Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ya meet some pretty unassumin' people...

It hit me, walking through the Jacksonville airport at 1:30am this morning, that everything started there. 2 years ago. That's where I met my fellow YASCers for the first time, one by one, as we all arrived for this mysterious thing called discernment. I'm in Florida now for the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes where Cristosal is sharing our human rights work thanks to some serious helping hands from the 815 Development Office (mil gracias compaƱeras!)

But what I wanted to share has nothing to do with the conference. I arrived here alone, cold, wet at 2am. I set out on a walk this afternoon, past long stretches of urban sprawl and cloaked in a poncho that under favorable circumstances could be considered a well trimmed trash bag.

And I loved it. The smell of ocean air mixed with a chilly drizzle, the slow intentional way people greeted you on the street, if only with their eyes. I sat down in a small ice cream shop next to a wrinkled couple matching the cut and dry description of retired Floridians... until they started talking. One batch of sweet potato fries and a cup of raspberry custard ice cream later, I'd learned I was sitting next to the two-time national sailing champion and his wily mistress/artist friend who had sailed across the Atlantic to Greece in a steel-hulled 72' sailboat. Twice. "We were gonna go to Singpore frum there, but ya know, with the fighting and all, they just decided it wa'nt a good idea," she said to me, swirling the mountain of whipped cream atop her mocha cappuccino.

The rain kept coming down, and the ice cream shop owner insisted on lending me his umbrella. They had two after all, and I could just drop it off whenever it stopped raining.

I stood on the frozen beach ten minutes later, watching the sea gulls, smelling the salt, and feeling like I was in Seattle, Boston, and El Salvador all at the same time. There's something about slowing down, about letting the world come to you, that I didn't know how to execute two years ago. I stood on that beach in my soggy sneakers and just grinned like a fool, feeling the cold wind on my face and listening to my poncho flap in the breeze under a newly acquired umbrella.

There's lots of obvious things that have changed in two years, but something about coming back to the same place teaches you how your way of being can change too. How someone who has rushed and pushed and jumped her entire life can, against all the odds, slow down just long enough to see what's happening on this little abandoned strip of Florida and relish every sweet, salty-aired second of it.

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