As a consequence of the poison oak debacle that I have chronicled in my earlier posts, I went to the doctor, who prescribed some fairly powerful steroids to hasten my recovery. One of the side effects, it turns out, is a heightened sensitivity to heat, which in the throes of summer in Florida is about as easy to avoid as sand in a desert.
Long story short, I got very dizzy, and I needed a bit in the artificial permafrost of my office to cool down and recover. Once regained my bearings, this photograph flashed across the television on my wall that I use to display my photographs. I took it last fall in North Carolina, and it immediately gave me a feeling of deep longing, and almost regret that I wasn’t there right now–even though summers in the Piedmont of North Carolina are about as miserable as in Florida.
I reflected on this nostalgia, literally an aching for one’s home, and it came to me that during my ten years outside of Florida, first in North Carolina and then in Virginia, I never felt the longing to be back in Florida like I do now longing to be back in Winston-Salem or even Richmond. I missed my family dearly in Florida, and enjoyed every time that I came back to visit, but there is just something about Carolina and Virginia that make me long to be back there.
Perhaps it is that I loved Wake Forest so much. I met Anna there, grew up there, and learned more about the world and myself than I had ever done in the eighteen years prior. But a part of me thinks that it was the fall that draws me back, even today–the crisp mornings that we walked from campus through the grounds of the Reynolda House and through the village, the chilly strolls around campus with a steaming cup of coffee or chai, and the leaves that scudded across the bricks of the upper quad when the October wind picked up and you gathered your jacket that much closer around you.
Sure, Florida has fall, but its not the same. Even the oak trees that were skeletons by November in Richmond balk at the coming winter in Florida. There is no thought of jumping in the car and driving the half-hour to Pilot Mountain to see the leaves changing before your very eyes. Fall, as we knew it in North Carolina, does not exist this far south. But I am happy here. I have an incredible job, and an incredible family that is only minutes away, and my roots are growing into the sandy soil slowly but surely.
Still, I feel that pang of remorse that comes over me when I remember the falls I spent at Wake Forest, and I know someday I will return in some capacity. Until that time, as James Taylor said, “I’m going to Carolina in my mind.”