Janet Sheridan: Moments that linger
A few seconds in a rainforest, a sunrise shared with a stranger, a five-minute walk on a beach: all are moments that lingered and the reason I travel.
Deep in a rain forest in Costa Rica, gentle drops of water glistened on tropical leaves and misted my face as a scientist-guide, lit with enthusiasm, explained the miracle of the insect clinging to his index finger: a butterfly slowly unfolding neon wings in preparation for its first flight.
In a Florida motel, the world quiet and dark, Joel returned to our room, carrying two cups of coffee and noisy insistence: I had to get out of bed and get dressed. Now. He’d brought coffee. I should hurry.
While standing in line at Starbucks, my early rising husband had conversed with a local man who’d invited us to join him on his private beach to celebrate our arrival in the Florida Keys by watching the sunrise over the ocean.
Evidently, two habitual early birds willing to chirp at 6 a.m. had bonded.
Intrigued, I didn’t argue. Rushing from the room with my hair in anarchy, I climbed into the car, buckled my sandals and bit my tongue as Joel drove through the deserted city, liberally interpreting speed limits.
Soon I stood on the end of a pier slapped by waves as a glowing globe lifted from the sea and climbed the sky, casting its light on distant ships and close-by boats, far-away whitecaps and nearby shorebirds, wisps of pink clouds and three faces silenced by the sight.
“Welcome to Key Largo,” the sun seemed to say, “Welcome, my winter-weary friends from Craig.”
A few years later, another snowbound January sent us to South Padre Island in Texas.
We drove onto the island late at night, located the condo we’d rented, blundered up a steep flight of unlit stairs and patted likely spots until we located the lockbox where we needed to enter a code from the sheet of instructions emailed to us. We had a problem: Our cellphone didn’t emit enough light to be helpful, and rental cars aren’t equipped with flashlights.
We were bordering on snappishness when a man, who was a dog walker and a gentleman, strolled by, noticed our dilemma and offered us his flashlight.
Our spirits rallied once inside, but a seed of grumpiness lingered and burst into full bloom when we awakened the next morning to strong winds, sporadic rain and a predicted high of 45. A polar vortex had arrived in Texas with us.
A day later, weather and mental outlook unchanged, we decided we’d walk the beach though hell should bar the way. Dressed in every layer we’d packed, shoulders hunched, and heads lowered, we walked deserted sidewalks toward the beach. Obviously, we wouldn’t have to worry about sharing it: Folks not hardened by the weather of Northwestern Colorado had the good sense to stay indoors.
When we gained the beach, we stepped into a surreal experience. Strong winds blew from north to south with no variation in direction or force. Roaring like a high-speed train, the gale swept a river of sand before it as far as we could see. Knee-high sand flew by us, rendering our calves and feet invisible. Ignoring the insignificant obstacle we presented, the heedless sand flowed before and after us, ceaseless and unalterable, mocking our insignificance.
Long after I shuffle souvenirs to the back of the china closet and forget about the photographs lost in the jumbled file on my computer, I continue to enjoy unexpected travel moments that linger.
Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.