Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Six Horses

Lately my travels have included a new and unusual term: tardy.  Of course, recent excursions have also included a series of new concepts: impetuousness, spontaneity, and broadening (as in my horizons), even more than my past adventures.  I have given up the luxuries of convenient motels and cozy beds and have experienced camping in its most basic form.  Admittedly, the tent in my back seat should provide adequate shelter for this new phase of my travels, but due in large part to my tardiness (and impetuousness, and spontaneity), I arrive at my campsite after twilight and discover the scenes to be too dark to pop my tent without making a disaster of my campsite or a nuisance to my adjoining overnight neighbors.  So by default, I have spent each night at my intended tent sites as the occupant of the folded-down seats of my SUV.  Delano, my affectionate mode of transportation, offers a hard surface, but a half dozen blankets, an air mattress, and a couple feather pillows make even a stormy night an exceptional, restful experience.

On one occasion, I reminded myself that time was of the essence in reaching my campsite to allow for adequate assembly of my tent.  Wavering between my driver’s-side window and my windshield, the sun swayed from front to side as the road twisted and curved and in the back of the car, the sack containing my tent begged at long last to gaze upward at the night sky.  Yet as I rounded a bend on County Road 585, I saw ahead on my starboard side five tall, brown horses galloping intently over the next rise.  Were they charging the length of the fence or towards the rails paralleling the road?  The angle of the road masked their true direction.  As soon as I topped the next hill, I saw the quintet stopped at the fence line, gazing longingly across the road to the corralled field on my right.  There a single gray horse sauntered towards the neighboring rail as if to tease the five stallions and greet their anxious impatience on the opposite side.  I wanted to pause for five or ten minutes to take photos, including a panoramic shot of the two contrasting scenes reminiscent of ladies’ night on the farm, but the clock was ticking, the tent was anxious, the campsite remained more than thirty miles away, and the sun was descending.  The equine meat market remained a memory.

For Sale

Pressing onward, a casual, yellow, hand-painted sign states simply, “Honey for Sale.”  I used the last of my supply only days before and how convenient that I would receive a shopping-list reminder late on a Sunday evening.  But at this hour, the vendor would have retreated for the night.  To my absolute delight, the marketplace remains open, yet unattended.  Making a u-turn, I double back to the wooden structure featuring a bevy of sweet selections.  Buckets and bottles and bears offer a range of sizes and samplings.  A box of free honey recipes adds a personal touch to the fare.  A single metal tin – a leftover from a holiday cookie exchange of many years ago based on its wear – sits simply on a shelf, waiting to be opened by a random passerby.  I try not to spill its contents and I discover nearly twenty dollars worth of previous purchases, and a notepad for a brief comment to the unknown merchant.  I deposit my five spot, scribe a note of appreciation, sign my name and the date, and snag a bottle of Devil’s Tower Honey.

On small country roads, in the corners of Wyoming [or Maine, but that was a matter of firewood], a commodity sits safely curbside.  I am equally delighted by the presence of honey in this vast openness on its own rustic shelves and by the confidence, trust, and sincerity of the vendor.  On a swath of hilly road, a selection of merchandise, a small deposit of cash, and an offer for preparation tips of the treat greet a complete stranger like me.  Trust abounds.  Transactions occur.  The wind blows in the otherwise silent store.  A pound of Wyoming sweetness travels away from its home and in Delano’s possession.  Of all my souvenirs from this outing, a simple jar of honey may be my favorite.  My tent cringes as it realizes it will spend another night unassembled in its sack because the impetuous purchase of my sweet tooth, the spontaneity generated by a simple yellow sign, and my continued broadening of my horizon by taking the road less traveled all take precedence over the sun’s position in relationship to its own horizon.  As I finish my exchange with the wooden box, a van also succumbs to the sweetness and sincerity of selection.  We exchange salutations, and I know another jar of Devil’s Tower Honey will grace the table of a random traveler, and the pot of trust will grow.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Little Bit of Something Is Better Than A Whole Lot of Nothing

Key Lime and Key Moments in Key West

Back in the day, when I held the moniker of “cool parent,” we jetted on New Year’s Day to Key West.  Admittedly, the flight from Orlando was a short jaunt – less than an hour – but as one of a handful of passengers, we enjoyed a vast selection of seats on the plane, and to save time, we placed our drink orders before we ever left the gate.  This may have been the easy way to the southernmost point in the US, but it reduced our travels by more than a full day and in a matter of minutes, we were in the tropical islands.  Before long we arrived at our bed and breakfast and cruised Duval Street with slices of key lime pie, key lime soda, key lime souvenirs, and key lime everything.

