People who do not live in Florida tell me that I live in paradise. And in some ways it is true. The sun shines almost all the time, tropical and sub-tropical flowers bloom almost all the time; bougainvillea, oleander, bird of paradise. The scent of orange blossoms and blooming magnolia trees is intoxicating. Sunrise and sunsets are heartbreakingly beautiful.
I am, however, averse to the wildlife here. There are bugs the size of my hands, there are alligators in almost all bodies of water, there are snakes. There are tiny lizards that rule the world. There are a ridiculous number of different types of frogs. At certain times of the year the chorus of their voices at night is intense.
But it is the flowers in New England where I rarely get to go in full summer that speak to me. In part their voice is the voice of memory. Tiger lilies, day lilies, hosta lillies, black eyed susans, daisies beautiful ferns, purple spikey alyssum, bleeding heart, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, cherries, the blooms of the apples to come.
I have become accustomed to sunshine and warmth. I have lived in the sun for many years, although not in the same place. I do not mind visiting the cold, walking in the snow with a frosty nose and cold feet. The weather cannot stop me from going where I want to go. Despite my willingness, I have no great desire to live in the cold and grey. I have so far found no incentive to permanently leave this almost paradise. There are others, to find or visit. We shall see.
The twisting narrow road is lined with sea worn stone walls overwhelmed with flowers. The road is so narrow it feels unsafe as we drive on what to me is the wrong side. The island is small but this trip takes us most of the way along its beautiful length lush with greenery and adorned with spectacular homes. As we navigate the ups and downs the bluest sea is mostly to the right of our small van transport.
There are flowers everywhere, some I could name, some I could not; oleander, bougainvillea, hibiscus, jacaranda, exora, plumbago. I could spend weeks here just looking at the landscape and of course, the sea.
We took some very hard curves, what felt like switchbacks, until I lost my sense of in what direction we were headed. And then, like magic, the sea appeared on my left in a suddenly opened view of that amazing clear blue water.
I looked out the window at the blue sky, a mirror of the sea – or the other way round – at puffy cumulus and moored sailboats with their white sails furled. And what I thought was “what a fine day.” And suddenly, I was simply overwhelmed with the wonder of my life. I was amazed that I was really in this beautiful place and I started to cry with a feeling of gratitude for this amazing life. It has been a long time in the making, but it is amazing. I have been to places and done things I never thought possible. I have given and received love from absolute strangers who are strangers no more. I have shared my joy and my pain with others who understand. I am writing. I am singing.
As I looked at the sea and sky and flowers all I felt in that moment was pure gratitude. I did not summon it, it just happened. How rare to have that pure and strong a feeling, and to know what it is.