Monday Dreaming: Clean Beaches on the Gulf Coast

Poseidon is angry. 


Whenever I see the ocean looking grumpy like this, it always makes me think of my favorite piece of literature, The Odyssey.  In the Odyssey, Odysseus maims Polyphemos, the cyclop and son of Poseidon.  This angers Poseidon and he makes Odysseus’ return home a long and difficult journey.  These waves might not look like much compared to other parts of the world, but these waves are a sign that Poseidon is angry.


We spent Sunday afternoon at Pensacola Beach cleaning up trash, debris and large shell pieces along with hundreds of other people.  It was amazing to me how many people were at the beach on an awful day like Sunday.  The wind was blowing and there were so many clouds in the sky that they formed one big cloud cover.  The mood was heavy as people picked up trash and debris with their trash bags whipping around them in the wind.  Families were snapping pictures of toes in the sand and the water crashing behind them.  The seafood restaurants had lines out the door all day long.  Everyone wanting to eat that last Gulf caught meal…just in case.


 Big S, who just finished an Earth Day unit in school, announced that we were doing a good thing for the “Erf” and Little S was fascinated with all of the pieces of driftwood and large shell pieces. 


We collected a bag of trash and a bag of shell pieces.  Some of the debris was probably still leftover from Hurricane Ivan over five years ago.  As my children ran around innocent of what was going to happen in the next few days, my heart was breaking. 


My kids love the beach.  The sand, the water, the seafood whisper my children’s names like some pied piper.  We can be grocery shopping or doing something else completely different from a day at the beach and suddenly one child will ask when we will return to the beach.  Is it warm enough, mom?  We don’t even have to go in the water, mom.  Can we just go for a walk on the sand, mom?  Do you remember when we saw all those fiddler crabs, mom?  As I watched my children run around, pick up trash and shells, all I could think about was whether or not we took full advantage of living near these beautiful beaches and the fact that there is a chance that we will not be spending the summer traveling to and from the beach as I had thought. 


The impending doom is much like it was during Hurricane Ivan.  How bad will it be?  Who and what will be affected?  As I write this, no one is exactly certain how this area with be affected.

If you would like to help, there are several ways.  Continue to pick up trash and debris from the beach before the oil slick reaches us.  BRACE, United Way and First Call are organizing volunteers for cleanup after the oil reaches the shores.  There is more information on how to volunteer here and here.

Stop by Mara’s at Mother of All Trips to see what others are dreaming of.


  1. 1

    Beautiful post! It’s wonderful that you took your kids out to do their part to take care of the beach they love. There will be an important lesson for them in all of this, no matter what becomes of the space they cherish.

  2. 2

    Jen, that’s so awesome that you and your family did this!!! If I had been feeling better, I would have joined you. Great description and photos, especially the comparison to The Odyssey. You’re a great writer and photographer! I’m planning to check out those volunteer sites to see what i can do too and I’m also planning to dedicate the month of May to exploring the historic roots of Pensacola too. Let me know if you come across any ideas or must=see places I should visit. Keep up the great work and I’ll be dreaming of clean beaches along with you, especially since I STILL haven’t made my way to see one here yet, even after six months!

  3. 3

    Jen, we would have been on the beach with you guys if we could. Such a sad and scary time. Please keep me posted on what you are seeing…so hard to be so far away during all of this. Noah and I have just started reading Mary Pope Osborne’s (author of the Magic Tree House series) re-telling of The Odyssey so Polyphemus is still very fresh in my head…perfect reference. Hoping Poseidon’s anger turns to compassion and he somehow makes all of that oil disappear.

  4. 4

    The sea and the beach seems to draw me back – but there are parts of nature we can’t control – we must have oil to fuel the life we lead but if something goes wrong we pay the price.

  5. 5

    I am angry right along with Poseidon. This whole situation truly breaks my heart. The gulf coast is such a treasure and to see the devastating effects that man’s quest for energy can bring is just devastating. I hope that this instance lights a fire under those who have been hesitant to find cleaner forms of energy. Sigh.

  6. 6

    I hope you have nice weather too! What are you going to make with your strawberries? We made jam and sorbet. Yummy! Darling family.

  7. 7

    What a wonderful thing to do with your children!

    I do so LOVE the beach! We’re a about 4 hours from the beach right now from where we live in Germany. I can’t wait to let our little ones play in the waves some day! 🙂

    (Stopping by from Your life your blog)

  8. 8

    What an awesome thing you did with our family. What an incredible bummer about what is happening. We hear about it, but when you are all the way over here in Oregon you don’t really think about how it’s affecting your beaches. So sorry!

    Stopping over from your life your blog

  9. 9

    Thank you for cleaning up one small piece of our big beautiful ocean! I just saw Disney’s “Oceans” with my five-year-old daughter. She turned to me at one point (probably the grocery cart scene), and said, “Mommy, are our oceans going to die?” Her voice was a little crackly, like she might cry. (She’s a bit of a fragile flower.)

    I said, “They might if we don’t take good care of them. If we don’t put all of the trash into bins so it doesn’t fly into the ocean and if we don’t recycle and take good care of our Earth.”

    The next day we took a walk in lovely La Jolla Cove on our way to lunch. Along the way she gathered up tattered pieces of newspaper, a discarded water bottle, and other debris. I asked her why. She said, “Because I love our ocean and I don’t want it to die.”

    I really love that kid sometimes.

  10. 10

    What a great way to teach your kids about being responsible to our world!! We are thinking about you guys and people at the Gulf coast!!

  11. 11

    We enjoy a beach cleanup with the scouts every year. My little guys are always excited to get involved. Usually we find our beach pretty clean, we’re poking in the sand trying to find pieces of garbage.

    I am also very concerned about this giant oil spill. When I was in Youth and Goverment with the YMCA we wrote a mock bill to ban offshore oil drilling in perpetuity off the California coast to avoid just such environmental devestation.

    I’ll say some prayers that solutions can be found or that the weather conditions are such that the impact is minimized.

    What a terrible legacy to leave our children!

  12. 12

    Oh, my heart is breaking along with you. Teddy is so into the ocean right now and talks about it all the time. Today I got an e-mail from the National Wildlife Federation saying that sea turtles are going blind and dolphins are poisoning their babies with their own milk. And when I think about all of the people who rely on the sea for the livelihood, my heart breaks even more.

    Today was Tommy’s birthday and he wanted shrimp. I always pay more for fresh wild-caught shrimp from the Gulf instead of that farm-raised stuff from Asia. And so I don’t know when we’ll be eating shrimp again.

    Thanks for this beautiful post.

  13. 13

    What a great way to teach your kids about being responsible to our world!! We are thinking about you guys and people at the Gulf coast!!

  14. 14

    I am betting your children will always remember that day. What an important moment during this tragedy. Of all the possible outcomes of this spill, let’s hope one of them will be that our children will have a greater sensitivity to protecting our beaches than we did. A great post, thanks for sharing it in the Love the Gulf Blog Carnival!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jen Close, suerodman. suerodman said: RT @twokidsandamap: My thoughts about living on the Gulf Coast with my family and the oil slick disaster. […]

  2. […] presents Monday Dreaming: Clean Beaches on the Gulf Coast posted at Two Kids and a […]

  3. […] booms being put in the ocean in my hometown of Pensacola on April 29. Then I shared with you our experience helping with trash pickup at the beach in preparation for the oil spill on May 2.   I am absolutely disgusted that it is now June 4 and […]