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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Disorientation Days

After our last night on the road in Monticello, Florida, just over the state line, we set out south again on Friday, stopping briefly for a visit with friends in Suwannee. It was a sunny day. Later, as we approached Weeki Wachee, a large fire was burning at the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Refuge. Intentionally set? Accidental? Other? I haven’t been able to find out yet. There was daylight left when we arrived in Aripeka. [Note added after the fact: the fire was intentional and controlled.]

More confusing sometimes than travel is having arrived, with the intention of staying for a long time. Being on the road has its own rhythm and is its own reason; settling into a place requires new rhythms and routines, as well as adjusting to staying still again after being on the move. Neither home nor traveling, one must make a temporary home, and so we spent the first evening unpacking the car, cleaning and organizing our things, and moving furniture to accommodate the way we will live here. The next day involved, of necessity, serious grocery shopping.

After all this we rewarded ourselves with coffee and treats at Paesano’s “to celebrate our arrival,” as David said, each of us reminding the other that such luxuries will not be a daily feature of the winter. Last year’s Florida winter frugality must be honed this year to a fine edge: such are the conditions of our getaway. A visit to Paesano’s for coffee alone is a treat, however: as I did on my first visit to Paris, here in Spring Hill too I can always take in the fare with eyes and nose and be well rewarded.

And yet the “Where am I?” sensation persists. Away from home, I buy more newspapers and feel more connected to the world beyond my skin and my door. Our frugal life is unthinkable luxury compared to life in Haiti, even before the recent tragedy! One of my 2010 financial goals is a secure enough income to let me subscribe again on a regular basis to Save the Children. Donating only at the end of the year does not feel like enough of a commitment, not integral enough to my life. Frugality will help. So will an increase of bookstore business, and I have plans for that, too.

By coincidence (I'm still thinking about Haiti), one of the books we’re reading takes place in the Caribbean. Writing 80 years ago, the young author’s language is unconsciously racist (so unconscious he would surely have denied it if charged) and the book difficult to stay with on that account, but the cover tells us he stays several years on the small island, and I am hoping his perspective will shift along the way.

The national holiday in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., causes me to think back to last year, so close to the inauguration of President Obama, and all the celebratory and heart-lifting television programs we watched in motel rooms and at our friend’s house in Suwannee. World events in the memory of any individual are inevitably tied to personal life. Where were you, who were your companions of the moment, when you heard news of this or that unforgettable event? Whatever your answer, I’m sure the personal details are unforgettable, as well, linked forever in your memory to the event. I don’t know if this effect is stronger when one is away from home, but being away seems to add another dimension.

Earlier on Saturday morning as I drifted from sleep to wakefulness, the beginning of a short story was taking shape in my mind, so I got up right away to start the coffee and get the words down. “Mallory’s People” isn’t the kind of thing I usually write, and I may decide it isn’t even worth keeping, but it helped me ease into my Aripeka winter. Sunday morning began the same way, and by Monday morning I had 2300 words and called it done. It felt good to work, to fall into a productive morning routine.

David has arranged his studio space and cut panels on which to paint. We are getting into the rhythm. Sunday evening was our first walk to the bridge for sunset. I’ll close this post with a few separate moments of the view from South Fork of Hammock Creek at day’s end (Sunday).


torchlakeviews said...

What a lovely travelogue - I do enjoy my virtual visits to Florida. The most striking image, though, is the one of the fire. Whoa! I think of Florida as full of marshes and waterways of every sort, the kind of place that floods, not burns. Even virtual travel, it turns out, is broadening.

Karen said...

Would love to read your story someday--or any other one of yours! BTW Utne Reader had an article about how big chain stores are appropriating the concept of "local" in their marketing. A consultant is quoted,"It's a different way of thinking about local that is not quite as literal." As in, it's a LIE?

P. J. Grath said...

Latest big news from Chassahowitzka Wildlife Refuge was yesterday's arrival of the whooping cranes from Wisconsin. Ultralight airplanes guide them south on their first migration. This year they were 88 days in transit.

Recent heavy rains have probably lowered the danger of fire, but last year the drought was severe, everything crackling dry and ready to ignite with a look. Scary!

Karen, I started a second story this morning and am now conceiving of a "cycle" of loosely interrelated pieces. Time will tell how it all comes together, if it does.

Well, chain stores do employ local people and win local clientele. In other ways, I agree that "local" is a misleading term to use. More on this in a later post, though. Today I'm only visiting and commenting briefly from the library.

upwoods said...

I, too, am so enjoying this virtual trip to Florida. (Got one of my own planned down to Fort Myers Beach to visit my parents in March.) By the way "Where am I?" sounds like a spiritual koan. :)

黃色 said...
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P. J. Grath said...

Kathy, my koan on more spiritual days is "We're here now." Wherever "here" is, you see. David used to say as we drove through some beautiful place, "In ten years this will all be condos." That's when I started saying, "We're here now."