© 2013 (670 words)
It’s three years this month (March) since my partner Raymond and I moved to Florida from our former home in the San Francisco Bay Area. It wasn’t a move either of us sought, but, rather, one that was imposed on us by (mostly economic) necessity. Nevertheless, we resolved to give my birth state our best shot, and by-and-large, we have.
We settled first in my Central Florida hometown, Apopka—a word that comes from the Timucuan Native American language, and that, roughly translated, means “big potato” or “potato eating place.” Several months later, we made the move to Mount Dora, a lovely mostly unspoiled town 12 miles north in Lake County. Since then, there have been lots of good times, as well as some bumpy stretches—some of them pretty scary; but here we are—(still) mostly happy, mostly healthy, and certainly better off than a great deal of the rest of the world.
That said, not a day goes by that Ray and I don’t miss the U.S. West Coast.
So I thought it would be a useful exercise in perspective to document on this blog something of the pros and cons of life here in Florida as I see it—and to accompany those observations with some of the photographs that Ray and I have taken these last three years. My hope is that this project will help me to achieve a more balanced take on what’s good and beautiful and right under my nose, instead of being forever focused on the things I dislike or wish I could change—instead of habitually yearning for some place else, which, it seems to me, is a great waste of time.
So here goes—my feeble photographic attempt at coming to terms with Florida.
Orange blossoms seem an appropriate place to begin—as their scent frequently wafts into our front yard at this time of year (from a grove a quarter mile away!). If there’s a heaven, could it possibly harbor a fragrance more divine?
Then there’s the happy, vibrant surprise of springs that sometimes arrive as early as February,
And stretch right through March,
Of course, not to be ignored are the horrible snakes (sorry, herpetologists), in my garden…
And we mustn’t forget Florida’s weather, which can be like floating in paradise…
rather like living in a steam bath.
But we also have Towers that sing,
Then again, it’s difficult to ignore the nasty political billboards (that sometimes stick around post-election).
And Florida’s increasing ‘renown’ as the “Gunshine State”.
Yet now and then there’s the magic of waking to the Wonderful Wizard of OZ soaring above our front yard;
or to one of Ray’s roses on the dining room table,
or to the dazzling surprise of a mystery flower blooming amidst the weeds.
There is the gift of a neighbor’s beautiful front yard (flowering in what is for most of the country ‘the dead of winter’),
and the wonder of a mossy green giant that has weathered it all for a century or more.
There is the thrill of visiting the place where a favorite book (The Yearling) was written.
And discovering a derelict mansion in the middle of nowhere (Miss Havisham, are you in there?).
There’s bicycling on a Gulf of Mexico beach (where the sea is almost as warm as bathwater),
and over-the-top small-town Christmases,
and ubiquitous religious proselytizing,
tempered by Spanish architecture
and the delight of discovering a Chapel in a grove of old oaks.
There’s the thrill of introducing our gorgeous grandson to a favorite childhood swimming hole,
and (lucky me), any one of a million things that include this wonderful sleepy-headed guy…
like a good cup of coffee at home (on any blinking day of the year)…
wherever the two of us happen to be.
Even if that’s Florida.
Which isn’t a half-bad home (not that I want to live here forever).
This is so much more than a feeble attempt, dear Andy. These photos are full of life and love and beauty in the everyday. Loved the tour!
Most enjoyable post, Jack! You and Ray take great pictures, and there is no doubt Florida is beautiful! Btw, I have it right here on my list: Write to Jack! Just thought I’d let you know!
I needed to read this. This weekend, I pulled out the camera to snap a few pictures to remind me of the natural beauty that surrounds me. What looks like paradise doesn’t always play out as such when you live there. Still, it is restorative to find some Zen moments, tuning out all that annoys or saddens, smelling that orange blossom, marvelling at the sandy shores along the Gulf and even greeting that slithery backyard visitor.
For reasons unknown, I’ve had several dreams and “flash” moments in recent months, telling me Florida is where I need to be. The gun culture is enough to keep me away, but your pictures do show off so much of what the Sunshine State has to offer.
You are so right, James — paradise doesn’t always satisfy; perhaps because there’s no such thing? Best to spend more time appreciating what is satisfying and beautiful and right now wherever we happen to be, right? (Surely there must be a Zen Buddhist koan out there somewhere that would help a person achieve even that much enlightenment, you think?)
Here’s wishing us both good luck in appreciating the present tense.
Thanks for stopping by, James.