It’s been a week since I’ve been home, a week since our amazing March for the Ocean. Even my little non-activist mother-turned-activist went. We had quite the crowd there-folks came in buses, some flew in from California; ocean lovers turned it up in a big way that day.
The day started early. I had slept the night before at Jim Foster’s Anacostia Watershed Society’s office after the very fun and productive sign making party at the Matthew Henson Earth Conservation Center , which is a really cool place to visit-they run enviro programs for kids in the city there-and there is quite a bit of history there. Matthew Henson was the first African-American to explore the North Pole . There was a chance that some folks might show up since Jim offered to make his office a flop house for the night, but no one did, so it was just me in an office that, seems like a theme, is undergoing renovation so there was no running water. But there was a composting potty, so that was good, and drinking water, plus some water in a jug for hand washing. Staying at Jim’s worked out perfectly-it allowed for an early start and it gave me a place to keep my canoe, as it would have been impossible to park our car with my canoe on top in the hotel parking deck. Plus, I could get up and out the door without waking up the family, a major bonus. Thank you, Jim!
I did wake up during the night to check on the boat, because, as usual, someone would not let my wine glass be empty and I kept drinking it like an idiot. So of course I wanted to double check my knots and make sure the canoe hadn’t floated downstream with the tonnage of flood-related jetsam and trash. It hadn’t, but it was collecting, in places, some of this trash. The debris was a minefield to paddle thru, and there was no sign of it abating anytime soon. The Army Corps was doing it’s best to clear stuff out, as all the logs and big pieces of debris are definite hazards to navigation, but the incredible volume of stuff is completely overwhelming their efforts.
In the morning I rolled out of bed and easily paddled the mile or so to the Anacostia Community Boathouse, which was already bustling with activity. I saw folks at the outrigger canoe dock-and was thrilled to see that National Capital Area Outrigger Canoe Club was assembling to have a three boat practice and join me on the water. Even better yet, they had room for Julia in the canoe! She got to sit in seat five and seemed to really enjoy herself with Matt Butcher patiently coaching her from the steersman’s seat.
A couple of kayaks came out along with Veronica, an amazing SUP paddler who has her paddle outfitted with a net so she can grab trash as she paddles. Rodrigo and Natalie joined us at Jim’s office, and more folks came out along the way. We assembled at The Wharf for a great group photo-which I just realized I haven’t seen yet! We had Nautifoods coffee and donuts, all donated by Nautifoods which is a floating cafe. Definitely check it out if you are on the water in the capital area-and they are going to be getting paper straws for their awesome cold coffees!-and yes, you can rent kayaks and SUPs on both the Potomac and the Anacostia.
Things sort of fell apart a little bit because folks went in different directions after our group shot. It was getting late and folks definitely wanted to get to the march on time. I had arranged, with Jim’s help, for two slips at the Wharf but it’s a big place, and I had zero clues where this might be in relation to where I was. It wasn’t the kayak rental place, for sure, but where was it? Mild panic started to set in. I poked around a bit and saw a spot that was most definitely not crowded with boats, and figured that that must be the area, or near the area, or maybe someone from that area might know the person, whose name I had forgotten, and could direct me to where that person worked and the area where I was supposed to be… so after frantic calls to my husband, who has a mirror email account, I was able to get the name-and other names-and yes, I was in the right spot! What a problem when technology doesn’t work as it should which is what seems to be happening with my new iPhone and why I couldn’t check my emails myself. The lack of service ever since paddling by Wallops NASA station has been surreal-especially since I NEVER have had any problems with Verizon before, not even when I paddled this route ten years ago. You’d think service would be better, but in my case, it was worse! Should I be paranoid? After all, this regime is doing some pretty horrific things to our environment and to people, and with net neutrality gone, who knows?
So once I found the right place to be there was yet another issue-I had no bumpers, no rope, nothing to tie my canoe to the dock. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking. We had a fabulous paddle down, totally relaxing, but even Natalie and Rodrigo, in their slower craft, were worried about our time crunch. After all, we still had to walk to the March and get there in time to say a few words at the start.
And then there was Julia. We hemmed and hawed a bit about whether Julia should paddle back to the boathouse or disembark and meet up with Carl & the family. We opted to go along with the plan we last communicated with Carl-to have her get off at The Wharf. Except she didn’t know, because I didn’t know, at that point where I was going to end up. So I had her walk down toward the Anacostia…which ended up being the wrong direction.
It was a minor shit show. Julia wandered The Wharf and I had no clue where to go and no way to get in touch with her to let her know where I now was. For once I was cursing my decision to not let her have a cell phone til she’s in high school.
So there I sat with no way to tie up my canoe and Julia meandering around looking for me and the clock is ticking. In between bouts of mental cursing rants, I look up and see a tall guy with a beard and a “March for the Ocean” shirt. A friendly!! And even better yet, my cousin, Steve! He had parked his car and was walking over to the March when he saw me. So he strolled over. Meanwhile, the wonderful folks at the docks dig up some ropes and bumpers for me, just as my husband also dropped off ropes and bumpers. Then Amanda O’Neill, an intrepid local sailor, came up with Julia-or did she? I can’t remember how we finally found Julia but it all worked out-my cousin Steve directed us to the monument-thank goodness he came right at that time! Putscher-Howard power-my late dad and his late mother, my dad’s big sister, must have had something to do with our finding each other and making it to the March on time.
The rest of the day was a blur-it really was, as much as I tried to savor and remember it, even the hot humid heat and threatening storm clouds-the Heirs to the Ocean impressed the crowd as did all the speakers, but there is something about articulate young kids up there on the stage, our future, actually involving themselves in this sometimes stressful process we call democracy. I’m glad the kids were able to speak before the lightning flashed across the sky and the park folks cleared us out. It’s sort of poetic, that the young folks have the last word. After all, they more than us older folks will have their lives impacted by what we don’t do for, and what we continue to do to, our ocean.
Much thanks to David Helvarg and Blue Frontier Campaign for having the vision and commitment to see this first annual March for the Ocean thru, and for Mike and his life-sized Blue Whale. The march was huge and awesome and it will only grow. We are a force, and the more folks who love the ocean realize what they have to lose, the more they will come out and march. Here in this country, the PEOPLE truly DO have the POWER. As long as we don’t allow nefarious forces to divide us, we will be alright.
So let’s keep marching and fighting, y’all. It might be inconvenient to get to all these marches, make all these phone calls to our electeds, it’s annoying to write letters to our editors and sometimes risk the scorn we get for being “the squeaky wheels” in our communities, but there is too much to lose by sitting on the side-lines, and yes, our kids, our ocean, our planet, is very much worth fighting for, however we can. The Heirs to Our Ocean impressed us all, THIS is why we march and why we won’t stop-our love for our kids and our ocean on which we all depend for life is our motivation. And we will not stop until the threats to our ocean and to humanity do. Paddles up and forward ho! Emua!