My wife and I are often at odds when it comes to household chores. Right now, our schedules are quite opposite and often I am home when she’s not, and she is home when I’m not. On a good day, whoever is home does some form of household maintenance like laundry, dishes or dog vomit removal while the other is away. The problem is when you start to clean a house with two people’s mess you tend to get pissed off when you realize the other person isn’t around to clean up their half. Selfish and non-understanding, yes, but still the inevitable reality. When it comes to these moments it is best if we stop trying on our own, and tackle the cleaning together; picking up where either one of us left off, and leaving each other positively underwhelmed by the lack of work left to accomplish. It doesn’t always work out so well, but it helps more times than not.
Over the past few years I’ve gotten the idea in my head that Florida is my State. It’s where I’m from, and it’s a place that I love. Today I spend many conversations watching eyes glaze over as they wonder when it will be when I stop dragging the conversation along talking about my State. On and on about how much I love the swampy cypress that seems to be oozing almost liquid in early August, and how I love the vast scrub forest that’s loaded with snakes and alligators. Oh and the sea of pines split by a river up North, and the wandering creeks that lead to blue water down South, the sand and the salt breeze that creeps all the way into Orlando some summer nights (See, what I mean by glazed over eyes).
It's all so wonderful, but what does it matter that I love Florida? Almost 20 million people live here, so who cares what I love or don’t love if it gets drowned out by 5:00 traffic on I-4? If I am honest, I’m not sure it matters what I think. Plenty of people have told me it doesn’t. Yet, I still write, and I write with a deep hope that you see what I see, at least, for a moment.
Living under the notion that it is only myself that loves this State, leaves me crippled with the fear and disappointment of the daunting task at hand: saving Florida. Seems dramatic, huh? Well, it may have been a dramatic statement 50 years ago, when Florida was the place to be; a paradise for the outdoorsman and motivation for the winter weary. Now it’s a reality, and a reality I have tried and tried to face on my own because, this after all is my State, remember. It isn’t. It’s ours, and in a time when we are being told to distance ourselves from one another, I think this place, in all its wild and human beauty, might give us something to care about together.
My point is, Florida isn’t my mess, It’s ours. It’s not my home, it’s ours. It’s not my State, it’s ours. It’s not my love for its beauty that will save it, it’s our love. Whoever you are, from the Panhandle to Key West, out in the woods or in downtown Orlando, if you’re Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Gay, Straight, Liberal, Conservative, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist, or whatever else, if you’ve lived here forever or if you’ve been here for three days; if you send mail with a return address ending in FL, this is your home, and because I live here too, it’s our home. So why fight against each other when we already know the facts, when we already know the dismal outcome of current trends. If we call this State home, then we are no longer immune by way of ignorance. If this truly is our home, then it’s up to us to hold each other accountable and to paint each other a picture of the future. A future where my Children’s children are running beside yours through water bluer than it is now, and a wilderness that was always wild.
This is the mission of The Florida Stories. It’s to fight for our State’s future together through our own voices, because I know for a fact I can’t change it on my own -SYF