Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Making an escape, whatever way you can

It’s February in western Pennsylvania. Cold, damp, with bracing winds. Unforgiving. Unlovable. To rub salt water in the wound, several folks I know—family and friends—are escaping to Florida this weekend. So, I’ve had Florida on my mind.

The last time I visited Florida was in March 2004, I believe. The painting above is based on a photo from that visit; the setting was DeSoto Beach, near Tampa, if I’m remembering correctly. There’s an old fort there too (aptly named Fort DeSoto), in a pristine state park full of seascapes you imagined and then found in reality. The whole trip remains a precious, balmy memory that I store safely in a special corner of my mind; I’ve returned to that shore many times since my actual return. Someday I’ll go back.

People we know, Pittsburgh natives, moved to Tampa a few years ago and then, this past December, made the pilgrimage north, back to this cold place. I thought of them several times during that week that they relocated; it was frigid here, snowy and messy as I recall, and I was wondering if they questioned their decision at all. Of course, if I were living in Tampa when Katrina or any of her violent cousins came ashore, I would probably be questioning that decision, too.

I still wish I were in Florida right now. I think I’ll go sit by the kerosene heater, close my eyes, and put on my Polynesian beach CD that sounds like ocean waves lapping in the background. A weak substitute for the real thing, I know—but all I can manage right now.

Happy vacationing and a safe trip, you travelers. (You know who you are. )

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