Conch Life in the Florida Keys
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Re Metau - Conch Life in the Florida Keys
Duval Street Key West
~ Duval St. - Key West ~
Where Are You Headed?
February 2009

As one might have expected, Key West had a fluid population of vacationers, seasonal residents, itinerate service workers, and cruisers. Most every morning, mammoth passenger ships materialized on the seaport, and its travelers flooded Duval Street. Naturally, we found most everyone in really good spirits. Why wouldn’t they be? They were either living, visiting or working in paradise!

Released from the tensions of toiling in partitioned cubicles, the jovial mass tended to become very sociable. The leap from stranger to new found friend was short. Quite expectedly, the first question we were often asked was ‘Where are you from?’ We realized we were living a unique life when such a mundane inquiry gave us pause. We used to be from Ohio, but that seemed like such a long time ago and answering as such suggested we would be returning. We tried responding with ‘the Tampa Bay area’, but that sounded a bit evasive, like we were unwilling to disclose trivial information with new acquaintances. Bradenton, Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, even Boca Grande were not really places we could claim to hail from.

Among cruisers, the more common introductory question was “Where are you headed?” and prior to arriving in Key West, our response to that had come very easy. We planned on heading over to Boot Key, then Key Largo, and finally spending some time in the Lauderdale area where we could hop over to the Bahamas, and eventually spend a fair amount of time sailing around the Caribbean. The goal to cruise the world was mapped out in our minds and we could recite the order of each shore on which we wished to disembark. We decided to pose that destination question to the land dwellers among us, hypothesizing it would provide a glimpse into their dreams and aspirations.

The first answer we received was “Down to Sloppy Joes, the Lazy Gecko, Irish Kevin’s, or whatever I find along the way.” Not a high aspiration, but an honest response none the less. This particular individual was apparently on a quest to participate in the Duval Crawl. The second answer, after some minor clarification was simply “back home – back to work.” An obvious reply, but fair enough. The imminent departure from paradise followed by the impending arrival of credit card bills was in that participant’s future. We continued our experiment, each time clarifying the nature of our research. It seemed the “Where are you headed?” question caused as much of a quandary to them as the “Where are you from?” inquiry had for us.

Relaxing in Key West
~ Relaxing at Home ~
As the weeks sped by, Don and I discovered we’d become infected with the Keyes Disease – a silent, yet rapidly progressive syndrome that caused its victims to present a laissez-faire attitude, forgetting about going anywhere or doing anything. We were open to changes in our short-term agenda, and being at the whim of the wind, very flexible in our schedule. But there was always a strong passion to wander and in the grips of this disease that passion began to wane. I knew that it was time to pick up anchor, lest we succumb completely to this disorder by becoming permanent residence.

Thus I realized the confusion between those on the water and those on the shore. There are many wonderful places where people have happily rooted themselves. Though the locations may have different names, they all meant home to their inhabitants and were therefore a matter of import. Home is where they were comfortable, where they were understood and where they understand. And as these rooted people traveled, they sought out a kindred spirit among the foreign land; someone who spoke the same language, existed in the same climate, experienced the same customs. If the answer to “Where are you from?” elicited a familiar name, a joyous reunion ensued.

Much like our land-bound brethren, we were happy to encounter those who spoke our language, those who were familiar with our climate, and those who understood our customs. But living at sea made all land foreign. A place of origin mattered little to a cruiser, so we sought our kindred spirits with a different turn of phrase. We connected with those who understood our wanderlust, those who shared the spirit to explore distant places, those who might be going our way. We asked “Where are you headed?” in the hopes that we might follow in the wake of a fellow dreamer.

I’ve concluded that the question of our origin was an attempt to tie us to a place on land, but our home was Re Metau. She drifted on the boundless sea and there was really no one location that could claim her.

 

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Copyright © 2015 Diana E Reynolds - SV Re Metau.  All rights reserved.

“Home is not where you live but where they understand you.” ~ Christian Morgenstern