Pretending There Are Mountains

 

Here in Florida, I don’t experience four seasons like I did while growing up in the North Carolina mountains. Back in NC, we referred to our region as the Foothills. The landscape was steep, but the drive further into the mountains was steeper. To the outsiders, we were all considered “the mountains.”

With only the mildest of topographical separation, we received our seasons alongside the peaks to our west, in unified fluctuation of temperatures and cyclical vibrancy. Summer rhododendrons by waterfalls, Autumn rainbows of leaves, Winter snows on pines, and graceful Spring dogwoods to remind us of ourselves.

As life changed for my family, we migrated downhill and across the state, finally ending up at the coast. The distinct seasons faded in comparison to the mountains. The NC coast still delivered four, yet unequal seasons, including a brief fall with much less leaves on the ground.

Living along the coast of NC meant a common trek up the fairly level Interstate 40, towards Raleigh for friends and things to do. On my return drives back to the coast, the road became flatter and an abstract horizon began to take shape. Clouds, both day and night, gave an illusion of contoured height. I would imagine that I was not driving east, back to the shore. Instead, I aligned my path with an unknown elevation. I envisioned the highest caps awaiting me in that blurry boundary which obscured a distant and unexplored destination.

Moving further south to the big peninsula state meant more heat and even less leaves–mostly just year-round palm fronds, pine straw, and oak debris.

In this part of Florida, Summer hiccups a brief Autumn; then Winter rests the landscape, only to awaken it with a sneeze of Spring, and right back into Summer.

Not entirely flat on this central, western gulf-side of Florida, our landscape does boast some rolling hills, but no mountains. There’s plenty of beauty, but I crave something more.

Imagination has always supported the elevation of my spirit. When I find myself on a course with flatness, I look for the mountains. Luckily, they find me, too. Beyond the trees across from my home, day and night, clouds form over the water and breathe an imaginary crossover of landscapes back into my sight, and exhilaration into my game.

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