So I woke up in Florida, where the orange blossoms grow and the sun comes peeping into where you’re sleeping and the song birds say hello.

That was a song they taught us in elementary school way down here.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon. I just had to get away from the gray for a few days.

The strange thing is, as soon as I got onto the plane I became a Floridian again, automatically, after over three decades in the North Country.

When I got off the plane in Fort Lauderdale, it was just under 70 degrees and I needed a jacket. Oh my gosh, was I chilly.

One of the first things I noticed and remembered was that down here trees grow out of other trees, and vines and ferns.


And I noticed in the past 50 years that the people who live here have done everything possible to pave over the place.

The problem is, the plants just keep popping out of the cracks. So everyone needs a lawn crew just to beat back nature.

If the towns didn’t come by every week with loaders and trucks to haul away all of the branches, palm fronds, fruits, lawn clippings and natural detritus, this place would be buried in natural refuse that would quickly break down into a thick tropical topsoil — God forbid.

No. There can be planters, but the pavement and sidewalks and well-manicured lawns must prevail.

They have attempted to replace the paradise of my youth with pavement and high rises, but my paradise will prevail.

My mother said of her childhood in Guatemala that they lived in towns and cities surrounded by pastoral land and jungle. The thing is, if you wandered into that jungle you would always find the remnants of buildings and civilizations of the past.

One era of mankind, great civilizations had come and gone. Paradise had swallowed it up whole.

It is only recently that what was known to the inhabitants of the place is being “discovered” by archaeologists.

There was a bustling urban and rural culture that stretched from South through Central and into North America at the time of European contact.

The fact that over one-third of the world’s most important food originated in the Americas should have been a clue to this, but sometimes people don’t want to give credit for great achievements for a wide variety of reasons.

Anyway, one of those American agricultural products that isn’t generally eaten is the fruit of various palms. Some of which are ripening right outside of my window at this moment.

There are bunches of red fruit hanging right beneath the crowns of the palms.

I remember now that these were the decorations of Christmas when I was young, along with the ripening avocados, bananas and mangoes.

A verdant crèche, to say the least.

Well, I’ll be back home for a wintery Christmas. I’ll bring home some palm fruit for decorations.

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Forrest Hartley lives in Hadley, even though he likes his native Florida. You can leave him a message at new_americangothic@yahoo.com.


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