A Tale of Two Sunsets or the Rest of the Florida Vacation
We found a hotel on Big Pine Key, one of the least built up of the keys. Big Pine Key was the home of the Pine Key Deer, a struggling deer population that can only be found on the keys. These deer are the size of small dogs, but extremely tame, and as we drove around we would see them in yards, eating bushes, and along the road. Signs warned of how many of the deer had been hit for the year, and I knew I didn’t want to be the reason for increasing the number. We found a key called No Name Key, and a quiet bridge with the same anonymous style name. Walking on the bridge we enjoyed marsh and water views, saw large fish swimming underneath, but rarely saw a car or person. The bridge is close to an out of the way dining spot, and a few homes, but not much else. We decided to return for the sunset.
Near dusk we drove back to the bridge, avoiding the many deer, and parked along the side of the road. We saw three people on the bridge fishing. Laura and I looked over the side of the bridge into the water and saw what we think was a shark swimming under and around the bridge. We watched him for a while then he swam off. The few fishermen left before dark, and one other couple stopped to walk along the bridge before returning to the nearby restaurant. Slowly the sun set, the colors filled the sky, and the air cooled. We enjoyed a beautiful evening, nearly alone, and with only birdsong and breezes to accompany us. Once the sun went down we drove back to the main street and ordered our first Key Lime Pie at a local restaurant. While eating we mentioned the beauty of the sunset to our waiter. He suggested we return to watch the full moon rise. He agreed that we had found the prettiest place for nature’s shows. We returned, and walked back along the bridge, now under the stars. We could see stars from one side of the sky to another, tiny lights clumped in the darkness. The Milky Way was visible. Again, there were no people or cars, so we lay down on the warm sidewalk of the bridge to enjoy the night’s lights. There is no better experience than a dark, star lit sky in an area with no light pollution, in nature and all alone. We listened to the insects, looked at stars and thought about how tiny and insignificant we are in our little lonely section of the galaxy. Over time the sky above the far side of the bridge began to lighten, and the stars began to fade. The moon was rising, and although at first it seemed slow, suddenly the large round moon popped up, and was visible, and bright. The craters shone, the stars retreated, and we were still alone in the night. It was a perfect evening.
A few evenings later we decided to drive over to Key West for the famous Mallory Square Sunset. We drove around for some time before finding a parking place. The mood was festive, and we walked past buildings, statues, and shops with crowds of people. We could see the ocean in front of us, and in front of one of the buildings were statues of people depicting various ways of enjoying the square. One of the statues was of a man painting another group of statues. We walked on down to the square and joined the crowds of people. I loved watching the sailboats and motorboats sailing up and down, perhaps searching for the perfect spot for the view. People milled about, some taking pictures, others texting or visiting with their friends. Street entertainers were set up all along the square, some musicians, two fortunetellers, and the strangest one of all, the cat man. This man had crates of cats, and all sorts of props, and I suppose his entertainment was to have the cats perform tricks. All I ever saw of him was his very irritating way of speaking, walking and behaving. The crowd seemed to love him, but I moved on. As the sun set and the colors filled the sky I looked at the crowd. Many people were snapping photos, maybe missing the colors while working so hard to catch the perfect picture. Others were chatting, drinking and looking around at the people. One lady had her back to nature’s beauty as she was busy applying lipstick.
Once it was night we walked along, enjoying the street performers and the festival atmosphere. We were at a sunset carnival. We stopped to watch an acrobat who juggled while riding a unicycle. He was entertaining, but he kept saying, “Look at me, look at what I am doing.” I felt like I was back with my kids as toddlers. Finally Kevin and I found a place to sit and the kids wandered off to watch a young girl perform a strange dance with metal hoops and fire. The crowd loved her, they cheered and clapped, but once the performance was over she was all alone. With sad eyes she cleaned up her props and collected the bucket filled with a few dollars and coins. Soon the plaza felt abandoned as the performers and vendors closed up shop and returned home until the next night.
The sunset at No Name Key was spectacular, and certainly was beautiful every night, whether people were there to enjoy her or not. The sunset at Mallory Square felt a little more vain, in need of the crowds and attention. Both nights were fun, but different. These sunsets were a perfect reflection of the Keys, simple and a little run down, yet beautiful and at times downright stunning.