Sun Bleached Memories from the Southernmost
Warmed glimpses of fragmentary images, not unlike undeveloped polaroids, magically transform an ordinary existence into stretches of sugar white sand and endless reef. Like the wonderful dream just seconds before waking you fear not being able to recall Key West, her old town charm and verve, or her beautiful sister to the north, Marathon. As connected and separate as twins living on the same ocean and slivers of land. A two lane ribbon of straight salty road, makes one no less important than the other, both essential and teeming. Southernmost keys all joined by the same mother ocean and having the same salt crusted inhabitants and objects in common. Turquoise environs surround white and pale yellow jewels of the ocean, made of dreams and fiberglass, and wood. Demanding their fair share of attention, with their lovers doing the scraping and fussing. Hard work in their dusty, paintcan strewn boatyards speckled with swaying palms dancing in the warm breath of the clouds. The smell of the salt as it rises from where it came,impregnates everything and everyone, thick in the heat of the tropics Sustaining a lifestyle all the while, corroding everything it touches, the ballet that is ying and yang. We are warm here 90 miles from cuba, watching in comfort while snow shovels sling frozen rain into piles on ice slick streets, as the shovels eagerly wait for another blast in a few days to give them job security. Shovel-less i felt guilty at not sharing in all the misery north of Miami during the suns farthest trip away the whole year.
A memory of cheering celebrations in Mallory Square. An ordinary sunset, made anything but, beckons me (after i leave for other latitudes) to celebrate the beauty of living this life. it tries to slow me down, and chides me when i dont, fortgetting to value each day in my shortlived time on this blue marble. a sunsets a sunset, no more. how many do we have for sure? as the polaroid image of my turquoise and sun-streaked memories begin to take shape, i revel in the notes being played in my soul. Like the musicians on Duval paying their homage to Buffett or Marley in return for tips from a few transient sunburned and sometimes inebriated northerners and islanders. The ritual is all part of the dance. a conch republic of beauty and diversity. the best and worst of humankind intermingled with gulls crying and conch fritters frying. The tan lines are visual proof. This wasnt a dream. Will i retain a hold on the feeling, the warmth of the tropics (and its people), while the winter howled elsewhere? Months from now? Years from now? Decades in the future when anything that didnt happen that week might seem like a faded photograph, hard to see, but enjoyable and reminiscent? A trigger for a flood of knee deep 70 degree, crystal clear water, sea turtles, and mangroves to bubble to the surface. Surely my snapshots in paint created from soul, sweat and salty air will remind me in my innermost, of my southernmost life and keep it from slipping out of my grasp. A comfort when i need them most. Toes-in-the-sand synapses, will flash like a minnow, glinting in sunlight when the sun hits him at just the right angle. Tropical greens will always chase the gray, cold, and leafless landscape until it bows in submission. The easy going, "there's always tomorrow" attitude of conch-lifers sends worry and overachievement scurrying. All the while sundrenched songs of good hearted non-conformity drift in and out of consciousness, from downtown to Newtown, all the way past Islamorada, up to Key Largo, up to Boston, up to New York and Maine, over to Chicago. Then to all points on the compass. A lifestyle born on a chain of islands, calling to fellow islanders wherever they may dwell. The smell of shrimp boiling as the sun slips, green flash, dreamy southernmost republic.
Great imagery - love the memories it conjures up!
Dear Mike, In all the Doug Dilemma, I think so many have overlooked your post of Sun Bleached Memories. It was beautiful, and the descriptions of Key West perfect. You paint with words as well as with brushes (and palette knives)!
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