Angle to Key West: Florida Bay (3/4)

Florida Bay

Marathon, FL – March 4, 2013

“You gotta get out of here,” John said. “Or you’re going to be looking at lights on the horizon trying to find the keys.”

He knew I was delaying, checking bags, packing them again, not wanting to say goodbye. I didn’t want to leave six days of laughter and stories, six days of mosquitoes and mud, six days of feeling understood.

“Go finish this thing,” he said.

I gave him a last hug goodbye, pushed my boat off Little Rabbit Key, and slid into the water.

The tide in Florida Bay is vicious. It leaves long shallow banks miles long that you have to paddle around even when you can see the keys on the horizon–thin green lines over blue water–and want to point toward them and charge because for so long you’ve tried not to think about them, tried not to imagine what they’d look like, tried not to realize how far they were.

But now they are hanging in front of you, waiting, drawing you in, but you have to go around, backwards and around, because you don’t want to end up walking in an inch of water and two feet of muck.

So you go around, skirting the edge of the flats in Florida Bay, picking your way through shallow channels, moving, fighting, finding a route, knowing you will get there eventually, even if it’s after dark and you’re staring at electric lights on the horizon for the first time in a week.

You don’t care though. Light, dark, nothing matters but one thing. You’ve reached the keys.

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