was born at the Jersey shore and have lived on Clearwater Beach for over 20 years.

The BP oil spill disaster transcends any corporate violation of the environment I have witnessed. This is a dagger penetrating deep into our souls.  I am encountering Floridians who break out into tears, expressing helplessness as well as hopelessness.  To be honest, I cannot find the words to give them hope.  Sure, we can believe in a collected energy to help us find our way — but this is so big and getting bigger. I view the daily pictures which get more gruesome with each hour.  How do we fight this?

My essay, "Soul of the Gulf", will be included in UnspOiled: Writers Speak for Florida's Coast.  It was to be published this summer and now is being rushed to print and can be pre-ordered at

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