Here’s the opening couple paragraphs of my ecology piece for O-Zone, which thinks eco-literary thoughts while narrating the Great Chesapeake Bay race last June.
Into the warm salt water splashed the six hundred. Not all of us knew we were diving into a theoretical paradigm.
We crowded up to the water’s edge like figures in a Robert Frost poem. Or whale-killing philosophers in Battery Park. We were swimmers, come to Chesapeake Bay in June 2012 to race four-point-four miles from western to eastern shore. Covering that distance in the water carves out a nice block of time, a discrete chronology to feel fluid dislocation on an intimate level. I wasn’t there to win. I wanted to think some things through.
My hope, then and now, is that swimming can model or inspire a dynamic ecological poetics for our age of crisis. The prolonged experience of immersion, its difficulties and pleasures, parallels how we must learn to live today. Being in the water forces the physical realities of this terraqueous globe onto your skin, adding urgency to the need to move beyond comforting green eco-visions. The blue world ocean, as literary culture has long taught us, is unstable, dynamic, and inhospitable. But the gray-green silty waters of Chesapeake Bay proved survivable, even pleasurable. Dare I say philosophical?