Sunday, February 10, 2013

I Was Thinking About the Keys

Almost an entire week has whizzed by without a post from me. Are you following us on Facebook? If you're not, please do. I manage to get photos and short updates posted more often then here. Plus every Monday, you get recipes from me.

Tonight I had occasion to be on the internet doing some research. I found a bit of a theme from some people who are not from around these parts, people who simply do not understand what the Keys are about, what those of us who live and work here are about. I was reminded that there are people who have a much more cynical view of life and cannot seem to appreciate anything or anybody. Damn shame.

Admittedly I am a cynic. But, when I observe some other people, I think I've really evolved past so much of that. Sometimes I am contacted by people who say they want to come to the Keys, but don't seem to have a sense why, nor do they even know basic location or geography about this incredibly beautiful part of the world.

I live in the Florida Keys. This is considered Southern Florida. The Keys are a string of islands, many of them populated, more of them not, that stretch over 100 miles long. The populated islands are connected by bridges. Some islands are private and do not have bridges connected them. For those residents, they must drive a boat to get to their homes.

"Key" is another word for "island."

The Florida Keys are often referred to as America's Caribbean.  I would agree.

The Keys are not like mainland Florida. We are much less populated. We are island. It is a year round tropical environment here. We don't have sugar sand beaches that some people think about like Daytona. Nope. Here where there are beaches, they typically are small slips of sand. Big waves don't crash on our beaches because we are protected by a living reef... the only living reef in the continental USA. You can swim out at the reef, snorkel out at the reef and dive out at the reef. You cannot fish at the reef or take anything from the reef as it is a protected area (thank goodness). The color of the water out at the reef is unworldly, the colors are so bright and crisp that the sight of it leaves me at a loss for words. That living reef is almost exactly only 3 miles off my beach. Yes, I said beach. We have a beach here. You can see it if you view our live streaming web cam.  Our wild natural beach supports a lot of life. Endangered sea turtles come upon it to nest, endangered Key deer roam the beach sometimes searching through the wrack for little morsels to eat. Sometimes those same Key deer will simply bed down in the wrack line to rest. Scads of shore birds visit our beach. Peri and Elsa constantly patrol our little sandy paradise too. The beach is made of minerals and coral. Our beach is amazing, all Keys beaches are amazing. Well, ok ALL beaches are amazing--I'm all about the sand, the sun and the palm trees. I bought a book called "Florida's Living Beaches" to help me understand our complex beach systems in the Keys. The book was so fantastic, I bought 4 more copies and put one in every room. Keys beaches are a treasure.

We have one main highway through the Keys, US 1. It is also called the Overseas Highway because that was it's original name. The highway stretches over islands and bridges, the biggest bridge down here is the Seven Mile Bridge, it stretches (I think) a little less than 7 miles over completely open water. It is an engineering marvel.

We do not have Walmart down here, and if they come here anytime in my life, I will be crestfallen. I do not support Walmart. We have 2 larger supermarket chains through the Keys, one of which is on Big Pine. I do not shop at that Big Pine store unless it's an emergency. I shop at small grocers like Good Food Conspiracy, Help Yourself, Sugar Apple and Food for Thought. I also shop at Publix in Marathon because the people who work in the produce department of that store are friendly and helpful. I like to shop where I'm appreciated, and where people seem sort of happy to be there.

When I leave the Keys to go anywhere, sometimes I am happy to get off the rock (that's what it's called when you leave the islands) because I think I'm going stir crazy or missing something in the world. But, then I get to where ever I'm going, and I realize I don't belong there after a few days in any one place, so I start to think much more about being back here. When I come home after not being here, I still marvel over the color of the water (America's Caribbean, remember?)  Once I get to about Islamorada is when I feel like I can breathe again. And, I think the most beautiful part of the entire ride down the Keys is from the Seven Mile Bridge to just before Rockland Key. Still, after all this time, I often times pull over on my drives to Key West, just to stop and take photos. I have I think 10,000 photos stored right now. I should do something about that.

Some of us down here are transplanted city folk, others are transplanted country folk. Then there are those who were lucky enough to be born here. No matter who we are, and where we're from, most of us have one thing in common.... we don't want to go back and we will make many sacrifices to insure we stay.

We've all got to find our way in this world, we are all fighting a raging battle for survival. But, I honestly feel very sad for people who come to this absolute treasure trove of land, sky and sea but cannot find any joy in all that it has to offer. No, we're not NYC, Miami, LA, Baltimore, Kansas City or Dallas. We're not Portland (ME or OR), Cleveland, New Hope, or Vermont. We are the beautiful Florida Keys. Sometimes people don't "get" that. I'm happy I just don't fit in that category.

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