As it turns out, I’m kind of afraid of the ocean. This is news to me. I spent my childhood intrigued by the wonders of the sea. My family, on my Mom’s side, is from Massachusetts so I’d spend every Summer of my childhood in Cape Cod. I’d wake up early in the morning, before everyone else, and walk down to the beach with my “research” book under my arm. It’s contents were little tid bits about all the creatures that you’ll often find in the tide pools on the Cape. There I’d be peering through the surface of the sea and looking beneath rocks. I’d keep track of my findings in the back of the book where a check list and note section was conveniently located. If I wasn’t at the beach my Mom would often times find me getting lost in the pages of my marine life encyclopedia. I was obsessed. Being a marine biologist was my life dream but not like all little kids want to be “marine biologists”, I was putting a serious effort into it. Obviously, things changed, like they always do and as soon as I stopped seeing the ocean every year I became more fond of the mountains.
But here I am, working across the street from the beach where I can channel my inner marine biologist. Doing just that, I paddled out with my snorkel to go find some sea creatures. There were heaps of jelly fish, but I found a place that was seemingly free of them and jumped in. The water was a little murky and there was no reef it was wide open scary ocean. And I got kind of freaked out, I kept staring off into the murkiness and couldn’t help but wonder what was out there that I couldn’t see but could see me. I turned towards my board thinking “I’m good, I think I’ve had enough of this”
And what I turned around to, right next to my face, was a GIANT jelly fish! This is when I’d like to say I played it cool and calmly got back on my board. Instead, I turned into some crazed wet cat that was frantically trying to find it’s way out of this place that suddenly seemed like it was out to destroy me.
I paddled back to shore feeling defeated and slightly embarrassed. Now, I’ve swam in the ocean a gazillion times, gone snorkeling, surfed, and kept it totally cool. I think, all along I was freaked out but good at covering it up and pretending I wasn’t. This was the first time I was out there by myself and there’s something about being out there alone that makes me feel way more vulnerable. Even though a shark’s going to eat my ass whether I’m with someone or not if it wants to.
It was in this moment that I realized I really missed the mountains and I was way out of my element. Put me in the woods, by myself, in the middle of the night and I’d be fine…okay I’d be a little scared, but not like I was out there. It totally surprised me. I’ve got a lot of friends that live by the ocean, they’re constantly posting photos of them immersed in their oceanic environments and I always thought I’d feel right at home, like they do. It turns out, I don’t and my soul is fed by the mountains.
After that I couldn’t stop thinking about tall pine trees, the smell of a campfire mixed in with brisk mountain air, and cool morning walks in a beanie, boots, and a flannel. I wanted to get lost in the woods. I wanted to split my own firewood. I wanted to sit by a river without any interruption, no cars in the background, no tourists, no horns honking, no lifeguards, no rules. I wanted to cook food over my coleman burner and drink cowboy coffee. I wanted to drink wine beneath the stars and then doze off on the bed in the back of my truck. I started to really feel disconnected from my surroundings here in South Florida. It’s not that I’m afraid of being out of my comfort zone, it’s being out of my comfort zone that opened my eyes and reignited my love for the mountains. Without Florida I would still be daydreaming about living the beach life and taking my home for granted.
So what has being in Florida taught me? That there’s no place like home and I am a wild and wonderful mountain girl.