Some of us Floridian’s are born with an unsatisfied longing. Something is always just out of reach when we look at the horizon—something from deep within nags at us. Is it the shouts of our ancestors buried in our genes, or the whispers of past life memories?
I don’t know, but when I see a field, it calls to me. The stretch of land surrounded by trees begs for me to belong there. Or, sometimes it is just the way under-story trees nestle in with the upper-story, like child and parent, all tangled up with vines for clothes and resting on a moss carpet. These places call to the animal inside us, beckoning us home.
The longing can draw a person out onto the open road—the only way to get to those places that speak to you this day and age. So there we were, satisfying a bit of that instinctual human need, AKA wanderlust.
A long drive is often times a satisfying business for an adult; it clears the mind. But it is always less so for the children—the six-year-old boy and the three-year-old tot. We found ourselves making a pit stop at a playground somewhere in the middle of Georgia. It was a place for us native Floridians to stare in awe at what the rest of our continent sees as normal.
The Decidedly Not Floridian Color
It was about five-hundred degrees outside at three o’clock in the afternoon. Many children were running back and forth across the playground, each child different looking but all with one thing in common—red flushed cheeks. Brilliant blue was overhead, and young pine branches were swaying in it like some sort of garnish for the sky. The smell of pine, or something similar but foreign in this northern territory, was hanging prettily in the air. Below the air, at the ground where my feet rested, was something unfamiliar.
I sat on a wooden bench in the middle of an orange desert. Instead of that grayish grit that lines the woods in every Floridian forest, there was Scarlet O’Hara’s Tara. (In my opinion, Scarlet was a bit color blind when she called the earth red.) I rubbed the tip of my shoes along the surface to watch the lack of trail left behind. I turned my face to the sky and mumbled a silent prayer that went something like: “Thank god, as a gardener, that I don’t have to dig into this every time I plant something.”
Hills, Hills, and Hills
After a session of pink-cheeked playing and profuse sweating along the orange ground, the children discovered the next fabulous phenomenon of basically everywhere other than Florida: hills.
“Watch me!” The boy shouted as he started to run down the steep sidewalk like he was on roller-skates with no idea how to break. Whoosh the boy ran, the momentum seeming to glide him down the bottom where he skidded to a stop. “No, watch me,” the tot said in the same way that Floridian children show off their swimming skills or the best wave they caught with the boogie board.
They had discovered the magnificence of ground that isn’t flat. There was an aha moment written on their faces that needed words, and I’ve always got a few spare words lying around. The words they needed were something like this: What’d you know? There are places that give you free entertainment, just by being ground! With that said, they immediately realized the work ethic involved in living farther north, as we ascended back up the hill.
Rocks, Rocks, and Rocks
I think I can speak for all Floridian gardeners when I say that every time we go up north, we have an instant of irrationality wherein we wonder if it is possible to haul a (smallish) bolder home. Wouldn’t a boulder look lovely next to the patch of ruelia? And a small stone wall next to the canna lilies? Maybe a pile of rocks that a voracious passion vine might want to do a bit of crawling over?
While I was eyeballing a rock chunk the size of my dining room table, the boy was shuffling along on the dirt path littered with bits and pieces of rock. “Look what I found!” He said, holding up a piece of white rock glimmering with sparkles in the sunlight. It was the size of a quarter.
I let out a sigh, resigned to my fate of a rock-less garden. “You can take it home,” I said, watching the glimmers disappear from sight into the deep pocket of the boy’s plaid pants. At least one of us gets to.
The Cure for Wanderlust
Inevitably my ancestor’s genes, or the whispers of my past lives, settle down once more. I find myself back onto solid sandy Floridian ground. The grey sand is allowed to nuzzle softly between my toes. The flat terrain is taken in happily without running out of breath. I once again appreciate the garden and all its versatility with no immobile rocks that set my plans in stone.
That is, until next time…