When I got off the plane in Florida it was like walking outside after a matinee movie. Bright and startling, an altered universe from the cold and snow I left behind. One day I want to find what's left of the Florida wilderness, go to the Everglades, the Keys, some little islands that will show me what it was before it was paved over, something swampy and scary with wild orchids and alligators. Alligators are around--on golf courses for example, but I'd like to see one in its native habitat. I don't even know if those places still exist outside of books and movies.
You probably know by now how much I form my images of the world by reading. The last time I went to Florida, two years ago, I wrote a post about that, sort of. (here) In that post I also wrote about my brother in law's bit of Florida wilderness.
Since then, he's added goats and a donkey to his menagerie.
Anyway, this trip was about family. You know my father in law recently died, and we went to spend time with my mother in law. I grew up in a small, quiet family, and now I have almost no family, but the one I married into is big and noisy. And it turns out that big and noisy can be good for mourning. There was more laughter than tears mixed in with the memories, the presence of the absent.
I saw herons and lizards and lots of pink flowers
and ate some really good fried chicken,
outside, at a picnic table.
"It can look brand-new and man-made, but as soon as you see a place like the Everglades or the Big Cypress Swamp or the Loxahatchee you realize that Florida is also the last of the American frontier. The wild part of Florida is really wild, the tame part is really tame…fifty acres of Everglades dry up every day, new houses sprout on sand dunes, every year a welt of new highways rises. Nothing seems hard or permanent; everything is always changing or washing away. Transitions and mutation meld into each other, a fusion of wetness and dryness, unruliness and orderliness, nature and artifice."
--Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief