Childhood Unplugged | The Salton Sea

San Clemente Family Photographer-2233

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Before we dropped Willy off at his meeting he told me, “Just don’t let the boys touch the fish or go in the water”. But within minutes, fish were touched and there wasn’t any winning that battle; pieces of fish bone crunching beneath their sledge covered shoes and falling through the crevices between their fingers. Holding up varying degrees of rotting carcasses, “Mama, is this one okay to pick up?”, proving needless to answer given the fact whatever fish they were inquiring about was already in their little grubby hands. “Van, keep your thumb out of your mouth” the only request I could muster at that point.

The Salton Sea; so beautiful on the eyes, so hard on the nose. This trip, however, proving not so bad on the ol’ sniffer. Not one complaint from the boys, actually, who – in the past – have been turned off by the stench of those rotting carcasses.

They climbed rocks, fell on rocks, made footprints in contaminated mud that made me cringe about the thought of those shoes later having to come off and me, invariably, having to touch them to do so. But as the sun fell and the water turned to glass I opted to rely on a faint hope that I would find some hand sanitizer in the car and with that hope I let go of whatever reservations I had. I suppose that’s what happens when in the presence of beauty. We watched the birds fly overhead, a line of other photographers slowly lining the shoreline and mimicking the arrangement of the flying birds themselves; one evenly spaced, straight line. Reflections of wood posts that used to anchor yachts that have since left for other waters, cleaner waters, mirroring the reflection of the mountains and making it all look like a Salvador Dali painting leaving one to question which end is up. Fish carcasses tossed back into the waters that have discarded them – killed them – breaking the glass-like appearance and sending ripples outward, stillness turned to movement; the silence broken. The color palette of the sky subtly changing.

We made our way back, the nights sky illuminated by what appeared to be a full-moon. The water turned back to glass, silence reigning once again in the wake of the exit of two little boys who did their damnest to return those dead fish to their home in the sea, the Salton Sea; ever beautiful, ever polluted. One of life’s most interesting conundrums. One of my favorite places.

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