Every so often we like to head down to the keys for a weekend. It usually coincides with times that I start to feel overwhelmed with stress, or when El Hombre has a respite from school. The keys are our favorite escape. It’s only 3 hours to Key West from our house, and by the time we finish driving we are totally relaxed.
Last weekend we headed to to Key West to celebrate a friend’s birthday and try to relax a bit. We spent all day Saturday boating, wandering around islands and listening to music. Before we left on Sunday, our friend took us down a few keys to go for a hike that he took with his cousins when he was young.
What an amazing walk. We started along old US 1, which has been worn away by time, salt water and numerous storms. We hopped on rocks and waded through water to keep on our path, and I ended up ahead of the pack as El Hombre hung back with his friends.
When I walk in nature, I tend to go in to my own world. It’s not that I become oblivious to my surroundings, but that I become hyper-aware of my surroundings. The crunch of gravel and sand, the sound of the ocean lapping up against the rocks, the whispering of wind through leaves and sea grass. It’s like meditation for me.
I was in the middle of my reverie, pausing at times to let the crew catch up, taking in the infinite horizon when I came across an abandoned raft.
Since I have moved here, I have heard stories of people who see these small, handmade rafts wash ashore full of Cubans fleeing for a better life, but I have never seen one for myself.
As we paused to take in the raft, the sheer ingenuity of whoever constructed it was impressive. They had rope, tarps, sticks and scrap metal that were put together to construct a boat that can navigate the Florida straits to get here. The motor looked as thought it came from an old car – probably from the 50s, with wiring and everything. Obviously the raft had been there for awhile because it was rusted out, but you could still see that it was well-constructed for a boat made from throw-away materials.
After we continued walking, my thoughts kept straying back to the old raft. Had everyone on that boat made it to the US? I hope so. What was that journey like? If they made it, I wonder if any of them ever come back to see the raft as a reminder, or did they put the entire journey behind them?
I cannot imagine living in a place where I feel my best option is to get on a small boat and head to the unknown. There are so many options for failure — you may die, you may be intercepted and sent back to face even worse conditions as a deserter. You may make it and find it’s not as easy to make it by as you hoped. But even with all this, jumping on that boat is still your best option because you have hope, and dreams that cannot be fulfilled in your present state.
Since last Sunday, I don’t feel like the day-to-day stuff is getting to me as much. Sure I have stress. Sure I feel overwhelmed. But in contrast, things really could be so much worse. My first-world problems are nothing that will take away my freedom, my voice or my life.