I realized something just now. Call me dense for not realizing it before, but I know now why Disney was so crowded. Our entire state went to Florida after Christmas.
Obviously there’s something about this state that draws people. As a child, my grandparents took me on long, wandering vacations all over the West, and once to the northeast—but southeast, Old Dixie, is a place I’d never been until we started traveling down there with his family, who adore the place. But Christian detests Florida. Always has.
Well, anyway, we spent a week in Sarasota and its outlying islands. And in some ways, I couldn’t help being bewitched by the place. It’s not the gorgeous houses (squashed together into ungainly crowding). It’s not the soaring bridges, wall to wall with cars, or the glassy canals in place of back yards, or swimming pools (that are too expensive to heat) or sailboats (or yachts).
No, for me, it’s the palm trees and bromeliads, mild, cool temperatures and lush foliage in December, the sunsets and the subsonic pounding of the surf. Especially the surf, with its wild, mesmerizing beauty.
And yet, I can’t help feeling that the presence of scores of people—and everything they demand of luxury—ruins the very thing that drew them there in the first place. For instance: one cool morning, I’m standing on white sand beside the vast untamed Gulf of Mexico, watching the birds skim the water gleaming in the light of dawn…
…when a hiss becomes a growl, then a roar, and with an earsplitting wail, a jetliner rips the sky open directly overhead.
Florida: multi-million dollar homes that are only lived in for four to five months a year.—and which are deliberately and spectacularly built directly in the path of hurricanes. Florida: a country club membership costs as much as a starter home, and that only buys you the privilege of paying $100+ per round of golf. Florida: high-rise condos crammed together, while a few scattered people cling stubbornly to their ordinary, average, 1970s-era ranch homes on a strip of sand worth a million dollars, and everyone around them gnashes their teeth at the “eyesore.” And the traffic…well, the traffic’s bad.
None of which denies the beauty of the place. But for me, Florida will never be high on my priority list to visit (except for Kennedy Space Center. That one I want to see.). I long to find a deserted key with a little log cabin on it—I’d even pitch a tent for the privilege of retreating from all the chaos of everyday life—of communing with the sheer power and might of Creation for a day or two. For the chance to take a breather from bustle, and street lights, and cars, and TVs and radios, and noise, and to breathe in the silent roar of the surf until my soul, fine-tuned by the touch of the Spirit, answers back: There you are, God. At last, I’ve found you! And then, and only then, to return to the world, to return to my life, and be Mom and Wife and Advocate and Teacher and Author and Political Activist. To return whole.
I think that longing is what draws people here. But I wonder how many find what they’re longing for.