Today the wind has shifted, and it blows away from my cabin. So today I will burn trash in the barrel set down on the beach. I secured it with sturdy cinder blocks to make sure it doesn't tip over and dump the tourists' leavings back onto the sand.
As caretaker of this lonely spit of land, home to migrating godwits and curlews, scallops, horseshoe crabs and feral tabby cats, I study wind direction like a gambler studies faces. I know the odds of every temporal shift because I must. But I wear my authority over this place mildly: I hate those who use their small ration of power like a bludgeon. Haven't we seen enough of that at toll booths, airports and all the other paved places across this nation?
Here, where there is only sand and narrow macadam tracks, I tred softly.
I gather up the refuse and inconsiderateness of others and dispose of it cautiously. I mend fences and replace the signs reminding visitors not to trample the dunes or disturb sea oats. Only the beach mice are allowed that trespass.
The Atlantic is not a "gray mirror" when it is calm, as some poets have written. Mirrors are selfless and exist to reflect us back to ourselves.
The sea is the deep, selfish habitat of millions of purposeful creatures who want to eat, prevail and dominate. I might be only the caretaker of a minute portion of its lip, but I answer to the larger mouth.
I set a fire inside the barrel and stand windward while the poisonous detritus burns down. Later, when the metal has cooled, I'll load it onto a cart and drive it to the paved town a mile distant for disposal. The barrel's sides, as always, will be coated with melted plastic waste that once was shards of sippy cups, thong sandals, cheap bright sunglasses and babies' training pants (the shit burned away).
When night falls, I watch the planets and stars emerge in their proper order -- predetermined billions of years ago when the universe was new and Earth was clean. Each comes into view as it emerges from the glare of the sun. Venus, then the constellation Pisces, are the first visible from my cabin porch. When Jupiter comes over the horizon, the first moths emerge, as well. Cycles upon cycles repeat themselves here above water. Below sea, small nocturnal currents begin as well. I can't see them, and they do not need me -- or any of us -- to know their business.
But I have seen the sea's bioluminescence while swimming at night. If the deep has any message for me, it exists in the nocturnal phosphorous glow. It's saying, "What exists below is connected to what exists above. Never doubt it."