Just completed an 11-day 135 mile trip by solo canoe in the Everglades wilderness. My route was from south to north so I was buffeted by 4 salvos of cold fronts for very unFlorida like weather. But the bracing winds were preferred to the sultry days that I had anticipated.
Sometimes, I wonder why I eschew the comforts of home for stints in the wilds. One reason came clear to me in a barber shop yesterday, the same day that I awoke sleeping on a platform and listening to Barred Owls and the flat quack of White Ibis.
Arriving at a south Florida hotel I made a discovery. While on my journey, my beard trimmer had accidentally turned on in my duffle bag and its integral battery completely ran down. Not having the foresight to bring the charger the unit is useless and my beard was scruffy and the mirror revealed Wishbone from the 1960 TV series Rawhide and that would not do. So before supper and just 30 minutes prior to closing I found a Great Clips and went in for a stubble shave. My barber was a middle aged black woman her skin was blacker than black, with a deep polish. Her face was terribly disfigured but, and maybe because I had just returned from deep wilderness, I could clearly see an inner light, a sparky spirit that maybe no one else had noticed for a long time. I listened to her story, her life, not a pleasant one, but real. I teased her a bit, maybe even flirted with her. Not out of compassion or because I felt sorry for her, or because I wanted something from her. I did not have those feelings. I just liked her. She prolonged my beard trim, doing my eyebrows and neck and massaging my shoulders, clearly not wanting our conversation to end. But of course it did and when I gave her a 400% tip her eyes welled up with a tear. Not out of gratitude for the cash, although hers is a life of poverty, but the prize was a moment of authentic contact. A prize we shared equally. I touched her hand and said goodbye forever, without regret and richer for the experience. The hunger for bread gnaws but the absence of true contact wrings our spirit. Time in the wilds helps me understand that.