Broken?

Several years ago, I was blogging weekly. A few years ago, I embarked on a daily Emily Dickinson poem project. Now, a pandemic-in-progress later, I can’t seem to get to the page. My progress on creative projects ebbs and flows, too, but somehow blogging seems harder, and I have been wondering lately if this space is serving me the way it needs to, and if perhaps it’s time to let go of the notion of myself as a writer who blogs. I don’t know yet. I’m a slow processer.

What I do know is that for many years, this was a space I sought out when I needed to discover how I feel, what I think. And I need that this morning.

It’s been just over a year since my family relocated to Southwest Florida from the foothills of the Alleghenies in Virginia. The first few months here were a fever dream of new smells, sights, birds, people. The transition from a rural life to a neighborhood. While Naples is far from a metropolis, it’s also a world away from the life I lived. The life I thought I’d always be living.

I’d hoped I’d be settled in here by now, but I’m not. I guess it takes longer than a single trip around the sun. But I still feel out of place. I still haven’t figured out how to live here, how to maintain a spiritual practice based on nature in a place segregated from the wild.

Naples is a retirement mecca. For many people, it’s a dream location. It’s subtropical, impeccably groomed, rife with restaurants and shopping. The beach is a short drive from wherever you are. I love the beach.

But I miss the wild. There are people everywhere. It’s hot. Pretty much constantly hot. I love rain but have discovered that rainy season here means many days I can’t get outside at all because of the near constant threat of lightning here in the lightning capital of the U.S.

I feel whiny and ungrateful. What is wrong with me? I’m living in the town with the highest per capita population of millionaires and retired CFOs. Clearly people want to be here.

And I don’t.

Blooming where I’m planted has always been a struggle for me. I wonder if I am a “grass is always greener” type of person. Ugh. Not who I want to be. Recently I read Braiding Sweetgrass for the first time. I loved it. And it was a gut punch. How do I become indigenous to a place that not only was stolen, but is also freaking hot and muggy and crowded and where I don’t have enough sunny yard space to grow a tomato plant or see the full moon at night?

Recently I learned that my family has some Nordic roots and I am just leaning on this to a ridiculous degree as an excuse for why I can’t stand this eternal summer. I’m actually a Viking. That’s got to be it.

I wonder if I am broken. I feel like I should love it here, but I don’t. I wonder how many of us are stuck in places that don’t feed our souls. I wonder if I am not trying hard enough to hear what this place is saying to my soul, but the asphalt and pesticide applications and luxury car dealerships are so thickly layered here that I don’t know if anyone can hear this land anymore. I am trying to love this place, but my heart and stomach feel hollow.

How long does it take to learn a place? Are there places we will never feel at home? If your worldview is based on nature and your tiny place in it, how do you thrive in a place where nature has been tamped down and walled out? I feed the birds and squirrels in our tiny strip of yard. I tried growing herbs, but the subtropical humidity claims them one by one, their struggling stems succumbing to a caul of fungus.

As autumn begins its shift at the north end of this state and beyond, homesickness is setting in. I miss the change of leaves, the cooler air, the need for a sweater. Time comes unhinged here where every day is like the one before and after. You can almost set a clock by the afternoon storms. And they almost always blow over in a few hours, leaving the sky the same sunwashed blue.

Have you ever struggled to love a place? to feel at home in it? What do you do? How do you settle in? Does the hollow feeling go away? If you’ve grappled with this, I would love to know. Also, advice please! How do you make a home in a place that doesn’t feel like home?

4 thoughts on “Broken?

  1. Oh! Naples sounds difficult. I visited my in laws several times in Bonita Springs, and boy that whole situtation is bizarre. I found some peace at Lover’s Key state park– lots of solitude there, though a drive for you for sure, and in the Farmer’s Market down in fort meyers. In Florida (that small section I have visited) it seemed so starkly clear how we have mismanaged (to say the very least!) the land that we stole. With all the gated communities and high rises on the beaches, clearly not the way things should or could be. Are you a Carl Hiassen fan? Definitely a writer with a strong sense of place and a fierce feeling of protection for Florida, the people’s florida. And the gardening zones are pretty different! I wish you the best luck. I haven’t moved in forever, and I know I would be homesick too, but visiting there I used to imagine how I would live down there? And I imagined that I would seek out the small farmers/fisherpeople/craftspeople/microbrewers/restaurant people (because those are my people) from the markets, I would brush up on my Spanish, spend time at the library (dark, air conditioned?) Sending some gentle cool rain to soothe you!

  2. Naples is a tough place for folks like us. Every time I visit my Sister there, I look for the secret door to our world. It’s there! Just keep looking. My college years in Tallahasse were my most adventurous and wild when it came to exploring nature. Also. Read some early Carl Hiassen. There’s one about the everglades! Good luck

  3. We meant to welcome you back in your previous post but, as usual, too many thoughts arose in response, were not written down, and then life reclaimed our attention.
    We wish that we had comfort and advice to offer but we can only urge you to let go of any guilt over not wanting to be there when so many others do. Needing to wear a gorgeous pair of shoes envied by all that do not fit your feet are valid grounds for complaint.

  4. Hey hang in there! You’ll be alright.
    Even I feel so out of place sometimes in my own home. I hang on to the little things I love until a day comes that I would feel I belong again. I guess life has its phases.

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