I lace up my running shoes and head out the front door of my parents’ Florida home. It’s a seventy degree morning in March. I glance up. A fairly strong breeze is pushing some high white clouds along the blue sky at a good clip. Tall straight palm trees are swaying far above me.
The air is damp and I can smell the salt of the nearby ocean. I love how it feels. My middle-aged skin, which has never acclimatized to desert living, is thirsty and greedily sucks up moisture. I imagine I can feel fine lines plumping out and hope to look five years younger by dinnertime.
The grass crunches under my shoes as I cross the lawn. The blades are broad and stiff. I recall a young woman I know who grew up in Florida telling me, “You don’t want to sit around on the grass in Florida, and you don’t want to walk on it barefoot. And you have to watch out for fire ants.”
I reach down to stretch out my ham strings and compulsively scratch my ankles.
“It’s a mile around our block if you take in Roanoke as well,” my mother has informed me. I hit the pavement with a slow jog.
Beautiful things are in bloom in every yard I pass: hibiscus covered in bright pinks, reds and yellows; gorgeous bougainvilleas loaded with magenta blossoms; stands of amaryllis in peach and red. Different things than grow at home. And to think they are blooming in March. I inhale the thick sweet scent of gardenia as I pass a bush that’s loaded with white blossoms.
I see the sign for Roanoke and take a left. I run down one side to where it ends in a cul-de-sac and then back up the other side to the main block. People have all kinds of interesting mailboxes, I notice. I see one in the form of a giant manatee.
Another species that seems to sprout prolifically in the neighborhood is realtor signs. Although I see evidence of a few children in the form of bikes and scooters abandoned in driveways, the area is mostly home to the elderly and “They die, you know,” my mother has told me.
As I run I glance up. Three large brown birds of prey glide in a circle, seeming at times to hang in place on an air current. Have they, too, noticed the For Sale signs?
I round the corner at the far end of the block and behold a lawn absolutely covered in pretty white birds. They’re the size of skinny chickens. They have fairly long legs that hinge backwards and long, pointy, dark orange beaks. I will find out later from my mother what they are. Think “four letter word for wading bird.” That’s right – Ibis. I’ve only ever seen one in a crossword puzzle. They’re pecking away at something in the lawn. Do ibises mean grubs in Florida? I wonder.
On my second time around I meet an older gentleman out for a ride in his golf cart. We wave as we pass in opposite directions.
Three times around.
I notice even more beautiful things growing and blooming – crown of thorns, Mexican petunias, even poinsettias. An elderly couple comes along on bicycles. They’re pedaling so slowly I wonder how they’re staying up.
Four times around.
I glance at my watch. If that was four miles, I’ve set a personal record. I don’t think so. Must have been Senior Citizen miles. They get a discount, you know.
Should I go around again?
Nah, I think, stepping onto my parents’ driveway and startling a gecko into some bushes. I'm on vacation. And besides, it’s about time for breakfast by the pool.
This is the Florida life.