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?