Woman Solo: An Everglades Love Story

In January, I attended the Martin Luther King, Jr. joint Shabbat service of Sixth & I Synagogue and Turner Memorial AME Church. During his sermon, Turner Memorial’s pastor remarked, “There is faith and there is fear, and they both require belief.”

“There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them: their vast glittering openness, wider than the enormous visible round of the horizon, the racing free saltness and sweetness of their massive winds, under the dazzling blue heights of space. They are unique also in the simplicity, the diversity, the related harmony of the forms of life they enclose.” —Marjory Stoneman Douglas

I remember my mom taking me to the airport once and saying with the tender melancholy that lives in true love’s periphery, “I feel like I say goodbye to you more than I get to say hello.”

Last year, I visited the Everglades of Florida for the first time and I fell deeply in love with them. Their tranquil beauty, strong history, and fragile, but persevering ecosystem captured my heart, and when I left them, I cried. I feared I’d lost them forever.

How can the human heart cope with so many goodbyes? I already have so many to miss; could I handle one more? When will we get to experience more hellos than goodbyes?

When we face the vulnerability of lost love, sometimes our fears close us off from fully experiencing life. We put our memories in boxes and hide them deep in the closet. We tell ourselves not to feel certain emotions and to make sure no one knows that we have them. We come up with excuses and fill in our time with things that allow us to distance ourselves from the “what ifs” that risk keeping us up at night. As the great Taylor Swift would explain, “I can’t say hello to you and risk another goodbye.”

There’s a curious relationship between love and fear; love requires faith, and allowing yourself to have faith can feel quite scary sometimes. But if we can push beyond the stagnation of fear, and give over our belief to faith, we may just find the love that was always there, and allow ourselves to live our lives forward in a more fulfilling way. Maybe we’ll no longer fear the goodbyes; we’ll just say hello to the enormity of right now. The enormity of our love.

Back in November, I decided to say hello again to the Everglades I love, and I’ve decided to do it solo. I will be kayaking into the backcountry for six nights and seven days with nothing but myself, my gear, and the grand beauty of the earth. I’ve decided that I want to push beyond the bounds of my fears and just get out there and let myself feel it all.

What intrigues me about this trip is that I have an idea of what I want it to be and what I expect to occur, but ultimately, I have no idea what it will be or how I’ll feel or who I’ll be at the end. That part is all left to faith. I’m choosing to believe in faith.

I want to paddle in tribute to people currently held hostage by fear. I have let my own guide me in how I have prepared for this trip, but now I let faith drive me. And with that, relinquish to love.

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