When we reached our southmost destination, we set up camp for a few days to enjoy the warmth and beauty of the Florida Keys…
After sleeping in in our cushy guest bed (the room was exactly what you would hope for in a Florida guest room, white walls and tall ceilings, bright white linens, everything over-sized and cushy), we were treated to a delectable breakfast by our host and stayed to chat long past what we had planned.
We finally hit the road with a few hiccups here and there. It was a long drive to get to the lower Keys, but we enjoyed looking at all the little shops and marinas as we drove through key after key on Rt 1. Eventually, we made it to Bahia Honda.
Unfortunately, to make it to our campsite, we had to go under Rt 1, a very low bridge and an even lower water main. Which meant taking the canoe off the truck. Husband thought we could make it, I wasn’t willing to risk it and I was driving, so the canoe came off. Oh well, at least we got a little practice in taking it off and putting it back on. Husband says I need to work on my muscles so I can be of more help, but I’ve gotta tell you, flipping a canoe up over your head is not an easy feat… Maybe something to aspire to.
Our campsite is lovely and cozy (and by cozy, I mean tiny). Above all, it is beautiful. Our view looks out over a little bay along the northern side of the key and our neighbors are obscured by thick foliage. The only things I would change are the somewhat rocky sand (I have a feeling it’s going to be a mite uncomfortable tonight) and the road noise (Rt 1 is directly behind us). I just hope the traffic slows down as it gets late.
It’s dark here now, in fact we arrived with just enough time to set up camp in the dusk (not that we can’t do it at night, we’ve had enough practice at that). There was a storm cloud above us then, spitting droplets of rain down just to threaten us, but it has since moved on. And now the stars are out bright as can be, no clouds to veil them. The moon is a sliver, shining bright white against the dark sky. There is a small lapping of water coming from the little bay and the sound of burgers sizzling on the grill, the smell of charcoal ensuring me that we really are camping. A breeze keeps the mosquitoes away and keeps us cool in spite of the warm temps. It’s about as pleasant an experience as it can be.
I don’t think I slow down enough in day to day life, not really. Not enough to become reflective. I find when I’m camping that it hits me all at once–both the desire to be reflective and the reflections themselves. There’s something about the great outdoors, something about being slow, being still, that brings it out. I need more of that, or perhaps I just need more camping.
The last time we were supposed to go camping was the weekend Michael passed. I’m so sorry for that memory and that association, it is good to replace it with something new. For husband, the last time he went camping was with Michael, and the last time I went was with the whole Combs Clan. There are bittersweet memories there, and it is good to make simply sweet ones as the freshest.
We’ve hardly been in the great outdoors for 24 hours and I already can’t count the number of bug bites I have. (Seriously, I tried to count them and gave up somewhere around 79.) And this is Florida, so it’s not just the normal mosquitoes, but also no-see-ums and fire ants. Yep, fire ants.
But in spite of looking like I’m coming down with mumps, measles or leprosy, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. Our day perhaps didn’t go as planned, but it went, and it went beautifully. The snorkeling trip we were scheduled to go on was warning of 2-3 foot swells…enough to make anyone sea sick and any novice snorkeler a little skeptical. So instead we stayed around here, snorkeling the beaches of Bahia Honda. We saw fish and coral and such, not as clear or abundant as Hawaii, but then again, that’s Hawaii–what could compare?
We saw the famed Key deer, tiny little things the size of dogs. And we saw alligators, which is always fun. We even took the canoe out for a paddle. Amazingly, I only burned on the tops of my hands (yep, the tops, that’s what happens when you dutifully wash your hands regularly).
So now I’m sitting in the dark, or mostly dark, husband has a few candles burning that are actually giving off some pretty good light. We’re waiting for the hobo packs to cook in the coals and discussing the plan for tomorrow.
We don’t want to leave–that’s always the quandary, isn’t it? We go traveling with such excitement to reach our destination, and then, inevitably, we have to go home. So why do we even do it to ourselves? I suppose because in the moment we enjoy it, in the moment we find rest and relaxation, and we receive joy. And even in the planning for it, we find motivation, anticipation and, yes, joy.
And the truth is, it is good to go home. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we don’t want to, we aren’t looking forward to it, but when the time comes it will be good too.
Meanwhile, we’ve planned our trip so we have just as much fun on our way back as we did on our way down. We’re headed up to Miami Beach to meet up with Luisa for an indulgent dinner tomorrow and on to A.’s where I feel most at home. We get a day to relax and another day to spend with good friends before we head on up to visit another dear friend of mine and finally see Charleston before we make the last journey home, a mere 7 hours at that point.
But right now, right this moment, I want nothing more than to spend a month here, perhaps the entire winter. It’s one of those delicious parts of traveling, where every place seems better than the last. Where each one becomes special and sacred. But I must go home, all must. We have jobs, responsibilities, relations, lives to return to. So I think the best thing any of us can do is to take a little piece of that place home. Maybe not physically (although souvenirs are great too!), but mentally, even spiritually.
From the Keys I can take home the restful pace of life, from Vero Beach the peace and fulfillment of dear friends, from Ft. Myers the pleasure of a little indulgence… Those are all things I can carry with me, things I don’t have to leave behind when I leave the warm sun and sand to head back to a rainy, dreary place. Metaphorically speaking, I can take some of that sun home with me.
When I’m refreshed and rejuvenated with an elusive peace within my grasp, I can be a better person, a better friend, a better employee, and perhaps most important, I can bring those qualities to my home, for my husband and for all those who set foot in our house.