The very first photograph I have of Jilda and I was taken on the beach just across the road from the old Sea Horse Gift Shop in Panama City, Florida.
We were standing up to our boney knees in water that was as green as an emerald necklace.
It was taken in 1969 and we were both as skinny as reeds and grinning into the camera as if we could see into the future, and it looked bright for us.
The sand was white as pure cane sugar and it took our eyes time to adjust before we could see without squinting.
I can close my eyes right now and play those images as clear as a digital slideshow on an expensive computer. But my slideshow has much more depth because it comes with the smell of a salty breeze, the sounds of the rolling surf and squawking seagulls fussing overhead.
The highlight reels of my life would include a lot of footage shot in Gulf Shores and the Panhandle of Florida.
I don't believe I am unique in this regard. We here in Walker County live close enough to the beach that we could run down there on a whim.
I think most everyone who lives here has probably spent many memorable summers at the beach.
I know that's why watching the news has been so difficult for me these last few months.
When the Deep Horizon well blew out killing 11 souls, and spewing God only knows how much crude oil into the gulf contaminating the fragile ecosystems of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, it sent a wave of shock, sadness, and disbelief over me.
How could we have let this happen? This is the question that keeps running through my mind.
How could an industry as huge, and as profitable as the oil industry, NOT have a clue what to do in the event of a disaster?
How could our government dole out billions of dollars in oil subsidies and NOT have a clue, that the oil companies did NOT have a clue? I'm at a loss.
So now that it's happened, where do we go from here? No one knows the extent of the economic and environmental impact of this disaster.
You can, with some accuracy, assign values to the cleanup efforts, and you can put a value on lost revenues of fishermen and others impacted by the spill.
But what dollar figure do you place on a species of fish, birds or other wildlife that disappears from the planet forever?
How do you place a value on the property of people who have worked a lifetime to buy a place by the water, and in a matter of a few months, see those dreams tainted by a sheen of oil?
Some of the reports the last few days say the oil is dissipating and the impact may not be as bad as was first thought, but I fear those beaches will never be the same.
As I said, I'm at a loss of where we go from here, but one thing I would do.
Beginning today, I'd stop payment on all the oil subsidies, and I would pour those dollars into research for solar, wind, and other clean, renewable resources.
I would use the outrage we now feel to wean ourselves off oil. A side benefit would be that we'd remove most of the funding from terrorist groups who are dead-set on annihilating us.
We live in a garden. Birds and other creatures are taught at a very young age not to foul their nests.
I think this is a lesson we humans would be well served to learn.