Florida. Stepping onto the jetway I felt it immediately envelop me. It wasn't quite like a tackle from a four year-old when you are finishing that last sentence of an email and his patience has subsided. Specifically, it was my teenage nemesis. The one that thwarted every effort I put forth, hopelessly clinging to my dreams of slick, straight hair while living in Central Florida as an adolescent. Yes, humidity. But this humidity was different. It was almost imperceptible to anyone not coming from the dry air of Colorado but just enough to make me breathe deeper. I knew at that moment I had at most 48hrs before my hair realized where it was and I was determined to make the most of it. I was also thrilled for my dry, cracked hands that are a constant for me in Colorado as soon the air would surely give way to hands that would soak in the sun and any small amount of humidity with joy.
Everyone knows for thrills in Central Florida, the theme parks are where the magic happens. But if you slow down and step away from the crowds you can find a different type of treasure in Florida. The magic that is the flora and fauna of an ecosystem unlike any other in the US. Black bears hide under palmetto ferns and armadillos scurry across the dirt roads. If you are lucky enough a Florida panther just might leap past you silently late at night when you are out too late down by the dock shining for gators. To me, no time is Florida more charming than when "winter" fades and spring blooms. The love bug season has not begun and the palmetto bugs seem as though perhaps they are on holiday. The azaleas have begun to show off and the breeze turns warm. I LOVE this time of year in Florida and getting to experience it once again after a much too long hiatus made me giddy.
My time here would be brief but I would make the most of it. I attended the wedding of one of my best friends from high school and saw friends I hadn't seen in many, many moons (somehow none of them aged even a minute). And if I planned well, I would have a bit of extra time to spend out in nature, enjoying Florida in a way I just couldn't when I was a teen.
Taking one afternoon to visit Winter Park was like dipping my toe back into a pool of time. I'd lived nearby before and always loved the town with it's beautiful homes, cordial attitude, incredible museums and endless places to eat, drink, and explore. But I never paused before to take in the beauty of the lakes, the way the moss swayed in the springtime breeze, or listen to the egrets building rookeries among the thick branches of cypress trees. As I sat among the southern giants in grass that seemed impossibly green, sand filled the spaces between my toes and I walked along in sandals smiling at the sunshine and the Sunshine State.