Florida (New Years 2014)
Coming to the end of this year has instead brought me to the beginning, where everything had to start over from nothing. Life is beautifully cyclical this way as I would learn a few short weeks ago parked at a stop light in a snow storm, when a strangers car would smash into mine. My front bumper was broken…dented really. I inherited my thick-head from my mother and both of my fathers and probably our black lab, Duke, who had also dented a front bumper with his head. If you should happen to have a long lost auntie somewhere in Florida who picks you up in a frail state and drives you to the nearest ocean with your broken heart on the front seat, consider yourself blessed. I had three suitcases to my name and a dying guinea pig who shared parsley with me. During the day I pretended to be a competent professional; the scarcity of my wardrobe reliant upon the fact that my clients also wore the same clothes every day. Mostly what set us apart was a veil of intention and this, along with my aunt, and then my mother and the others who would slowly follow, would breathe life back into what remained. It’s actually true that it only takes the faith or space of a mustard seed. Maybe I wasn’t quite so small as a mere seed, but I would estimate that was the size of the tiny light remaining. Not nearly as bright as my one lamp where I would stand and complete Sudoku puzzles printed off from the office computer before walking home each day. It was as close to meditating as I could get and each puzzle I solved would also prove to be another kind of help. Prayer was constant, though. Implanted a few paces from the lab was a man who would pray with me any time I needed it from 8 to noon. And at night I prayed in the closet because it was the tiniest room with a light, besides the bathroom…the closet at least had carpet and most of my twin air mattress fit in it. Enough to make me feel contained. By the way, in Florida your nightmares mostly take place at Disney. It’s hard to be afraid of a tribe of laughing men wearing Mickey gloves and over-sized button suspenders.
But anyway, I was scared and people came from no where, and from Georgia and from Logan airport, and from my past and from the next day and they filled me full of love. When my brother and his wife came and helped me find a car and a spotted dolphin and the only Indian restaurant on Manatee Ave. they filled me too. Driving in Florida is scarier than sleeping on a closet floor and scarier than walking into divorce court alone. Precious looking little old ladies flip you off, steal your parking space at the beach and throw pain pills at you while driving the wrong way down the road. Dead dogs rot in the boiling heat on 301 and half dead seagulls flap and cry out to you from orange cones across from the Save-U store. Save-U? Say you? Save the gull! If I had any kind of real courage I would’ve stopped my little car and gotten out and picked her up and brought her to the Mote Marine sanctuary where they could have gotten her flying again. Instead I just cried and drove past her. The people who came to pick me up were much braver which forced me to own my emptiness..nest…and not just the little ghost of the shell-person. I was making mistakes in front of people while they loved me. I did rescue a turtle on my way back from CVS before I had my car. She was gigantic and moving very slowly in the road near the apartment complex. I felt like her…all rock hardened exoskeleton crawling on her belly through a crossroad with not yet a direction. I didn’t know the nature rules of the Gulf Coast yet, like which plants and animals were safe to touch. I was ever on the watch for roaches and gators, the basics, but this football sized reptile? She could produce fangs and chomp off my finger or give me some weird flesh-eating disease. I figured all the vaccines I’d gotten for my hospital job had me covered and without any more thought I darted into the road and picked her up by her thick-chipped sides. She hissed in audible defiance while I attempted to rationalize with her, out loud, and find the best spot of unburnt grass to place her down. She did not shrink into her massive shell but instead flipped her webbed flanges and sputtered at the neck in jerky motions. In Florida, people wrestle with wild animals all the time so I decided this was part of my enculturation process. The wild animals would come in all shapes and sizes…vikings, thoughts, choices, fear, even a beast called anger. Just like the turtle, I kicked and hissed and stretched myself against help and sometimes was like a battering ram barging towards help. I learned to run in the unrelenting heat through the sand. I learned to stand in very bright sun without a mask. I learned to ask for help and say thank you. I learned that there are people you can trust and rely on who will love you when you’re a crying fountain of snotty, insecure, irrational mess. People were showing me the kind of love that I had read about at church and every day presented opportunities to give that love back..even in Florida, where selfishness and self-mindedness is a constant and palpable presence. The contrast of inner and outer environments never ceased in my awareness, proving that even in the ugliest of places or circumstances, love can prevail if you would just allow it.