We are in sunny Florida. I know the first thing that comes to mind is Disney, and that’s honestly the last place on mine. My idea of an amusement ride is sitting on top of a safari truck in Africa on a pocked road after the rains mixed mud. When an elephant appears from behind a bush, now that’s a thrill! I figure they cost almost the same for what they charge for hotels in Orlando.
We are at my in-laws house on Anna Maria Island. I think it’s one of Florida’s best kept secrets. Everyone has heard of Longboat Key in the gulf near Tampa. Anna Maria is north of there and on this island the essence of a relaxed unpretentious beach day has been preserved. There are no high rises, no Gucci stores and no highways. The best way to travel is pedaling a three speed bicycle, or as I enjoyed yesterday, a walk. In my instance there was a sleeping baby on my back while I strapped my camera around my neck and enjoyed framing up some pretty landscapes.
Houston is sub-tropical so I know a few things about gardening with palms. After taking my walk, I wonder if we should forego trying to use anything tropical in our landscapes because now I see what they are really supposed to grow up and become. Ours do not have the conditions to make them thrive and age. Here, they are obviously happier by the way they tower, plume and produce fruit. I didn’t know happy queen palms produce orange berries, and I have had queens in my yards for six years. It’s like the difference between a sullen toddler with no toys and a happy child exploring the wonder of a play room. It seems cruel to ask my tropicals to be happy in our Houston conditions.
As I walked I couldn’t help go back to my old favorite fantasy that life will be calm and easy and I’ll kick off my flipflops and watch the ocean billow in from my deck, listen to the palm fronds dance in the wind and have a conversation with a blue heron called Henry. That’s basically the life my in-laws lead during the winters. It’s not just the sights and sounds, but the absence of so much work and responsibility that is appealing here. Even if I have the work to do, there’s something about doing it here that makes it feel fancy free.
I looked at home fronts of these small houses and picked and chose what would suit me. I adore a yellow house with white trim under the umbrella of a variety of palms with red flowers in front and the ocean in back. Who wouldn’t? I’m sure Craig is covering his face right now and shaking his head. This is not a request, dear, this is called: dreaming, and it makes me relax. I am relaxed here. I smile when I see lavender houses next door to peach colored bungalows. I even laugh out loud to see the police station a shade of mint ice cream. I’m enamored to see the retired folks pedaling along, or pruning their geraniums. I hope when my hair flows white I can still bend over my flowers. I imagine morning walks along the beach with my coffee as the light eeks over the horizon and the sandcrabs scuttle away from me. There’s a dog with me always, a story forming in my head, and my camera around my neck. I think I’ll be buried with a camera in one hand and a pen in the other. I know you can’t take anything to heaven, but just in case a dog digs me up they’ll know it was me.
The smell of salt air has to have medicinal effects, if not on the body it has to be good for the mind and soul. When it lifts my hair I tip my face up and receive a moment of refreshment as if hair could absorb its magic and send it to the rest of me.
When I wake up from all these fantasies and consider with a sober mind what my dream home really looks like I have to confess it is a small hut in an African village where the orphans live in the type of amusement park God gave with a special creative flair. I’ll have the most exotic second home of anyone you know: Mama Tonya’s hut where I go to make sure the kids are brushing their teeth and helping with the chores. One can never have enough children around. And I’ll make sure there is a visitors hut for you too.