Dear coastal inhabitants everywhere and all who know the joy of putting their toes in the ocean:
I can’t remember when we have had a lovelier spring along the Gulf Coast.
In recent years, we have gone from crisp, clear mornings in February to tropical 90s temps by mid-March. But this year, it finally seemed that we were getting back to normal — back to the easy, Southern rhythms of my childhood, with the winter season moving gently into a luscious spring. Spring was taking its own sweet time unfolding before diving head-on into the desperate heat of summer.
Everyone could feel it. You couldn’t help but notice the majesty and color of the coastal foliage bursting with brilliant pinks and purples, sounding the calls that we wait for all year long: “Let’s go to the beach!” “The fish are biting at the Big Mouth!” “Let’s take a boat ride!” “Tadpoles are out in the creek!” That is how we live here on the Gulf Coast. Our love of the water — the Gulf, the bays, the rivers, the estuaries — and the way we enjoy it is absolutely holistic.
It transcends race, religion, socioeconomic status, age, gender and political affiliation.
The Gulf Coast is where the everyday person can play. We love where we live and are proud of it.
We get amused sharing it and seeing the surprise on folks’ faces when they realize that a little piece of unlikely paradise exists smack at the bottom of this magnificent country of ours.
So imagine our dismay, anger, grief and absolute heartbreak over the ongoing catastrophe of crude oil continuously and arrogantly flowing into our beautiful Gulf of Mexico. This is indeed a major challenge for us physically, emotionally, environmentally and economically. Personally, I prefer to remain positive about the oil spill’s impact, because I know mountains can be moved with a positive attitude. Why wouldn’t that work with a runaway well? I do, however, live in a very real world, and I know that our corner of this world stands to be affected by the oil spill.
As we are called to action, we will respond with the dauntless spirit of coastal people, especially those born in the hurricane corridor. We will weather this storm as we have weathered the other monsters that have roared upon our shores in the past: by working hard, side by side, with dedication, compassion and a sense of community, and earning some fun in the process.
I am hoping that there will be little damage or interruption of beach recreation. Perhaps the oil spill will be just an inconvenience, much like too many jellyfish in the water or the occasional riptides. If not, we are going to need everyone’s love, support and help. So I have a very special invitation for people to join us here in Gulf Shores and Perdido Key and Pensacola. Don’t cancel your plans or reservations. This could be one of the most memorable vacations you will ever have.
Most of you travel with children. What a great opportunity to teach our kids so many valuable life lessons — from the beauty of volunteering to the importance of helping your neighbor during a crisis, learning about the fragile ecosystem that created the remarkable Gulf of Mexico, and meeting new friends from all over the country with the same purpose of keeping our beautiful shores safe for our children and wildlife.
Recently, I asked a friend of mine’s 6-year-old if she knew how many oceans there were. “One, Miss Lucy,” she promptly responded. Then with a little hesitation, she added, “Don’t they all touch?”
Out of the mouths of babes.
What is happening in our back yard could just as easily be happening in yours. But does it matter? We are all one. We all touch.
Am I outraged? Damn right! Is there a need for accountability? Damn right! But that is not my job. There are others who are trained and better equipped to master that task. I’m a fry cook. I’m open for business. And so is the Gulf Coast. We will take each day as it comes and make the best of it. I am asking all of you who love this area as much as I do and love your own coastal areas to please not abandon us.
I promise you we will welcome you with open arms, some ice-cold sweet tea, an ocean of belly laughs, a plate full of scrumptious food and a humble, grateful heart.
Lucy “LuLu” Buffett is owner of LuLu’s at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores and the author of “Crazy Sista Cooking: Cuisine and Conversation with Lucy