Little house in the big swamp

Florida is weird.

(Bear and I, at this little fast food waffle place, where a lot of stuff on the menu cost a dollar. Imagine that!)

Who looked at the endless stretches of flat swamp and thought to build houses? There’s a highway that everyone calls Alligator Alley. There are signs along paths that say “look out for snakes” and Bear’s uncle reports, in a satisfied tone, as though proud of the Everglades, that there have been python sightings in the neighborhood.

But I don’t see any of these threatening, alien animals. Everything looks clean and recent– as though all of these houses and shopping centers were built two years ago. Just enough time for the huge, strange, tropical plants to grow in around them.

There is a mango tree AND a banana tree in the yard of the home where Bear’s grandmother lives with her daughter and her daughter’s husband. Right now his grandmother is there, and so is a different son, who is also always visiting. The family is hard to keep track of. They’re back and forth, it seems, between Ohio and here. The other two who usually live in the house are in Ohio now. We will be in Ohio ourselves in two days. I’ve never been there, even though my brother Jake goes to conservatory in Cleveland (where he has been robbed twice; once at knifepoint).

I have been to Florida, but when I was much, much younger, and one of my main memories is of running back to the hotel to get a towel and then returning to find an alligator blocking the path to the pool, where my family was. Because I couldn’t be separately from my family, I was willing to risk death. I ran around its tail, as fast as I could. It didn’t move. I was a hero. My parents didn’t think I was a hero. They thought it had been a bad idea.

In Florida, it’s confusing how people and nature interact. The burrowing owls sit on an empty lot in the development that they have claimed as their own. There is a little fence around them, and a sign that explains what they are, with a picture of an owl that looks just like them on it. They look a little perplexed, perching there, in the middle of this stucco, pastel neighborhood. The houses look a little confused as well. As though we’re all still learning how to interact with one another.

I got a funny feeling as we drove to Marco Island from the airport. I had this very unoriginal thought: everywhere you go, there are people, living out whole lives there. I suddenly wanted to know all of their stories. Have they always lived here? Did they just move here? Why? Do they like it? And how would everything be different for them if they lived in Manhattan, like me?

(I tried to get the classic shot. The sun obliged me)

*  *  *

Un-roast: Today I love the way I look when it’s humid. My skin feels like it looks like it’s glowing. That may in fact not be true.

P.S. Of course, the touchpad has stopped working on my laptop again. It happened just as I was packing it to leave yesterday, so I brought a big, clunky mouse along. This computer is still new, and so far, the touchpad has quit on me five or six times. It also shuts down randomly and for a few weeks, the brightness setting for the screen was stuck on low, until I realized something was terribly wrong. That is not a metaphor for my mind. Anyway, the point is, things are constantly going wrong. And I’m writing all of this in the hopes that Dell is reading it. Dell– This blog has many thousands of readers (that’s for real! How awesome is that?)! I’m a very powerful person (that’s considerably less for real). I might be a very powerful person one day. You should send me a new computer, because this one is terrible and shameful and you should be really embarrassed.



Kate on May 12th 2011 in life

17 Responses to “Little house in the big swamp”

  1. Emily responded on 12 May 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Those last two pictures are incredible!

  2. Andee responded on 12 May 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Ahhh, I love your pictures! You and Bear looks so happy and relaxed…Awesome. Also I love the short hair!! You look great!

  3. JJGal responded on 12 May 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Did you check the laptop for crumbs? ;^)

    I often ask a lot of the same questions when I travel (I say that like I travel often, and to grand, exotic places – I don’t). I have lived in the same area my whole life and I always wonder what life would be like if I moved somewhere far away. And then I get the feeling like someone cut of my air supply and wonder how people can just pick up and move somewhere far.

  4. Kelli responded on 12 May 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    I’m emailing a friend who works at Dell for advice right now!!! LOL.

  5. Jessica responded on 12 May 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    Yeah. South Georgia’s not so different than Florida.

    And the humidity definitely does not make me glow. Shine, maybe. But not glow.

  6. San D responded on 12 May 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    Waffle House, gotta love it! When we travelled to Florida last month, we stopped there once too. Florida is an amalgamation of architectural successes and disasters, and a wonderland of nature all rolled into one. Lots of stuff to take pictures of to be sure. Love the shots of you, and Bear.

  7. Jess responded on 12 May 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    The Waffle House is, in fact, pure love. They’re all over the south, apparently.

    And all Dell computers are shameful. Mine completely died 3 times in the 4 years I had it, needing complete memory wipes and, in one case, a new hard drive. Dell is evil.

  8. Kate responded on 12 May 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    I checked for crumbs SO many times that I probably started looking slightly insane.

  9. Tina responded on 12 May 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    Waffle House…yes, we have them here in Kentucky too. Except we call it the “Awful Waffle” cause it’s the only place open at 2 am and you see all sorts of people at that time as well. :) Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to the comedian Jim Gaffigan desribe Waffle House. Hilarious. Love this post. I agree, Florida is weird, but I still love it.

  10. Avery responded on 12 May 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    You are a hero, oh pixie haired blogger woman! Thank you for the post… A small vacation before finals and pilates. Enjoy Florida.

  11. Deanna responded on 12 May 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    I just spent a week in Florida. I had a great time. The humidity is tough to take but there is something very ‘rich’ about Florida. I can’t put my finger on it, but I always feel different when I am there.

  12. Laurel responded on 12 May 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    I love all the pictures, especially the owl one! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Laura responded on 12 May 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    Kate, you look beautiful- those pictures are spectacular!! Hope you and S are having a fantastic vacation :)

    Also…come to the Mac side. It’s calling you.

  14. Jen responded on 12 May 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    I, too, am loving that short hair (esp. since you have an “ethnic nose,” as do I). It shows your moxie to cut it all off. I did that, once, right after college, and my husband said as little as possible about it for several weeks. I found out later, after it began to grow into another style, that he wasn’t fond of it. Maybe it’s my nose, or my height (nearly 5 11″), but he said it just didn’t fit me. That stung.

    What does Bear say about your pixie?

  15. Ivy responded on 12 May 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    Oh, the Awful Waffle! (Aka, southern slang for Waffle House.) Man, I miss those since I moved away from the south. California has nothing that compares.

  16. alex responded on 13 May 2011 at 7:43 am #

    I live in Miami and I totally agree with you about the humid thing. I love the heat!! I could not imagine living in new York which i hear is still cold according to my family up north. enjoy you vacation. Florida is awesome :)

    p.s- I laughed at the alligator thing. there is an alligator living in my lake.

  17. kate responded on 15 May 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    Bear is one of those guys who doesn’t really seem to have opinions about things like hair at all. When I showed up at his office missing most of it, he was surprised, and didn’t immediately show enormous apppreciation :) but he also tells me constantly that I’m gorgeous, so I think he likes the hair.

    And I love being super ethnic looking and having short hair. It makes me feel more comfortable, having my differences be completely obvious. I don’t want to hide behind hair. Which is what I sometimes felt I was doing.