The Real Florida

As I’ve already mentioned many times in this blog, I am just head over heels in love with this state. The more I learn about it, both within my studies and my own personal experiences, the more I become attached. I know I want to live elsewhere someday, somewhere out West in the mountains. When that day comes, I know I will be devastated to leave behind my beloved state.

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A sign along a trail in Payne’s Prairie, just outside of Gainesville. I chose a beautiful way to welcome the Fall season.

Florida is a very sensual place–its harshness cannot escape you, and neither can its beauty. You can breathe it, feel it, taste it: in the beads of sweat on your upper lip, in the humidity that suffocates you during those dog days of summer, in the blinding sun in your eyes. Even in the sweet calmness of a change in weather, whether it is that eery silence before a hurricane, or in my experiences earlier this week, in the change of season.

I am fully aware that many people believe Fall in Florida is a total joke. To Northerners, it is a pitiful attempt at transitioning to winter. To the real Southerners, such as residents of Islamorada in the Keys, it is arguably nonexistent.

This week, however, it is here. It is still hot as usual in the middle of the afternoon, but in the mornings, when the sky is still a dim grey-blue, you can tell a change of season is in store. I decided to enjoy it on a lovely bike ride through Payne’s Prairie: a state preserve comprised of savanna land upon which wild horses, bison, and alligators roam.

I came across this sign while stopping off a scenic overlook along the trail. The reason I enjoy hideaways such as the Prairie are because I feel in touch with my Floridian roots, my pioneer roots. Perhaps that is another reason I am pursuing this thesis specifically. In fact, if it was’t on rural, pioneer, literary, impassioned Florida history, I’m not sure it would be as meaningful or even worthwhile for me.

Becoming in touch with the heart of Florida was essential to Marjorie’s successes as a writer and to her sensitivities as a neighbor, environmentalist, friend. Here is an excerpt from a letter written to Max Perkins in 1931:

I managed to get lost in the scrub the first day of the hunting season–and encountered, for the first time, the palpability of silence. So isolated a section gives a value to the scattered inhabitants.

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