Residual Florida

[This piece was written after I returned from spring break in Florida last year. Having just returned from this year’s spring break in Florida, which was cloudier and chillier than we would have preferred, it helped to be reminded that seasons inevitably change and that my hope rests on far more than the weather.]

Driving to Florida for spring break was de-evolution, a movement from death and cold and winter into summer heat, green growth, and restored life. All of us needed this youthening, for different reasons; my need was to soften slowly petrifying hope for spring. Even our twins, though young, had been aged too much by the work, stress, and worry of their first college year and needed this week to spa away worry lines and needling self-doubt.

At the end of break, we left Florida Saturday morning before dawn, trying to beat the spring break exodus that clots I-75, the still dark sky easing the pain of facing the sun, a friend we would miss, who would not, could not follow us up the interstate, all the way home.

Riding in the silence of the kids’ second cycle of sleep, Jim’s determination to make miles, and the whir of worn tread on grey ribbon of road, I stared through my reflection in the glass and out at the blurred green world we were leaving. A field of winter wheat swayed pale green from the roadside. If I had been driving, I would have rumbled onto the crumbling shoulder, unbuckled the restraint, high stepped over ditch, and hauled over barbed wire fence just so I could have run in bare feet through red soil, willowy strands of new growth wisping against my calves, which would have been like last week’s hosanna palms rising and falling on my skin, soft praise and a reminder of blessing. But I was not driving, and my reflection in glass was static while landscapes rushed past.

As I expected, the sun did not follow us: the sky was grey cotton, smothering sunshine, and every mile further into Georgia aged me and snapped the fibers of the cord, one by one, that had sustained me the week before. I was riding into the grey maw of morning, nearly swallowed, when I remembered that it was Easter morning. No shaft of light pierced the clouds, no quiet angels sat at either end of the van to witness my astonishment. Like Mary, my first impulse was to ask where Christ could be in the stony sepulcher of sky instead of recognizing the grace of moments in the week before: I had crushed orange segments in my mouth, and swallowed sacred juice; my lungs had heaved, drawing in air to fuel my run, feet creating muffled rhythms on sandy trails, and I had felt my corporeality, sure and strong, no doubting Thomas; lying flat, receptive to the sun, I had felt the heat seep into my pores, infusing my cells, inflating my soul, until I floated, more spirit than flesh. And so I remembered the need for praise; I felt the solidity of faith, the assurance of things not yet seen. So though the clouds did not part, I nonetheless hurtled on, reckless with hope, on a road leading home.

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