There are so many beautiful places in this country. I can’t help but think that I am in one of the greatest for this time of year. I’m a “Yankee” according to some who were born here in Florida, but after 30 years in this state I think I’ve earned the right to brag on it. I’ve spent the last two days working outside in perfect weather. Perfect. I’ve driven past the sparkling blue Gulf. I’ve sat out in the yard, visiting with neighbors and listening to the birds. I’ve been watching the buds on my orchids swell and open to the sun. And tonight I’m out in the back yard listening to the crickets while I watch the brush pile of downed limbs burn, glow and spark upward. I love living in Florida.
It’s the way I’ve always experienced it. When I start anticipating a possible move, I also start a new awareness and appreciation of my present home. It’s the season when one of our rare trees in the oneacrewoods, the kapok, blooms and drops literally thousands of blossoms on the ground. The flowers are the size of badminton “birdies” and have to be raked up or they become a wet, sticky mess that sticks to tires and shoes. What could seem like a never-ending chore, since they are falling even as I rake, is instead a marvel to me. Someday I will not have this gorgeous tree to tend, and that thought makes me sad. I think of all the energy and work that has gone into the production of these showy, red missiles and wonder what the abundance means. Was it our wet fall, or does the tree know that there are hard seasons ahead?
The truth is, I’ve loved everywhere God has allowed me to live, even the places I didn’t want to go to at first. There are reasons for being where we end up being, and we are there to look for those reasons. Looking with expectation, curiosity, and the desire to learn is the challenge. Tonight I’m really thankful for our time in Florida. I’m just sayin’, it’s a great place to be.
The Inner Life of Someone’s Mother – Tales from the Archives
We moved from the north woods of Wisconsin to Florida – a shock actually. The realtor put us in an apartment on the beach while we looked for a home. It was late fall, early winter. Instead of tramping across wind-swept snow drifts the children and I were tramping across wind-swept white sand. The visible similarity was striking even while the contrast was unmistakable. We went to the ocean nearly every day to wander, to marvel at our new surroundings and to look for shells.
Looking for shells on a beach full of shells is an art. I compare it to doing a jigsaw puzzle. You must school your eyes to detect a certain shape, a certain color amidst countless shapes and colors. I didn’t want lots of shells since there was no challenge to that (and soon no place to put them all). I wanted to find one special shell each trip, a scallop as near perfect as possible, with maybe a bit of color. At least one. And soon it was a ritual and a way of entering into our new life.
It is thirty years later. I still look for scallops.
For some reason, I have had presents on my mind lately. No, not because of the not so subtle Christmas marketing EVERYWHERE. It’s more because my parents’ birthdays are both this month, and I was making a gift or two to take to our family Thanksgiving next week. I love presents. It’s fun to make them, fun to give them, fun to get them. I can plan the first two, the making and giving, but it’s hard to plan getting a present unless you are great at buying yourself gifts. As I pretty much always do when thinking to myself, I ran that thought past God. ( He’s listening to my thoughts anyway so I might as well be conversant.) ” It would sure be nice to get a present God. I know there’s really nothing I need, but if there is something you wouldn’t mind giving me, I’d just like the excitement of getting a present. ”
For years now I have been taking guests and friends out on the water in kayaks that I borrow from a good friend. When I know someone wants to go I call my friend several days ahead to make sure he isn’t planning to use his kayaks, then I borrow the husband’s truck, drive 20 minutes and pick up the kayaks which are on a trailer. I have to have the right size hitch on the truck, which means I’ve lost and bought at least two of them. I have to hook up the lights on the trailer, which means I’ve lost, borrowed and bought at least two electrical adapters. I have to lock and unlock the trailer hitch, which means I’ve had to buy and replace a couple of padlocks. I’ve had to buy and borrow life vests for numerous people of varying sizes. All this to say that there is a lot of work involved in having fun on the water. But it is still just so interesting to float around on these beautiful rivers, surrounded by birds and tropical wonders that I’ve considered it well worth the trouble.
Last winter my cousin Mark, who loves to fish, decided we should look for used kayaks. If we each had one, he and a buddy could go fishing in them, and I could take friends out for a paddle too. They would get more use if we shared them. So we spent most of the season looking on craigslist and at sales but nothing was quite right. I continued borrowing from my friend.
Last week my cousin arrived for the winter and decided to go buy his fishing kayak. There was a sale at a sports store and he wanted to get it done. Back he came with a kayak in his Suburban. His wife’s remark was “You know this means that tomorrow you’re going to see a great deal on a used kayak…” I was there, I heard her say that. Unbelievably, fifteen minutes after I got home I got a text from another cousin in town, Kim, telling me that her neighbor was selling his two kayaks for less than half their value and they were in like new condition, with paddles, seats and life vests.
Something like that almost demands to be considered. I’ve been a little financially stressed lately, making sure all my medical bills get paid, lots of house repair expenditures, etc… Even though I’ve managed to meet these demands I still feel insecure enough that it’s hard for me to shell out money for fun when so much serious stuff has to be paid for. I mean, I get nervous eating out, much less buying a boat. I decided to ask the husband if he would be upset with me if this came to pass. Would he tell me the garage was too full already? Would he remind me that we’re trying to downsize, not accumulate more? In what direction might he freak out? What he said, “No, kayaks are always easy to sell again so if they’re a good deal, get them.” Ha ha.
I still thought they might be terrible kayaks, ones that wouldn’t be sturdy enough to hold Mark (who is a big man) or maybe they would smell like dead fish, or be some awful color. All of those possibilities could keep me from having to make the decision… But they were beautiful, hardly used, top quality, and the friendly man from England who was selling them clearly wasn’t out to get his money back. Oh my goodness, we bought them, picked them up an hour later and went immediately out to the river to test them out. They floated very nicely.
Instead of spending the day at home like I had planned, I got to do this.
It’s not that my prayers for blessings always get answered in the affirmative or immediately. But today I got a present and I really had no idea it was coming. I’m going to give God the credit. It’s the kind of thing he would have fun doing. I’m just sayin’…
I’ve been out in the oneacrewoods, which is what I call my yard because… well, you know why. It’s the time of year in Florida when outdoors is like a very, very big room with perfect air conditioning and perfect lighting and pretty much perfect everything else. On days like this I just want to live out there.
I was out weeding the strawberry beds before the husband left for work this morning. I got it all done. And in preparation for possible colder weather in December and January, I re-positioned my greenhouse supports to better fit my square foot garden boxes. I took down all the shade cloth since we now have the opposite problem of not enough sun. I raked, hoed, got dirt under my fingernails. I smelled the arugula and the citronella. I watched the squirrels (population explosion there). I tried to figure out where all the bees were coming from (still don’t know…) I counted how many different sounds I could hear – 10, counting the far away traffic. It was a sensual workout.
As lovely as it can be inside our houses, I think we were meant to be outside a good deal of the time. In practically every part of our world, life of some kind thrives outside where there’s sunlight and water and nutrients. Quite remarkable really, that everything we need is here. After a couple hours of fresh air and sunshine I feel like I’ve had an attitude adjustment as well – there’s something freeing about all that’s going on out there without my having to be in control of it, or even give it a thought. I’m just sayin’, I wish everyone could be here this morning (although it would possibly get a little crowded). I think I’ll quit writing and get out.