Tags: Community & Outreach
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June 03, 2014I run for a number of reasons.
At the top of the list is because it is so much cheaper than therapy and, for me, it works better. I run to get away. I run to think. I run to escape. The bigger the monster under the bed, the farther I go – a couple miles or lots of a couple miles.
I also run to listen to music without distractions. Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix (Live at Monterrey Pop Festival), Fleetwood Mac greatest hits, occasionally CSNY, and my beloved CCR -same albums over and over.
They never get old.
When we lived on Key Biscayne in Miami, my run was in the afternoon along the ocean.
Frequently I could go for miles and miles and never encounter a human – just me, the gulls, sand, pelicans and sometimes a horseshoe crab or turtle.
If I was very lucky, a dolphin would see me running and follow me, swimming parallel to the shore sort of on the side so he could watch me running.
That actually happened several times and I suspect that they probably found me as funny as I found them.
But we entertained each other and would have stopped for a conversation had one of us spoke the language of the other.
Actually we probably did have that conversation. Words aren't always necessary.
A friend once told me that her dad (a family practice physician) used tell her that when he couldn't diagnose someone that he would send them to see a veterinarian.
He said that they have to practice medicine without words – so they have a different skill set and a different way of processing information.
On weekends, I would run along the black top road on the Key because there would be way too many people at the beach.
I always wanted to run down to the big bridge over Biscayne Bay and over it, but never made it. It was really far and usually too hot even for my taste. However, it's on the bucket list. I haven't given up.
My usual run would take me south on the island and around, where I would inevitably be staring into a blazing ( like a magnifying glass) late afternoon sun. It gets really hot in Miami in the summer. On the Key it is even hotter — especially when there was no wind.
But I was out running and that was all that counted. I have always said that I would rather run than eat.
The run would take me through old Australian pines, past stands of sea grapes so thick they were impenetrable. Then it was under the shadow of the Cape Florida Lighthouse that was originally built in 1825 and was not decommissioned until 1990.
It is stationed in Bill Baggs State Park on the south end of Key Biscayne. I actually was friends with Mr. Baggs' grandson when I lived in Miami, so my emotional ties to the island are deep in many ways.
Near the halfway point of the run, when I would be running along the sea wall around the west side of the island. I could look out on the water at Stiltsville and would almost always be transported somewhere far away. Just seeing those rebel houses way-way out in the middle of Biscayne Bay flooded my I imagination — of the present, the past and the future.
Stiltsville today – what's left – is a cluster of seven severely weathered sun-bleached wooden houses that have been built and rebuilt on pilings. They were originally retreats of the old Miami gentry built in the 1930s. Most were weekend houses, fish camps, although occasionally they had a more colorful past as speakeasies, drinking clubs and gambling dens.
Access of course was by boat. Food, fuel, water all had to be transported although I imagine that some must have had cisterns that collected rainwater. A neighbor would always arrived by boat and fishing for dinner was the order of the day.
Diesel generators and candles provided light and I imagine air-conditioning depended on the breeze.
You fell asleep and woke up listening to the waves pounding against the pilings and mornings always started out warm — then got hotter by the hour with the morning sun bouncing off the water and radiating every inch of the homes with magnified heat.
Hurricanes came and went, but most of Stiltsville endured — even after category 5 Andrew that passed directly over it with 200-plus-mile-per-hour winds.
After Andrew, Bill Baggs — a park that had been so heavily forested — was barren.
Not a single living plant, brush or tree survived Andrew.
It looked like a desert. Yet, Stiltsville made it. Go figure. The resilience and defiance embodied in these renegade Stiltsville structures and the life they represent to me have always been an inspiration.
I went to Florida State University with a Belcher Oil granddaughter whose family owned one of those homes. She always promised to take me out there, but we never made it.
The closest I came was attending her wedding at Villa Viscaya — a magnificent Italian Renaissance estate home on the water built by John Deering from 1914-1920s.
Running has always grounded me and a big part of that has been simply because it has given me the time to think.
I believe that the companion part to that has been having an activity that I was passionate about always in front of me, waiting. It still gives me something to look forward to and enjoy.
The run on the Key though was probably the most special of them all because it would take me past that anarchistic Stiltsville, which would beckon to me j like Greek sirens. I would always listen to their enchantments and be joyously taken in.