I was in Florida, one of my former homes, for the month of March. Like all of my homes, this is a place that partially defines me. Here’s how…
Near my alma mater, the University of South Florida, there is a county park called Flatwoods. It has a 7-mile, paved trail that loops through swampland. I am in love with Flatwoods. I have written poetry about this place, biked this path for years, breathing in the pines, honoring the old growth cypress, noting the palms and palmettos that make me know… I am in Florida.
While biking, I have seen armadillos, gopher tortoises, sand cranes, hawks, ospreys, black racer snakes, and cotton mouth snakes, just to make of few species. I have heard alligators croaking from the water in the center of the park. My nephew and niece have seen a bobcat cross the path, and I watched a friend jump over some baby wild boars (on roller blades) during one of the park’s full moon skates. Yes, this is Florida, and this is a part of who I am.
The sky defines this park as the sky defines me. It likes to be open and clear, bright blue in the day, and full of shine at night. As a writer who lives much of the time inside her brain, this sky gives me a break, lightens any heavy a feel. For the $2 entry fee, I experience a most effective therapy. I don’t analyze anything. I just breathe.
I travel through Flatwoods slowly, taking it in, and this pace is me. There is too much fast traffic in Florida, like everywhere, but in Flatwoods, I am out of the car (or bus or train or plane). It is only my legs, my muscles, my heart, my lungs, the shifting of gears, and two bicycle tires. I can measure this speed. I understand it. I don’t have to hike and hurt my hip. I can glide in Flatwoods.
On this latest visit, my nephew, one of the magic nature boys in my family, took me to my favorite park. Blake saw the red-tail hawk first and showed me where he was perched in a pine. We watched the beautiful raptor take off into the cypress with those big wings, and I exhaled.
He and I joked and told stories along the trail, and I knew he was family, because we were at home, in nature, just watching, talking light and laughing. Thank you, sweet nephew. You rule. Thank you Flatwoods for what you always give.