Growing up in Long Island, New York, I have always felt a connection to the water. One of my earliest and most fond memories is watching the ferries and fishermen depart Port Jefferson Harbor on a brisk fall morning, disappearing into the fog as the sun rose over the Sound. 

Taking yearly field and family trips to Manhattan, I often found myself reliving the path my ancestors took to come to this great country a hundred years prior. As I voyaged across the Hudson River to visit Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty, I could only imagine how they felt when they were finally greeted by that green lady after a month-long journey on the high seas. Much like the ocean, their futures were uncertain, unnerving, and full of possibility. 

After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, like many other New Yorkers, my family picked up and moved to Southwest Florida. While the culture change was surely a shock, Florida’s waterways (albeit, full of dinosaurs), provided a much-needed connection to my roots. Unlike the frigid waters of New York, one could enjoyably swim and kayak year-round through a myriad of canals, lakes, and natural springs.

brown boat on calm body of water surrounded by trees

Florida’s waterways served as the backdrop for many of the major milestones one experiences throughout their teenage years. First loves, first kisses, first heartbreaks, the first (and only) time getting busted for being somewhere I shouldn’t have been. All these moments and more played major roles in making me who I am today. 

Flashing forward a few years, I met my soon to be wife at a concert I was performing at in Orlando. A Florida native, she felt just as much of a connection to the waters as I did. During the first of many road trips we have taken together, we stopped over and fell in love with the city of Savannah, Georgia. Watching the ships come in on the historic Savannah River, we sat and talked about our future and how this would be the perfect place to get married one day. A few years later, I asked her to marry me in that exact spot, and after a few postponements due to the pandemic, we will finally be married there this December. 

America’s waterways play such a major role in my life, and I feel it is my duty to protect them. We often hear about the devastating plastic pollution within the Earth’s oceans. The thought of cleaning up this mess can feel overwhelming, and you may not know where to start. If you share my love for these waters, there are several simple ways in which you can contribute.

boats on body of water under cloudy sky during daytime

Most importantly, try limiting the amount of plastic waste you produce. With most of the pollution in our waterways being plastic, utilizing reusable water bottles, coffee cups, and shopping bags are an easy way in which you can help keep our waters clean. 

When visiting one of these waterways, always leave it better than you found it. Take a few moments to survey the area and clean up any trash that may be floating around. Not only does this help protect the local sea and wildlife that depend on these waters, everyone who sees you doing your part will be encouraged to do theirs.

We are truly lucky to have such beautiful, life-giving waters carving their way through our vast country. We should all do our best to keep them that way. 

Editors’ Note: This love letter is part of Planet Home’s Valentine’s Day series. We asked our team to write an ode to a part of the world they feel connected to, and we hope this inspires you to appreciate all things big and small that make our planet feel like home.