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Tuesday’s Poet: Janet Jennings

Plastic (and other) trash from Ballona Creek turned into art by the artist known as Deb Ris; Earth Day 2010. Photo (c) 2010 Richard Beban


The Great Pacific Gyre

Plastic bottles and bags are abandoning land in growing numbers. Overcrowding is to blame. Two hundred million new tons each year are pressed into service. No wonder they jump into the sea. Swirl, gambol, twirl into a clockwise trade wind current. Float for weeks while the sun bleaches them brittle and wave action cracks them into chips, some fine as plankton.


Through camouflage and cunning, they survive. Fool birds, fish, seals and sea turtles into starvation, choke their young. After the animal bodies degrade, the plastic fragments drift. Whole debris societies float out to sea without a Latin genus to confine them.


Weeks or months bring them to the great Pacific Gyre, where a congregation of tons twice the size of Texas shape-shifts in a soupy, translucent mass. Some are pushed to the bottom, three hundred feet below the surface, where they may never rise again. Some reach the top to spin and toss their restless half-lives of a thousand years.


Janet Jennings lives in San Anselmo, California, with her husband and twin daughters. For twenty years she owned and ran Sunspire, a natural candy manufacturing company.


Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Agni (online), Apalachee Review, Atlanta Review, The Bitter Oleander, Bryant Literary Review, California Quarterly (CQ), Connecticut Review, Poet Lore, and Runes: A Review Of Poetry, among others.


Janet provided us with this “place biography” about her favorite estuary: We lived in Bolinas, California (in Marin County) for a few years when our daughters were very young. I loved taking them to the Bolinas Lagoon, especially when the tide was low. We sat on the shore and watched harbor seals and their pups haul out, doze, and interact. We saw bat rays and leopard sharks swim by, blue herons, egrets and kingfishers fish in the shallows. It was like living in a National Geographic documentary, and a wonderful connection with nature for our daughters. Bolinas Lagoon, a tidal estuary along the San Andreas Fault and designated wetland of international significance, is a magical place, teeming with birds and underwater life. There is great concern about the sedimentation occurring and how that will impact the estuarine ecosystem. Opinions diverge on how to address this problem without disrupting habitat and life cycles. We still visit Bolinas often, and love to canoe with the girls through the byways of the lagoon, always in a state of awe.


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