In dealing with a recent heartbreak I decided the best thing to do was to get out of town to clear my mind. Originally I was going to go it alone but I contacted my best friend and she graciously agreed to go with me into the middle of nowhere to go camping. It was something she had never done before and was far out of her comfort zone. I had previously booked the location because I was going to take my boyfriend for his birthday. As the date approached I got more and more anxious. I wanted to cancel the trip. My girlfriend had come down with a cold I was convinced she would be unable to go, but something in me told me to keep the reservation. The night before we were supposed to leave we both decided to just go for it.
I confirmed the campsite, a tiny cabin without amenities in the middle of Itchnatucknee Springs, Florida. The forecast called for rain and cooler temperatures and I couldn’t wait to relax around a raging fire, sipping on whiskey away from all the things that reminded me of my current situation.
I knew there would be no running water, electricity or cell service and that suited me just fine. Our road trip there was an uneventful four and a half hours of girl talk and music. Upon checking in we were offered the very last cabin all the way in the back of the campsite. This was perfect, we would be away from the main traffic area and left to our own devices. While driving to our destination we realized that there was not a single other campsite occupied. We were truly alone. I was thrilled. This is exactly what I needed.
While scavenging for kindling to start our first fire of the trip we noticed far behind us in the woods, the kind of tents that you suspend from the trees, but no sign of anyone near the site. So we set about our task and soon had a magnificent fire going. My girlfriend snapped a picture of me in front of the fire and said “I’m going to just call you Jack from now on, you look like a lumbar jack (referring to my flannel attire), you’re eating Jack brand beef jerky and you’re drinking Jack Daniels. We both laughed and my name from that point forward was “Jack”.
It was at that time that we noticed two men walking back through the park towards the suspended tents. I made mention that we should probably go introduce ourselves at some point since we were the only other people out there.
After an hour or so and after their own fire was up and roaring we decided to walk over with some chocolate that we brought as an offering. I introduced myself first and extended my hand commenting on their fire. The first man introduced himself and said his name was Keith, the same name as the man I had gone there to try to forget. He was also celebrating his birthday. I lowered my head and mumbled something along the lines of “of course you are”. He then introduced his brother and stated that they were celebrating his 20 year retirement from the Air Force. The same career and duration as my former boyfriend.
My girlfriend looked at me and shoved my shoulder and both men caught on very quickly that there was a story behind the gesture. However, I did not share any of what was going on. We merely made small talk and parted ways for the evening. It was pitch dark and we wanted to get settled at our own site for the night.
Twenty minutes went by and the fire from the other campsite was waning. We heard footsteps approaching, followed by a hearty hello. Our fellow campers walked over with an entire bag of wood as an offering to keep our fire going, which was a good thing, the temperature was 37 degrees and falling.
They also pulled the camel bladder out of their backpack and offered us drinks. The name scribbled on the camel bladder was “Jack”. I asked if they were also drinking Jack Daniels and they stated that in fact it was Jameson and they had no idea why on the trip up they had written Jack on the side of it. I shook my head, things just seemed too coincidental.
Again my girlfriend and I looked at each other. The universe was trying to tell me something. I had gone there specifically to try to mend my broken heart and avoid dealing with the situation at hand but it seemed to me that no matter how far I went and no matter how desolate the location, this was something that needed to be addressed.
What are the odds that on a spur of the moment trip to a location in the middle of nowhere that the only other people we would encounter had the same name, birthday and career of the person I was there to move on from and that they would obscurely and for no seeming reason write the name “Jack” on the side of their camel bladder and that my girlfriend was calling me Jack the entire day?
As the evening wound down and the fire went out we retreated to our cabin and they retreated to their tents. The next day we started a fire for coffee and watched as our chance encounter packed up their belongings to move on to another site. As they drove past and said goodbye I noticed on the back bumper of their vehicle a cardinal magnet. I burst into tears. I have a cardinal tattooed on my side. It was put there in memory of both my grandparents and very good friend who passed all in the same year only 5 days apart. They say a cardinal is a representation of a loved one who has passed on and it was my grandmother’s favorite bird.
I felt I had been sent to that exact location, to that exact cabin and to encounter those two gentleman to help me see that grieving the loss of my relationship was required. That I couldn’t just sweep things under the rug and that no matter how difficult it was or how much pain my heart was in I was being looked after.
Prior to that encounter I had completely lost faith. I won’t go into specifics about why and it doesn’t matter if it was a singular instance or a collection of things over the years in my life, but before that I no longer believed in a higher power.
After that weekend, I was without a doubt completely transformed. I now believe that there is so much at work beyond anything we can measure and the divine intervention at that time in my life saved me.