Apr. 4th, 2011

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We just got back from a few days at what we affectionately call "the country house" in Florida. Before you get too impressed with that, you should know that the country house is a double-wide on a few acres--but before you get too snarky about that, what does your Florida house look like? ;)

The house was my grandfather's home following my grandmother's death in 1985, when he left the farm of my childhood, until his death in 2004. He remarried in 1986, I think it was, and we still visited often, even though the magic was dimmed after the loss of my Grandma. I have a lot of happy memories from the double-wide, which sounds hilarious, but it's always been a happy spot there in the middle of nowhere. It's been right at seven years since Granddaddy died, and already the garden has pine trees sprouting as high as my head, through the abandoned tomato cages. We drove by where the farm used to be, and the swampy forest has completely reclaimed that land. The house burned down 25 years ago, after we were gone, and there's no sign that there was even a farm there anymore. I pointed out where it had been and said the fields were gone, and Pete asked if they were fallow. I pointed again into that dense woods and said, "No, they're gone," and they are, although I'm sure if you picked your way through there you'd find remnants of a chicken house or a tobacco barn among those trees. The dirt road used to be lined with small houses that the farm workers lived in, but now those trees come right to the edge of the road.

As sad as it is for me to know it's all just gone, it is comforting to know that Florida could take itself back, if it had the chance. The swamp could rise and creep and come right back up to the edges of the roads, over the roads, grow back on top of the roadside attractions and tourist traps and snowbird condos. Florida, you might not know, is alive, more than anywhere else, and it smells different there because you're breathing its exhalations.

In Florida, you can grow azaleas like this without even trying.
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And then you can just get in your Jeep and drive.
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We spent one day at Wakulla Springs and one at the Florida Caverns, and the rest of the time the kids drove every inch of the property, ran around shirtless and completely wild, and ate fried fish right out of the water. No wonder it's hard to get them to come home.

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