Sunday, July 10, 2016

Big Problems and Little Problems

A dock on Tangier Island, Virginia after a nor'easter blew through.

So many people have it so much worse than I do, it's amazing that I can feel so sorry for myself most of the time. Even our pettiest problems seem huge to us when they're our biggest problem of the moment. For example, yesterday while I was out and about taking pictures, I was bitten on the neck by some sort of horrid insect, most likely one of those black flies so common to Maine. I brushed it away and only later when I touched the spot because it had started to bother me did I discover that the damn thing had actually drawn blood, and more than just a little.

The bite continues to ruin my life, or at least my Sunday, much as it ruined my sleep last night. This morning I dragged myself to the bathroom mirror to inspect the situation and discovered it is not good. As I write this the affected area is red and throbbing and I fear it will do me great harm, possibly bringing about paralysis or death. Seriously. I made coffee and greedily drank it, hoping it was not my last cup.

But then I opened the magazine section of today's New York Times and read an article about Tangier Island, a tiny slip of land 16 miles from the mainland in the Chesapeake Bay that is currently home to about 450 Virginians, most of the inhabitants having fled by now since the place is slowly sinking into the surrounding waters and will surely be completely gone by 2050. Families of "watermen," as they call fishermen, have lived there for centuries, raising their children and burying their dead. But now, what with all the melting ice caps and resulting rising sea levels, Tangier is slipping away. Backyards are wetlands as the waters continue to encroach, inch by inch and year by year. The remaining inhabitants are literally stuck there since nobody will buy their homes and so they have no money with which to leave.

The plight of the Tangier Islanders certainly puts my bug bite in perspective. Although, to be honest, even though an entire community is destined for extinction, with houses and history and the graves of loved ones slowly being swallowed by the sea, my neck still hurts, and now it is beginning to itch. I've already tried calamine lotion and Benadryl cream. Funny how that is.

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