Son #2 enjoyed the tourist view of the city.  Remnants of the year-end celebration lined the curbs with confetti and tissue paper muted into the nooks and crannies of the town.  We treated ourselves to pie on a stick dipped in chocolate, we laughed at stupid, cheesy t-shirts, we obtained cold drink cozies, and we observed the range of lush plants gracing the residences between our inn and the queue for the photo opportunity at the southern-most point in the Unite d States.  This is where the tourist line up but we snapped a quick shot from the far side and skipped the craziness of the Keys.  Once back at the B&B, Son #1joinedme for a chance to cruise the adult side of the last of Florida’s chain, sampled the margaritas of this ‘ville, meandered in the darkness that leaves Key West in the Florida version of winter, and stumbled home on a lovely buzz of tequila and fun.  We dabbled in a little bit of something for everyone.

Day Two
When we depart early this morning, heading for the excursion out of Biscayne National Park, we really have no business being awake before sunrise.  Yet arriving in Marathon, we see the sun peek over the horizon of scattered islands and inlets bathed in the rich oranges and deep roses of early morning delighting us with the view of the Keys that those cursed with hangovers fail to appreciate.  Most of Florida misses this sun-drenched view, and as I snap a photo of its beauty, Son #1 serenades the sunrise with his harmonica.  We know how to absorb the best of the moment, complete with musical accompaniment.

Upon arrival south of Florida’s narrow east-coast metropolis, we press on to our destination, and then patiently wait to embark on the cross-bay excursion to Boca Chita.  Still technically a Florida Key, downtown Miami looms in the distance and we ignore its presence and head for the small speck of land and the lighthouse guarding its shores.  The northern end of the chain lacks the excitement and ambiance of Key West; Hemingway was never mesmerized by the simple ride from just above the Turkey Lake Power Plant to this simple plot of land.  For a single mom and her sons, though, an afternoon off the mainland, away from the nine-to-five of the office and the routines of everyday, this simple spot of land close to the city yet far enough away to feel like an escape reminds me that even for a few days, reveals and reminds that a little bit of something is far more enjoyable than a whole lot of the nothing in every day’s humdrum, delivering a few hours of simply wonderful.  I appreciate the boys’ silliness, the escape from the rest of Florida, the basic beauty of the lighthouse, and the tiny island of Boca Chita.

Friday, August 1, 2014

“Come Up For Air”

Miracle Mile

Twenty Fourteen blurs, even in its recent history.  If life is viewed as a poker tournament, the fates dealt me a pretty lousy hand.  The only pair I saw was two slovenly roommates.  My jack-high described the activity of my car mechanic, not my opening bid.  More often than not I held a hand full of red cards; rarely did I live in the black.  And the one time that I thought I had a truly winning hand, the wager for which I went all-in, the deck was stacked against me and it turned out I held a flush – the kind that sent me spiraling downward in a swirl of, well, you get the metaphor.

As Cold War Kids sing, “I was supposed to do great things.  I cut my ties, I sold my rings; I wanted none of this.”  Now I was buried in a black hole of simple survival, pretending anything mattered, when in fact nothing did.  For seven months, grueling and empty, I crawled back, “breathing one breath at a time.”  I met a few passing faces, some kind, most stymied by their own dead ends, and even though I felt unable to fight my way into the life raft, I knew I did not want to drown waiting for a rescue that might never arrive.  I believed in little, some days in nothing at all, but the oddest thing provided me with sustenance I needed to keep breathing: my work ethic.  But going through the motions, I knew I was working my rebound job in my rebound life, “Put your head down and breathe one breath at a time.”  I hunkered down until the right moment, encouraging myself with a single thought that I typed on my screen saver: NOT NOW, JUST WAIT.  “Where does it lead to?”

“I’ll Be Alright”

I wondered if the darkness that surrounded me this year blinded me.  If I really landed the career I had believed I wanted to have for so many years, would I find the wellspring of happiness I had convinced myself awaited me in a new career, in new surroundings, and in a new part of the United States?  Maybe life just appeared greener on the other side of the Mississippi.  Now opportunity knocks and I swing the door open wide and it feels exponentially more fabulous than I expected.  Dreams coming true fill me with the intoxicating fragrance of outstanding reality and crisp pine trees.  I have finally, “Come up for air, come up for air.”

I receive the one good inhalation I need, scented of success and sage, of triumph and wildflowers, and I fill my lungs with its life-giving oxygen and I take the plunge.  Sure it looks like another career shift, and a temporary one at that, but for the first time this year, I feel the pulsing of my blood in the right direction.  I awake refreshed, unafraid, inspired, and ignited, and not just each morning as I face the day’s joys, but greeting a new life and what may lie ahead in the coming weeks.  I may not have a plan for the coming months, but this feeling of being alive as, “I feel the air upon my face,” both literally and figuratively rejuvenates me and confirms that I am on the road I have always wanted to travel and the drive is exactly what I wanted It to be.  “If you start from scratch, you have to sing, just for the fun of it.”