Weird Florida, wild Florida
Carl Hiaasen has said he doesn’t have to make anything up. Having moved to Florida more than a decade ago, I can see why. My first impressions upon descending from Idaho’s high desert where I lived for a year and gave birth to my only child, and learning to live as a flatlander again included: OK, boob jobs are a common door prize at local night clubs. I didn’t enter the drawings. I prefer not having to negotiate a different center of gravity, among other things.
I had been to Florida a number of times before, including a camping trip in the panhandle at a place popular with divers, being situated at a freshwater spring. The water was cold, and so was the beer. The campground had the advantage of a loophole wherein it could sell alcohol whereas the surrounding businesses in the otherwise dry county could not. Prior to making our destination, storms near Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp caused extensive runoff, rendering any diving aspirations moot. But there was beer. I remember that. And poison ivy. Also, a pristine natural beauty. Scary Bible thumper radio. Snake handlers and their respective tongues. The man at the convenience store who put his eyes back in his head – which was comical in his mind, I’m sure – and explained to my girlfriend and me he had been hit by lightning. Twice.
Florida has its characters. Often they’re charming fishing people and agriculturists descended from the first settlers who navigated a living parallel to the native people (or, as also happened, violently transected their living). Transients, bums, and scammers are also in no short supply. They help the state own a Fark tag, a distinction no other state can claim. Not to mention the politicians. And I’d really rather not mention them. Then, of course, there’s that mouse. Bath salts, anyone?
But Florida itself is a character. Its weather, creatures and plant life often become a character in my writing. And while many bemoan upon transplanting here, “I miss the seasons,” there is a rhythm that has its own intelligence, and residents would do well to take notice of it. People have conquered the natural resources here. They decided to bring in invasive trees to suck up the water from the wetlands, which subsequently ran amok, to the detriment of the natural environment and the economy. But there are certain aspects of Florida we just can’t bend to our whim.
In honor of its singular, invincible rhythm of life and its inscrutable play actors, I wrote this poem. It was originally featured in the wonderful Wilderness House Literary Review,. And it’s based on an actual argument between my beloved husband and me. This place, it’s got an agenda of its own, and it has nothing to do with you or me.
Months by the insects
we must have something sweet and rotting in a corner somewhere
remember, every year in February we have the sweet ants looking for water
March is fruit flies
What is April?
I don’t want to talk
but we’ve gotten away with storing the grains for too long –
summer belongs to weevils
And what about the roaches?
They don’t have a season.
In Florida, anyway, they have a different name.
Dust around the traps. Mites dance
in a slant of pollen.