Weighty Matters

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Exhausted in a Good Way

on November 18, 2012

I haven’t posted since Thursday because I was away for a three day “leadership” weekend.  The group of us went off into the Everglades to learn more about the environment, how it is connected to and impacts the Florida Keys, and experience a number of different activities.  The weekend started at 6:30 a.m. on Friday when the woman with whom I was carpooling picked me up and ended at around 6:00 p.m. today when she dropped me off home.  In between, we traveled by bus all over the place with our group (26 people).  Here’s a summary of the things we did together:

Toured the Aqueduct Authority where all of the fresh water supply for the entire Florida Keys originates and learned all about where it comes from, how it’s filtered, treated, and pumped down the system from Point A to Key West, more than 120 miles away.  This involved significant trips up and down stairs, across walkways and between different buildings.  We heard about the issues, triumphs and challenges and came away with a thorough understanding of what has to happen for each of us to open a faucet and fill a pitcher or wash our hands.

Visited a famous fruit stand for fresh, yummy smoothies.

Traveled a couple more hours to a state nature preserve for a walk that lasted more than a mile and a half.  We split into teams and competed to locate and identify as many plant and animals species as we could along the way.  We saw a barred owl, several species of heron, two different species of woodpeckers, and more different ferns, trees and bushes than I can count.

Went even further down the trail to Everglades City, an old town with a population of fewer than 500 people where we ate dinner and went to bed early.

Got up and out the door by 7:30 a.m. for breakfast and a trip to Shark River Valley National Preserve, part of Everglades National Park.  The Park superintendent gave us a special talk, after which we embarked on a two hour tram tour where we saw alligators, a snake, anhingas and herons.  We learned about the ecology of the Everglades, how they developed, what happened to damage them, the massive restoration efforts, and the ongoing problem of invasive species like pythons.  This included a trek up a lengthy, curving ramp, to a huge observation tower.

After lunch, we moved on to an old time attraction with a small wildlife sanctuary, air boat rides and swamp buggy tours.  More walking to see a Florida panther, a pair of tigers, a wolf, a bob cat, a lion cub, some American crocodiles and close to 100 alligators.  The tigers, lion, wolf and bob cat were all rescued from private homes and would have been put down had this place not taken them in.  There was something strangely fascinating about watching a lone man go into a large enclosure with all of those alligators, carrying a bucket of raw chicken.  The gators knew him really well and, amazingly, did not rush him when he appeared.

From there we walked over to the docks and clambered into the airboat for a speedy fun ride.   Our next step was across the road and up the ramp to a high swamp buggy for a hilarious, fun tour through the wilderness.

At that point, I would happily have gone to the hotel and straight to bed.  However, alumni from previous classes in this program had come to the Everglades to provide us with dinner and a party.  A Toga Party.  I’d come prepared and gamely wrapped myself in my toga and went off to the festivities for a few more hours.  When my brain began to click off at 11 p.m., I went to bed, knowing that we needed to be packed, checked out and read to board the bus again at 7 a.m.

Today we finished with a visit to a marine lab where we learned much more about the ecology of mangroves, sea grass and the coral reef and how important each of these ecosystems is to the Florida Keys.  Wow, was this interesting!  After lunch we boarded boats for a trip to the backcountry where we learned even more about the various critters (like sponges, sea stars, nudibranchs, etc.) that populate the mangroves.

Now that definitely would have been enough, but we had one more thing on the itinerary, a mostly-driving guided tour of a very wealthy, exclusive gated community at the top end of the Keys.  How exclusive?  Well, while there are some condos that sell for $100,000, the purchase price is the least of the expense.  In order to enjoy the amenities like the fabulous pools, restaurants, golf courses or tennis courts, one must join one of the “clubs”.  I believe the initial membership fee is around $200,000 and the annual dues are pretty exorbitant.  By the way, the least expensive houses are little two bedroom/one bath models for a million bucks.  The most expensive homes are in the 40 to 50 million dollar range.  I won’t be moving to this community when I retire. 🙂

After this experience, we returned to our original starting point, unloaded our stuff from the bus, gathered in various cars and headed home.  To say that I am mentally and physically exhausted is an understatement.  Five minutes after I publish this blog post, I’ll be in bed, but I had some realizations that I wanted to share.

A year ago, I don’t know that I could have done all of these things in a three day time period.  If I’d managed, it would not have happened without a great deal of physical discomfort, over the counter pain relievers, and a walloping heap of stress.  I’d have fretted all of the time about my inability to keep pace on the walks, and the agony of climbing all of the stairs.  I would have worried the whole time about whether I’d have been able to get in and out of the boats or onto the swamp buggy.  For that matter, I would have hated every moment on the bus, imagining that I was squishing my seat partner.

My desire to be a full participant would still have driven me to don a toga, but the whole time I’d have feared looking fat and ridiculous.

This year, I had none of these concerns or stresses.  I didn’t have to worry about whether my super obesity would interfere with either by abilities or my enjoyment.  Instead I could just throw myself into the activities just like everybody else in the group.  At the end of our action-packed weekend, everybody was exhausted — which was completely understandable.  This was exhaustion in a good way.

4 responses to “Exhausted in a Good Way

  1. hoperoth says:

    I’m exhausted just reading about all of that!

  2. Skye says:

    Wow! What a trip. What Karen said. Yay you!

  3. I’m tired just reading about it! It sounds like a ton of fun, though, and extremely educational. Glad you enjoyed it!

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