a thousand miles later

sunset in southwest Florida

In late July, my family left the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia for the Gulf Coast of Florida. We are closer now to Cuba than to the home we left behind.

For years, my dad and I have half-jokingly shared this mantra: We are not lucky people. Our lives are good, and we are privileged in many ways, but when it comes to sheer luck, it’s almost never on our side. If there is an uncomfortable/ unpleasant/annoying/pricey misadventure to be had, we generally will have it. So I was pleasantly surprised and bemused that the move went about as smoothly as it could go. We used a moving pod, which meant that we got to pack all our worldy goods and someone else got to drive them. Nothing was destroyed in the process. We didn’t get lost. The new house was overall in very good shape. It was a little eerie, to be frank. I expected at least a modicum of disaster.

We have landed in a soft place. The neighborhood is beautiful, the neighbors welcoming. Moving from the country to a town home with an HOA caused me no small amount of anxiety–why do I have to keep my garage door closed? What if I forget and leave it open?? WILL THE HOA POLICE COME FOR ME??? I still know next to nothing about HOAs in general, but I knew I’d be okay here when I noticed that our next door neighbor routinely leaves his garage door open for hours at a time and has not once been spirited away in the night.

Still, there is a lot of transitioning to do. Like chicks venturing from the nest, we are unfurling newly-feathered wings and learning by trying. So much is different here. Some of it is better–like anoles. I will take adorable tiny lizards over kitchen mice any day. Going out on the lanai is like being a giant venturing into Jurassic Park.

Some things I am ambivalent about–like palm trees. They’re aesthetic, but are they trees? Maybe not? A quick Google search and a look at my new book on palms are inconclusive but suggest that palms are not trees. Anyone with superior botanical knowledge on this matter, please advise. What I did learn from the book is that there is something called a Zombi palm. Palms, Zombi or otherwise, do not feel tree-like to me. Palms are to trees as Muppets are to humans. They’re Seuss trees. Oaks and walnuts and sycamores I understand. Palm trees can randomly drop giant fronds that look paper-light but will dent the hood of your car. Some of them look like they might drop a Lorax. When I lay my palm against the rough trunk of a deciduous tree, I can feel the roots branching out below into the soil, the sap traveling, the wind in the leaves overhead. When I put my hand on the trunk of a royal palm, I’m not sure whether nobody is there, or I just don’t yet speak the language.

I feel weirdly lucky that I haven’t yet discovered anything I really dislike about this place–other than the fact that it’s far away from all but three of the people I love. And I don’t yet know where or how I fit here. My husband is teaching, and Things 1 and 2 are busy learning and making friends at their new school. Here on the cusp of seasons, I find myself in a liminal zone. Just as I don’t know what to expect from a southwestern Florida autumn, I don’t know what I am supposed to do here, beyond my current role as support person for three guys and a dog who’ve just made a huge life change.

I’ve been applying for jobs, alternately getting excited about new possibilities and scheming how I can avoid working for The Man from now until forever. I feel unmoored. For several months before the move, I relished the excitement of not knowing what was next, but I’m beginning to tire of uncertainty. I have always been impatient. When I step back and get a little distance from the swirl of my thoughts, it occurs to me that this is one more of those lessons in patience the universe always seems to be offering me.

So I am trying to learn, trying to exist as fully as a dreamer can in this moment in which I find myself. I like to think that my superpower is finding connections. The medieval notions of correspondences and humors have long appealed to me because they are all about connecting the seemingly disparate into something understandable. Making order out of chaos. Finding patterns in the vast emptinesses between the stars. And so, wannabe ornithomancer that I am, I search the skies for omens. I track the flight of an ibis across the quarter moon and think of dark wings soaring high above the buried roots of the Appalachians.

twilight, Gulf of Mexico, and the top of Thing 2’s head

My sister asked recently what word comes to mind now when I think of the home I left. I’m still pondering that question. My brother asked if I found it easier to write about Appalachia from a new place. I think that will be the subject of my next blog post.

In the meantime, I’d love to know:

  • if a palm is a tree
  • what is flying across your moon

Warm (humid, muggy) wishes,


4 thoughts on “a thousand miles later

  1. Dearest Brenna,

    Thank you for sharing your most excellent post! It never ceases to amaze me what an amazing writer you are Brenna!!!! Your Ibis poem is extremely “””Impresssssive””” as Darth would say!

    May the Force and good fortune be with you!

    Love and big Fawlaychum hugs to you, Tim, Finn and Tai😄❤️🌈



  2. Big changes, Brenna! Please email your snail mail address to me so letters can traverse the distance!

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