The paddler on the Loxahatchee inlet

I came to the place you see in these pictures this drizzly morning at 7am and found a group of mostly old men sitting on plastic chairs in a circle on the grass by the water.

I sat in an empty chair in their circle and waited for someone to speak. No one said anything for a while, and then a fellow in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt spoke up.

He talked about changes in his life, and when he was finished, another man spoke up. He was much older, and he talked about how he used to be an engineer and was good with IBM mainframe technology once but now found his new laptop deeply confusing.

Another man spoke about nearing retirement, and how he was watching protestors on TV march and throwing smoke bombs at the police. He said he was ashamed that he had wished the police would hit them on the head till they went away, and he said also there were so many changes going on and he did not how he was going to deal with them in retirement.

Another man said he had been doing well for a number of years but did not see the point of much of anything anymore, and then a woman spoke up, and she said that she’d been struggling too, and that she would pray for him that night.

There are so many changes going on in American society today, even here, in this sleepy, incurious Florida backwater, where golf and football and drinking beer and fishing and fine winter weather have been a good way of life for many, particularly those who are no longer young.

But now even those who voted a certain way because they did not like the changes they were seeing around them are beginning to wonder if they had been right about their choice. They wanted the world to stop changing so fast, but now they found themselves still at sea in it, still lost, and bewildered, the newly recharted course suddenly perilous and uncertain.

I do not know what the future is going to bring in this part of America.

All I can say is that I have never felt more calm and mentally alive and ready to engage in the next stage of my life.

I generally dislike guru speak, but I suppose the sanest thing to do is let go of the illusion of control over the powerful tides coming in through the inlet, but still navigate to some goal that seems worth pursuing — at least for a particular moment in time.

Just like that guy paddling in his canoe along the river, seemingly without a care in the world.


False alarms

leaving america for gouna

Where I’m headed

At the stroke of midnight, there will be 27 days left before I leave America.

I will end up in Gouna, in a bubble, far far away.

The endless noise about the orange khanzeer will abate, but there will be other sounds to avoid.

Here is a poem called Finalities, by Constantine Cavafy. It is from the start of his mature period, 1911. The poem warns me as to what to expect when I arrive in Egypt.

Plunged in fear and suspicions

with agitated mind and frightened eyes,

we melt, and plan how to act

in order to avoid the certain

danger so frightfully menacing us.

And yet we err, it is not in our paths;

the messages were false alarms,

(or else we did not hear, or fully understand them).

Another catastrophe, that we never imagined,

suddenly, torrentially, falls upon us,

and unprepared — there is no more time — carries us off.

If there is too much noise in Gouna, as there is here, I shall go to the desert.

If it is quiet, but all I hear are inanities, I shall read my books and seek the company of no one.

If a scorpion crosses my path, I shall avoid him. If he asks, do you object to my being a scorpion? I shan’t answer, but I will cede no ground.

If he thinks I cannot tell that he is a scorpion, he shall be mistaken.

How does an old man go to a place that is surrounded by beaches and young men flying in the wind?

I cannot fly like them, for I am not as strong as I once was.

leaving america

A version of me might have flown higher than any of them, but I am now grounded by time and Ikarian misfortune.

But there is one thing that has not changed — in fact, it has improved with Time; should that ever decay, I shall not see any point remaining at all.

Sinai lunch

sinai fish lunch

Yes, there were carefree Mr Fish days, once: long ago, and far away

When it comes to Dahab, what you need is some shade from the radical sun, a brewsky, some weed, a cheap guitar, and enough LEs for the ravenous munchies you will get after a noble dive.

Of course, after a few months of this, you do tend to end up looking slightly worse for the wear and tear of it. Party time aside, you will nevertheless have avoided the harrowing dangers of Dahab’s Blue Hole.

escape from America

Portrait of yours truly after a season of sybaritic excess.