Growing up in central New Jersey there was a lot to be grateful for. It was not the industrial waste zone most visualize when thinking about New Jersey. Surrounded by farmland, open spaces, and the Pine Barrens just to the south, our childhoods were filled with sunshine and fresh air. Our yards were spacious and there were woodlands to hike and explore. Monarch butterflies and Baltimore Orioles filled the trees during their migration turning them ablaze with color. To the north was New York City, entertainment mecca of the world. Its flavors filtered down to us in the piedmont and beckoned us to come taste its wares. In summers, our seashore drew millions of visitors for salty surf, splintered boardwalks, and sugary taffy.
Soon though the large spaces were invaded by subdivisions and strip malls. The pastoral life living lakeside would present largesse to tax collectors seeking monies from landowners in order to fish or ice skate in their own backyards. And so the exodus began.
Longing for “greenspace,” I moved to my college state, Florida. Everglades and Spanish mosses weaving through tropical breezes, sunsets offering inspiration to the painter, poet, or songwriter, and tranquil warm seas that soothe the weary soul.
It too has become but once upon a dream. The Miami sound machine, its newer populace and cultural fragmentation have altered the Floridian landscape. The disenfranchised arrive seeking asylum from the stressors of life and inadvertently add to the chaos. Gone are the days of serenity and solitude in a southern oasis. No longer the charming and sultry days reminiscent of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Ernest Hemingway; bright lights, fast cars, and faster lifestyles permeate the languid coastal towns and farther out to the center of the state. It is heartbreaking to bear witness. May we yet find comfort in some corner of the world with which to commune? Even the Everglades does not see the dark of the moon.
Shall I run forevermore? Straight from childhood visions to rummage a bit of quiet to embrace. To seek a simple corner to lay down a weary heart and head. Where birdsong drowns out the frenetic pace. Where will you go? they will ask. Another planet, perhaps, I will answer.