By Dave Wieczorek
Bill Belleville first became aware of water’s magical allure as a boy growing up among the rural acres of Maryland’s Eastern Shore – the Atlantic washing up one side, the Chesapeake Bay nuzzling the other. Swimming, fishing, crabbing, unrestrained exploration – they came as naturally to him as breathing.
“I got the full monty in water experience,” he says. “Water has an enchantment for me. There’s an inherent wildness in water.”
Belleville, an award-winning environmental writer and documentary filmmaker who lives in Sanford, shares many of his intimate experiences in, on and under water in The Peace of Blue: Water Journeys (University Press of Florida, $24.95).
The new collection of narrative essays – or stories, as the author prefers – takes us from one end of Florida to the other and parts of the Caribbean where Belleville finds inspiration and discovery in the “pervasive power and magic of water.” The connection with water, as expressed in his essays, “may be realized by paddling a kayak in the full darkness of night, scuba diving or snorkeling, hiking in the bottomlands of a remote swamp – or simply walking with my little sheltie along the shore of a ‘domestic’ lake.”
Water, more than any other element of nature, has been Belleville’s constant companion for more than four decades of encouraging respect for the environment. Writing is his way of “participating in the dialogue between wilderness and the human spirit.” His essays “are intended to function as stories that tell of a certain time and place in which I have some sort of relationship with a place that has been created, shaped or otherwise informed by water.”
As Belleville proposes in The Peace of Blue, “If we’re lucky, during the very best moments of a water experience, we might even come to know a very real peace.”