Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Mermaid Altar at the Wall

The Mermaid Altar at The Wall
The Wall juts out into the Gulf at the north end of the beach. It's the end point of a mile or more
The Wall
beach walk. There's no way around it other than to swim at high tide, or wade through the criss-crossing currents at low tide. It's six feet high and about two feet thick. It's a concrete bulkhead to hold the tides back from swallowing the expensive home that sits hidden on the ridge away from the water. It's also a barrier to the beach walkers who might infringe on the property rights of the owners.

The Wall is plain. The concrete is dun-colored. It's been there for many years with nothing to distinguish it other than two sets of large black stenciled "Private Property No Trespassing" letters prominent on the beach side. But no matter the intentions of the owners, time has taken its measure. With the rising of the sea level, the higher tides have brought in sand raising the beach and reducing the height of the wall to just under five feet.

Reducing it from six feet made it more approachable to the walkers who considered The Wall, the end of their beach walk before they had to turn around and walk back. But one day something happened. The walkers began to see The Wall, not as an obstacle to overcome, but
The Blue Mermaid
one to embrace. The changes started spontaneously. Now that the top was reachable, one or two walkers brought a shell, (or several) leaving them on the top of the wall. Other walkers, seeing the shells, began to add their own.

Then the biggest change came. No one knew who did it, or when it was done, but one day an artist decided to paint The Wall. She began by painting two wild-hair mermaids. The blue one with big eyes waved to the walkers. The lime green one was positioned swimming towards the sea. The mermaids were accompanied by eight blue fish swimming in different directions. A thin green palm tree, and a couple of pink jelly fish floating off behind the swimming mermaid completed the mural.

As soon as The Mermaids arrived the intention of The Wall as a barrier dissolved. While the Mermaids didn't obscure the "Private Property No Trespassing" signs, their appearance made it less in your face. The Mermaids were whimsical and invited interaction with the walkers. Soon the walkers responded in kind and The Wall became known as The Mermaid Altar. Beautiful shell offerings were left on top of the wall. Then came the symbols, reflecting the different religions, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism, of the walkers. It was not unusual to see the OM symbol made out of seaweed on top of the wall next to a shell shaped peace
Sunday Morning Offering
symbol, or a Christian cross made out of sea beans.

Many religions have houses of worship where the faithful can go on a Sunday morning. The original teachers of those religions taught about the majesty of nature and suggested there was much to learn about life by being in nature. The beach calls to many and in this area, it can be its own place of worship. That's evidenced by the many walkers who head out early on a Sunday morning to commune with nature. They walk north on the beach towards The Wall. They stop en-route, picking up shells, or beach-glass that will become an offering at The Mermaid Altar. When they reach The Wall, they place the offering on top. Sometimes they stop, bow their heads, and offer a prayer. Occasionally they bring a child, telling them about the altar and lifting the child to place a shell on the top.

It's suggested when given a lemon, make lemonade. So it was, when an owner put up a wall hoping to detract others from their expensive beach property.  The beach walkers and the artist took that lemon and made lemonade! The "Private Property - No Trespassing" concrete bulkhead was transformed with a lovely mural.  It's now a destination for Sunday morning walkers that they call The Wall or The Mermaid Altar!

                                                                                           Jo Mooy - September 2016