My husband, Ron, and I just returned from our 10th Wedding Anniversary trip to the Florida Keys. We love the Keys. I first discovered them back in March 1991. I was almost 24 years old and was on a trip with an old college buddy and his friends. I fit in there and the laid back easy way of life. Flip flops and a cold beer. It’s like the Keys are on an eternal vacation. I loved the water…on both sides of the land! And I found the Keys, its reef, its sunsets, its little towns, its tiki bars – all beautiful.
Over the past 27 years, I’ve gone there quite a bit, and BOY, has it changed. It’s grown, of course. There are more buildings everywhere. The quiet towns I once knew are now tourist stops. For our anniversary trip, I tried to find, quite literally, a one bedroom Casita (think big, clean, kitchen, porch, grill, the most comfortable king bed ever...) on a quiet Key somewhere – preferably the middle Keys. Well, the search was quite frustrating. Long story short, I found an oceanfront hotel that had a one bedroom unit with kitchen. So off we went.
As an inn keeping professional (still virgin in many ways!), I notice lots of detail when I stay in a hotel or rental – good and bad. This uncontrollable vigilance of mine can make relaxing difficult. But I digress. We arrive, and I’m pleasantly surprised with the cleanliness and layout of the unit. And out the back patio door is the ocean…about 20 yards away! I’m thinking...this is great.
And it was for a while. Then we realized there were another 100 people enjoying that view within a very small space. The hotel was 4 stories high and had a big ugly staircase on the Oceanside. Anyway, it was just fine. We were in the Keys!
The next day we met a couple from New York. They’ve been coming to this hotel for their summer vacation for 15+ years. They get the same oceanfront unit each time, and they love it there. He said, “it is so beautiful here!” with a huge grateful smile on his face. His genuine remark made me think. Is it really beautiful here, on this beach, at this hotel in the Keys? My answer: it was nice. I save the word “beautiful” for spaces and places where I am in in awe. The beach on this crowded Key in a four story hotel that blocked the light of the sun on the beach after 4:00 was not necessarily beautiful to me. That guy probably doesn’t listen to Texas Country music and drank Brunello either. And that’s ok. :)
What is beautiful to me? I’ve seen a lot of what I believe to be beautiful places. Lately, we were in Ohio visiting Ron’s friends and family. The trees (HUGE trees!) and the corn fields were beautiful. The sun glistening on a big lake while Herons fish in August while floating on a boat is beautiful. New Zealand? Beautiful. The BVIs? Beautiful. A vineyard in the Texas Hill Country (or most anywhere) is beautiful. The hills and
mountains of Virginia – beautiful! A stain glassed window in the Catholic Church in Moneta, VA – beautiful. A horse, almost any horse. Wow. Even the Gulf of Mexico, laden with oil rigs off the shore at Port Aransas, TX, is beautiful. My beloved Italia is one of the most beautiful places on earth. To me.
There’s one thing in common among my beautiful places. Memories. Wonderful things happened in these places such as authentic experiences of joy, love and peace. What comes first, the beautiful place that helps create the memory, or the memory that took place there that makes a place beautiful? Not sure. I can go round and round on the chicken and the egg. Let’s just say, beauty is definitely in the eyes of the beholder. So cliché…
When the man at the Keys hotel told me “this place is beautiful”, I instantly thought of home and Dripping Springs and our Casitas. This place and its rolling hills and "short, crooked trees" and desert flowers are beautiful to me. And I am grateful. I know what is beautiful to me.
What is beautiful to you?