…and then, all of a sudden, summer was over.
Getting off the plane today in Miami, hearing Spanish again for the first time in over a week, it hit me that my vacation, my whole summer vacation, is about to end. My realities came rolling in as a little silver Jetta rolled into the G terminal of the MIA airport carrying my two housemates. The Jetta left the airport with two more passengers and a whole lot of luggage, taking me far from my travels and the life of leisure.
Still, as I sit here listening to the sleepy southern rhythms of Iron & Wine, I can’t quite let go of summer. I had such good intentions of blogging about my sojurns into the wilderness this season; my stays on the mountainsides of St. John and the rocky Boundary Waters Wilderness offered many opportunities for reflection and contemplation, but somehow my brain just doesn’t seem up to it. What it did do, thankfully, was renew my interest in photography. One of these days (oh, that eternal resolution, never fulfilled) I’m going to take my portfolio, fix it up, and show it to somebody who knows something about these things. What exactly “these things” are is as of yet unclear: photography, ‘art,’ selling things, presentation, etc.
Our family’s trip to the Boundary Waters was short, only 5 days instead of the usual 10 or so, and I think that’s one reason that I don’t really feel like I’ve left Minnesota yet. The Hagen Family Reunion, 2005, was low-key and over pretty painlessly. All the people I like were there, and I was happy to introduce Dave to the whole crazy bunch. If only my mother would stop telling everyone “this is a friend of Thea’s.” Can we please speak clearly? I guess “This is Thea’s boyfriend, Dave. He lives with her in Miami, but we don’t know how long he’s going to be there, and I [this is voice of Cathy] don’t really know his intentions towards my daughter” doesn’t have the same mysterious ring to it. Anyway, apart from some lewd Ole and Lena jokes, a raucous night in the hotel bar/poolroom with pitchers of Boulevard Ale, and bad small-town Minnesota cuisine, it was standard fare.
The weather was picturesque for our entire five days in the BWCAW [insert, for the uninitiated: Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Wilderness], and yes, I did take many pictures. Dave and I made quite the little pair, day-tripping through the lake country, portaging, and living life in the wilderness. We had a fun time eating dried camp food, cooking fish, putting up tents, swatting black flies and mosquitoes, swimming in the shallows, filleting fish, reading, drinking hot chocolate around the campfire, telling fish stories, hiking rockslides, eating wild blueberries and raspberries, oh, and fishing. I unwittinly initiated Dave into the fishing frenzy by putting a rod and reel in his hands and teaching him how to cast. He subsequently (in the three days left of the trip) out-fished all the other participants, catching the largest smallmouth bass and northern pike of the trip. Dad didn’t catch anything bigger than his outrageous lures. I guess as long as you have fun, the trip is a success.
All in all, it’s a great way to spend time with my family, whom I have missed greatly this past year. Instead of FIU, Central, and my presence in Miami, the only time I thought about my present life was when I would pull out my driver’s lisence to order a drink at a bar. Each time I was a little surprised to see the bright green stripe emblazoned with “Florida.” There was much laughter regarding past trips, shared family memories that were now transferred to Dave, and on the whole many high spirits. There’s something about pike fillets sizzling over an open fire that makes everyone happy. I just wish that my break from the world could have lasted a few days longer. We rushed back from Ely, Minnesota last night as an orange sunset lit up the horizon in front of us, driving 5 hours to Minneapolis, close enough to the airport to catch our 10:30 ride south.
Being in the Midwest is so odd; I can’t quite put my finger on on what it is: the flat farmlands, the perpindicular roads, the whiteness of Middle America, or some underlying malicious prejudice. It unsettles me in an uncanny way; by uncanny I do mean the full Freudian sense, because my familial roots are there. It is strange, foreign, and all my relatives live(d) there. My trip, like all good periods of reflection away from whatever I define as “normalcy,” made me see that South Florida is quite a good match for me. Miami is a place of immigrants as well as migrants from all over the United States. Nobody is “from” Miami, we all are just living here for a while until we figure out what we really want to do.
The night before we left for the reunion, Dave and I went down to South Beach for a free screening of “The Thin Man,” a delightful murder-mystery from 1934, and then proceded to promenade down Ocean Drive, stopping in the ever-so-trendy American Apparel store. As the cashier rang up my purchases, we chatted for a bit, entailing the question of “where are you from?” She seemed shocked to hear that I lived here, so I qualified it with the fact that I wasn’t a native Miami-ite. With a practiced roll of the eyes, she laughingly replied “honey, nobody is.”
This comment floated back to me through the waves of time-zone-transfer that washed over me as I left my plane this afternoon. True, this city is full of transitory people, trying to have fun and make a living; many of us are just living in the moment, week to week and month to month, but for now that’s okay with me. All of the stability, “settled-down-ness” that I saw in my relatives back in the Midwest made me a little jittery. It shook up my present relationships with people and with my own life plans, reminded me a little too clearly that my Teach for America commitment won’t last forever, and yes, I will have to actually make a *decision* soon about my real life. Gasp. Yikes.
For now, though, it feels good to be in Miami. I’m proud to be indecisive, to be in a state of flux, ready to go wherever my fancy (or, perhaps my heart) should take me after I’m done with teaching, and who knows when that will be? I sure as hell don’t. In the midst of other temporary residents, I feel right at home in my ever-changing city.