For six years I have learned to live where I am and where I want to be. Where I am is where I am. Oklahoma, Ohio, and wherever the next place is that isn’t where I want to be. Where I want to be is North Florida.
I say I would like to live in coastal Maine. I say I would like to live on a marsh in Delaware, maybe Eastern Maryland, near the islands where wild horses run. I say I would like to live in the Carolina lowcountry or, even, as a compromise with my husband, near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Charlottesville. Maybe Asheville. So many places I could choose. No longer will I go to a new place with expectations. No longer will I fight the possibility of going to a new place. No longer do I fight the reality of being in a new place. Now I know that home is south and I just happen to live up north.
We have already discussed it, my family and I, that here is not permanent. Cleveland is not permanent. Ohio is not permanent. At least, it is not a permanent stake in our plans. We are not building our future for here, only from here. But our daughter is at the age when she must start looking into colleges and deciding where she wants to be after she is no longer here with us. Even she wants to go home, to Florida. Although she sometimes talks of going home, to Oklahoma. Of course, she is welcome to stay with us, to stay near us, wherever we are. I would prefer that. And maybe we’ll end up selling this house, planting some shallow taproots elsewhere in Northeastern Ohio, buying acres and acres of land so I can plant fields of lavender and he can have space and she can learn to love the Great Lakes as much as I do. Those lakes welcomed me home nearly two years ago, just as the St. Johns River and Nassau Sound welcome me home again each time I return to North Florida.
In a few weeks, I am heading home. And after a week, I will be returning home. From here to there. From there to here. Living in two places at once. It’s easier to do that from here, in Ohio, as opposed to in Oklahoma. Maybe because I don’t have to cross time zones. I don’t have to cross a river that operates as a boundary between east and west, a swirling seaway that simply served as a reminder that, for four years, I lived that much farther from the sea than I ever would have wanted.
Now I can live in two places at once. I’m allowed to do that. I have given myself permission to call North Florida home, even if I never live there again. Home is also wherever I live at the moment. It is a house on a plot of land. And from that house on that plot of land I pack my bags once a year, maybe twice a year, and go home. To my other home. The home where I might find coral snakes on my porch, fist-sized spiders in my hair, blue lizards in my shower that measure up to foot long. The home where swamp moccasins rain down from the oak trees, or leap into the air. Where alligators sun themselves on the riverbanks and lemon sharks navigate the knee-deep waters of the ocean, both waiting to rip me to shreds. Where right whales breach clear out of the river’s smooth surface. Where manatees lumber in the crystal clear springs, unaware of how dangerous humans really are. There, back home, are flying cockroaches and toxic eastern lubber grasshoppers. But we live in harmony. We coexist. They belong there.
So do I. I know this because I feel it.