Monday, April 6, 2015

Feeling Small

I set out a couple of weeks ago on what would be my final camping trip with old Bella, my '69 Beetle.

I wanted to go to a place where I could feel insignificant again; a place that could bring me back to earth, to be reminded of how temporary the pains and joys of daily life truly are.  It's easy to feel emotionally lost in a city; the constant hum of traffic and planes, the chores of daily living, and for me, the constant reminders of the past, and what is over.

My destination was a little island 8 miles from Everglades City on the west coast of Florida.  Camping on a small island by kayak is a bit like being offshore in a sailboat; knowing there is no Emergency Exit, and you have to face however it is you feel, without being able to so much as pick up the phone to reach out to a friend.  I wonder how differently we might feel, or how we might otherwise react to situations if we didn’t have this constant access to instant feedback in our daily lives, if we only had ourselves to turn to when faced with a dilemma.  The men of 19th century Nantucket whaling ships would go to sea for years at a time, sometimes receiving letters from their loved ones a year or more after they’d been written. Take a moment to really ponder that one.
Gulf of Mexico

Ultimately, my excursion to Ten Thousand Islands as a whole became a lesson in letting go.

Bella broke down twice on the Tamiami trail on my way to Everglades City. I attempted to troubleshoot the best I could, from what I'd learned about Volkwagens from friends, and from my Compleat Idiots Guide for VW's (yes, that's how the authors spelled it). After sitting on the side of the road half the day with not a single person stopping to help, including, sadly, a club of old Volkwagen campers passing at one point (they broke the code!), I eventually made it to the National Park with just enough time to paddle like mad to reach my destination before sunset.

Tamiami Trail
After 5 or 6 breakdowns on the return home, and really feeling that I was not only putting myself in a potentially dangerous position (I could already imagine the headlines: Canadian Woman Reported Missing in Everglades: '69 Beetle Found with Camp Shower Bag Full of Gasoline Mysteriously Lashed to Roof") but also, as many times as friends have gone out of their way to help me when this car has left me stranded, I was beginning to feel inconsiderate and irresponsible asking for help.

Aside from being naturally special as an antique Beetle, Bella was my first car, so it was difficult to let go.  She was responsible for a lot of special moments in my life, especially recently, that wouldn't have otherwise happened.

But you can't hold on forever when the universe is telling you in so many ways to let go.  And so, last weekend, I let go.
Bella's new home with Seth in Key West

Letting go of what you know is rarely easy, whether it's a car, or memories of experiences with someone who has become a part of your personal narrative.  But, when the cord is cut, truly cut, you realize the sun will still rise tomorrow.  The anticipation of what may be when you let go of what you've clung to so fervently is by far the worst part of the process.  You have to look at it as making room for new beginnings and positive experiences and great new memories, and accept that there's a reason why evolution put our eyes on the front of our head, and not the back.

In the quiet nights laying under the stars at Ten Thousand Islands, listening to waves just outside my tent, a feeling of urgency began to surface; I thought about just how short life is, and how we each serendipitously stumble upon a handful of people during our time on earth who we can love, and we are often the ones responsible for building the walls that stand in our own way.  What lays ahead if we're finally able to wash away all the self-doubt, confusion, frustration, and misguided loyalty, and cut the chain to an anchor that is irretrievably caught on the rocks and weeds of the past?

I hope to find out.