Walking on Water



I write from the North Shore of Long Island. The air is thick, clinging, moisture-laden and sauna-hot at mid-day. It’s an outdoor greenhouse nursing  enormous trees, poison ivy, bamboo and, unfortunately, green, walk-on-water algae. Walking the family dog who was straining at the leash (so many tasty bunnies – where to start… which one first?) I missed a photo of a bird, supported by algae, walking on water! The beautiful Setauket ponds are filmy with olive-colored organisms.

IMG_0014 (1)In some places, the algae is waxed linoleum smooth; in other places it is pock-marked with acne. The algae isn’t pretty, but to make matters worse, the water is toxic. Signs throughout the parkland warn walkers: “Blue Green Algae Bloom, Cyanobacteria, on-going in pond. Avoid contact with water until further notice. Keep dogs leashed always.”

Local park trustees are in agreement. The ponds need to be drained and dredged. It will be unsightly. And it will smell. At least, here in this heritage village, the problem can be managed. But with warming temperatures (dare I say ‘Climate Change’ without receiving hate mail?) algae issues are growing through out the world. Run-off from farms, feedlots and sewer systems fuel the growth.

Stateside, Florida and Lake Erie are two of the hardest hit. According to the New York Times, southeast Florida has been under a four-county emergency since May. Starting with a 33-square-mile algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee (the headwaters of the Everglades) a wet winter led to a waterly discharge that oozed out contaminating the coast. Unsightly yes, but at a high cost in terms of tourism.

2018 toxic algae

Photo by Greg Lovett of The Palm Beach Post –                                                                                    July 19 New York Times article, “A Menace Afloat” by Les Neuhus

Last September 636 miles of the Ohio River was contaminated, and farther west, crab and clam fisheries were closed from Central California to British Columbia. The poisons spread up the food chain to the fish and all the animals that feed on them. Quoting from the New York Time’s article,  “Cyanobacteria can affect the liver and can be deadly to humans – one reason Toledo banned drinking water last August.”

It is always curious to me that while people die in the thousands due to tsunamis or earthquakes or war, we (cocooned at home on our couch)  barely register their deaths. But as soon as a whale is beached or a dog falls down a well, we are emotionally on it. I think of this conundrum as I watch a swan family at-ease in the algae.

Two swans and their five brown teenagers paddle the pond. Their grace captivates me. Their snake-like slender necks sinuously reach up, curve down, and beak forward. They glide wakeless. At one point their neck corkscrews in an underwing preening move.

Watching the birds, I find myself thinking about the effect of algae toxins on the birds. As for the humans… in particular the young man who was fishing in the pond this morning, he should be smarter. I pay the humans no mind.


IMG_0013 (1)

Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink.




About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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4 Responses to Walking on Water

  1. Maria Weber says:

    Wow, what a blog. I envy your change of scene to such a bucolic environment — and then the algae brings home the state and fate of our warming planet.

    • timeout2 says:

      Although I love the stark Southwest, when I’m in the desert I don’t think a lot about Global Warming. Here on Long Island, in the midst of green, the effects of Global Warming hit home.

  2. Renee says:

    I do so love the north shore! I do so hate the algae! I didn’t know about the cyanobacteria…its toxicity and its omnipresence. Thanks Doris for both tickling the memories and for the sobering parallels to climate change!

    • timeout2 says:

      Thank you for reading/writing Renee. I could live here – the history, the vegetation and the water all appeal as well the nearby train to NYC. But the last time I lived in New York was 1985 – Thankfully I don’t remember the humidity, but with scorching hot days this past week, I’m in touch with humidity again. At this point in time, I think I’m a Colorado girl.

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