Key West, Florida, the home of icons such as Jimmy Buffet and the late Ernest Hemmingway, makes observing Lent a challenge, to say the least. Bars and music blaring along Duval Street, reckless raucous beer toting bicyclers darting through cross streets, waving palm trees ruffling in a clear blue sky and the brightest sun in the country is about as far from a church atmosphere as one can get. With bougainvillea in every imaginable color, ginger spiking red and white, bleeding hearts drooping, and plumeria offering their Hawaiian touch, the Key West scene seems more of a wedding gala than a worship service with the Bridegroom of mankind.
My husband and I spent two weeks in Key West, and in spite of its’ circus atmosphere, I discovered the island to actually be a perfect place to celebrate the Lenten season. “ Feed my sheep”, Jesus said to Peter, and to all of us who love Him. Many of those sheep were grazing along the streets I walked, the roads I biked, and in the bars I visited. Lent in Key West was a happening place!
After a ten day visit in a lovely cement stamped slot in an RV resort in Naples, Florida, Dan and I drove farther south toward the Keys. In the resort at Naples all of the class A’s (permitted only) were parked neatly in an organized fashion on white slabs of concrete, facing or backed up to, in a double stacked row, a man-made pond with a timed fountain in the middle. Like so many dinosaurs chained to the ground in a circular prehistoric zoo, the behemoth campers, hooked up to electricity and water lines, grazed their sterile lots.
Around and around the palm tree lined circle my Schnauzer, Bridgett and I walked. Along the way, day-by-day, we met Jack, Linda, Tom, Abbie, George, Sherry, Bill, Joan, and all of their friendly sniffy tail-wagging dogs. I discovered life and story thriving among those dinosaurs on wheels!
We waved good-bye to our transient friends and lumbered our motor home downward on US 1 along narrow swamp-lined Alligator Alley, through Homestead and orchid farm stands, small town streets decorated with t-shirt shops and grills divided by two-lane streets pocked with cars, trucks, RV’s and traffic lights. Reaching the Keys where the turquoise waters and white glistening sand hailed us like a magical fairyland took away all of the frustration and sweat from our four hours of arduous travel. Motoring up and over white bridges, lapping aquamarine sparkling water be speckled with darting boats of every description, we opened our windows, inhaled sea breeze, and set our sunglasses even more south to Bluewater RV resort, mile marker 14.
Our heaving RV at rest, hooked in under swirling palm trees with waving fiscus roots searching for ground, we found ourselves in a tropic haven complete with a blue picnic table, tiki hut, and a bar with a refrigerator and fish cutting stand. The pool outside our private gate was just beyond the garden pathway where Bridgett was free to do her “thing” in elegant, fragrant privacy, except for the iguanas hiding among the leaves and flowers peering with beady-eyed curiosity.
Here it would be hard to remember any other holiday except the one I was languishing in daily, just 14 miles from the most southern point in the US.
But there was a whispering in my soul. Some 2000 years ago, my Lord and Savior walked His last days on earth, to suffer and die for me. This, indeed, was the season of Lent when I have always, traditionally, given up something for Him. Vacation and sacrifice is an oxymoron, so I decided I would continue to give myself to our vacation days during Lent by turning my attention and whole heart to the people I met in Key West, just as I had in Naples. I prayed for Jesus to be with me on vacation.
Who did He want me to meet on my treks toward Mile 0?