My family was visiting last weekend so I am a little behind on my blogging. But I did manage to draw a mandala while they were here.
It was inspired by the Lucky Tree penny slot machine I was playing at the Hard Rock Seminole Casino on Saturday night with my parents. There was a tree at the top of the machine that kept raining gold coins down onto the reels that were covered with many of my favorite Asian symbols. One of the bonus rounds included matching a few different kinds of “lucky cats.”
I vow to do a “lucky cat” mandala every time I see the cute little figures when we go out for Chinese food. Every Chinese restaurant seems to have one. I finally got around to drawing one on Sunday night.
I also incorporated the lotus flower and image of a fish jumping out of the water from the game. As the drawing started coming together, I noticed that the transition from the flower to the fish was very believable. That’s the thing about circles – they have a way of bringing everything together. The vines and greenery beneath the sea and above the surface are similar. The primary difference between the two is, well, water.
Water is one of the things we all have in common. The lotus flower and the fish need it. People need it. But not too much of it, at the wrong time. They say a child can drown in a teaspoon or tablespoon of water. Like fire, we have to respect it, because it can be used for great good, and we need it to live. But it can also be associated with great tragedy.
The Disney gator attack this week brought a lot of issues surrounding water to the surface. I first learned about it when I woke up in the middle of the night on Tuesday, and checked my phone for the time. It was after 3 a.m. A chilling alert from my CNN app told me that a 2-year-old boy was snatched from the water’s edge by a gator at Disney’s Grand Floridian resort. I was so disturbed that I woke my husband up to tell him about it. And I couldn’t get back to sleep. The image of a toddler being attacked by one of these disgusting creatures while his parents watched and fought helplessly was too heartbreaking to dismiss. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
Strangely enough, we had coworkers visiting from out of town that day at work. Two of them were talking about going for a run near or on their hotel’s golf course that night. I warned them about the gators, which are a fixture at Florida’s golf courses. One of them said he heard crocodiles are more of a threat to man.
This story is too painful to face head on, so the over analysis begins. When we examine it intellectually, stay in the shallow waters, if you will, we can try to avoid the raw pain of the tragedy. I’ve been doing this myself, and going over the whole thing in my head, trying to figure it out. We all want to know if this could have been prevented somehow so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
As a Floridian, I stay away from man-made or natural lakes. And being near a nasty lake in the dark is even creepier. But little kids love them. They can entertain themselves in a mud puddle. The messier and muddier the better. And anyone who has ever observed a child this age knows they are spontaneous. Gators are fast, but so is a two-year-old.
There was no reason for the parents to assume their child was in danger at the hyper-regulated Walt Disney World Resort, or its highly expensive Grand Floridian property. Disney likely spared no expense to create an inviting beach front area, complete with white sands, at their $500+ a night resort. And who could imagine family-friendly Disney building a beach in an unsafe area? As much as I love all things Disney, and I am a huge fan, I think they created a false sense of security that contributed to the loss of this little boy’s life.
So the online debates and blame began. The signs said “No Swimming,” where were the parents? He wasn’t swimming, though, he was wading in the water. How close to the water is too close? To most of us, “No Swimming” is about basic water safety, not fending off gators. Public pools often have signs that say “No Swimming” after hours because life guards are off duty.
Simply adding the word “alligator” to the same sign gives it an altogether different meaning. I suspect no one would have been hanging around that beach after hours with a warning like that. And given everything I know about Disney, they would have been concerned about ruining the “magic” for the guests. And that is something they don’t take lightly.
People have also been saying that Disney can’t possibly warn about all of the inherent dangers at the beach. But they do exactly this on many of their thrill rides. Children under four feet tall, pregnant women, people with heart problems, for example, might be discouraged or forbidden to ride Space Mountain. And the natural world, including the humans in it, is exponentially more unpredictable than a themed attraction.
So many of us have visited Walt Disney World, surrounded by the man-made Seven Seas Lagoon, and don’t want to think that this tragedy could have happened to us. It’s terrifying. I can recall renting a speedboat with my friend there when we were teenagers. And let’s just say that I’m not the safest driver, on land or sea. What kind of danger would we have been in if our boat toppled over?
If only they had obeyed the sign, and weren’t in the water. At night. These are just a few of the comments being uttered by well-meaning, good parents whose own children break bones, get concussions playing sports, and routinely disobey speeding and traffic signs themselves. Life isn’t perfect. Neither are people.
It probably didn’t make much of a difference that the little boy was actually in the water. Gators don’t read signs, and know no bounds. The boy could have just as easily been snatched from the shore. That’s yet another competitive edge these beasts have on us – they are exceedingly fast and cunning on water and land.
As much as Disney would like to have complete control over the guest experience, they can’t and don’t. Who knows when a gator or lightning will strike? Signage aside, it really was just a terrible, freak accident. If it sounds like I am arguing both sides of the argument, it’s because I am. Or because there may be some blame or human error in what was a largely an unpreventable, unfortunate, horrific event.
Perhaps Lane Graves’ death will lead to the resort beaches skirting Seven Seas Lagoon being shut down permanently. And maybe this is the way to go. There is a precedent here. The incident bears some resemblance to some of events surrounding the closure of Disney’s first water park, River Country.
The old-fashioned watering hole was closed after 25 years of operation in 2001. It was becoming obsolete with the debut of the hipper and chlorinated Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach water parks. But it probably didn’t help that it was linked to the death of an 11-year-old believed to have been infected at River Country with an amoeba. This incident aside, it’s worth noting that the popular water park, fed by Bay Lake and connected to Seven Seas Lagoon, as far as we know, had no alligator-related deaths during its 25-year tenure.
In the end, it was the water that ultimately took young Lane’s life. I know we all breathed a small sigh of relief when the boy’s body was discovered in tact. And in knowing the Graves family, whose name I just realized is sadly prophetic, didn’t have yet another even more disturbing image to live with for the rest of their lives. I hope they can somehow find peace, support and empathy from people who are wise enough to acknowledge that maybe no one is to blame. And kindness is the best, most appropriate response in a time of great tragedy. jt