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November, 2012:

“I Came for the Waters”

As a writer, part of my job – both of my jobs – is finding the right words for things. As Samuel Clemens once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

One of the great joys in my life, these past few years, has been driving through the Florida Keys and enjoying the many colors of the water on either side of the highway.

One of the great frustrations in my life, the past few years, has been trying to describe what color(s) that water is. And the blessed stuff keeps *changing* on me, with the weather and the tides. I mean, what color is this:

Blue-green-turquoise?

Or this:

The “commute” down the Keys

Sometimes it seems as though the water almost fluoresces from its own inner light. I don’t have a good picture of that one. And most of the time, no matter what I do the pictures I take don’t look like the water I see.

Then again, occasionally someone else gets it right, such as during my “catamaran cruise” gig this past trip:

This is the way I want to go to work every day.

I got to be out on a sailboat in water that looked like that for several whole hours. I was short on sleep and therefore not entirely awake…but it was one of the best times of my life so far.

There’s something about being down by the water that I find extremely healing and renewing. I can be dead tired, short on sleep, borderline sick, frazzled, overloaded…but put me in a chair where I can watch sunlight dancing on the waves and hear the water flirting with the shore, and I relax. And I’m happy. It doesn’t seem to matter where that water is.

I’ve enjoyed the Keys water from a seat in the Key West McDonald’s:

Beauty is everywhere.

I’ve sat and watched the water several times from the deck outside the Postcard Inn, formerly known as the Holiday Isle, in Islamorada:

I’ve been calmed standing or sitting by the San Francisco Bay, whether in San Leandro near my house, or up in Emeryville:

Sunset through the Golden Gate

For that matter, it doesn’t have to be an ocean or a bay. Listening to the water in a fountain or stream calms me as well.

I don’t understand why or how this all works. I’m guessing it’s something primal, that somewhere in my genetic memory is a time when we hairless apes lived by the water and were content. Perhaps it’s an echo of the primordial ooze from which our ultimate ancestors emerged, billions of years ago. I don’t know.

I just know that I love being by the water, and try to spend time there whenever I can.

Living on Key West Time

It’s my fourth day in the Keys, and I’m taking advantage of a spare hour to jot down a few random thoughts that have been floating through my brain as a result of this time here.

First: I really like being in Key West. I’m not sure it’s at a “time to move here” level; it’s certainly at a “I really need to figure out how to spend more time here” level. How I’ll manage that is, as they say, an exercise for the advanced student. :)

Second…being here when most of my Parrothead friends aren’t is a very different energy from when they are, and I like that energy. I love hanging with my friends – just spent the morning at the Casa Marina, getting registered and catching up with various and sundry good people. But for lunch, I tried out a local fried chicken place on Flagler, partly because all the shady seats down by the Casa pool were full.

This is my tenth Meeting of the Minds (MOTM), and each one has been interesting and fun in its own way. I remember a moment back in 2005 when I thought, “Oh, am I just going to keep doing the same stuff over and over and get bored?” Well, that didn’t happen. I started trying out different places and exploring more. I still haven’t seen it all. And i keep finding new places to try, and new things to see. Because I decided I *wanted* to. And my intention created this very fun reality.

I’m also playing a fuller schedule of gigs this year, which has been way cool. I’ve been making notes on what I need to do differently next year, of course…but life is an iterative process. And I enjoy having the ability to tell people where to find me. I forgot to print up reminder cards with the schedule this time…but I trust that people will show up where they need to.

The feedback I’ve been getting on the new album has been very positive and encouraging. According to several people, it survives repeated listenings. :) And those folks who’ve made it to my shows have been having a very good time, and hopefully telling *their* friends.

And the best part is, I’m only halfway through the week. :)

On another, more serious note, I almost feel guilty having such a good time here when so many people in the Northeast are without power, and some without homes. My prayers continue to go out to those people, and I hope that life returns to normal there soon. It feels funny to be sitting in Key West watching hurricane damage in New York and New Jersey. Fortunately, most of those who were trying to get here for the week are here, and others are getting out today and tomorrow. And those of my friends I’ve talked to seem to still have homes to return to, and this is good. Then again, if things are worse for someone, odds are I won’t hear from them for a while. :(

I love my life and love my world, and I am very thankful to be in this place with so many wonderful people.