Saturday, November 4, 2017

Sea Change

Sea Change:  A marked change; transformation. 

A rough night in Sebring, Florida. That's us -- at the bottom edge of Irma's red rage. 

My journal entry dated July 22, 2017: "We moved to Sebring for good, July 21, 2017.  We live here now." This entry is followed by many blank pages. I think I was in shock. If you have moved a tree, dug it out of one location in the earth and buried its roots in another different place, you know transplanting is a perilous business. Roots don't always find new ground hospitable. They sometimes falter. 
     Moving our lives from Key West into a very different sort of town, Sebring, feels something like that. Difficult, delicate, awkward. Of course we are not trees. We are relatively sturdy people, with medications to keep our hearts from breaking and oatmeal to keep us from becoming too full of ourselves. You can buy that stuff anywhere. And in central Florida we are closer to the miracles modern medicine has to offer to those who can afford them. Now that we are seniors, we qualify.
     Still, there are adjustments to be made. Moving to Sebring, away from the dangerous coasts, gave us what sadly proved to be a false sense of hurricane security. Hurricanes don't come to the center of the state. Right?  Wrong. In September we watched TV weather reports of Irma's stealthy progress as it barreled toward the Keys and then - well, anyone's guess. East Coast? West Coast? Right up the middle? I had tense conversations with my son, Miguel, wherein I begged him to move himself to higher ground and out of the path of Irma. Her reputation was growing more sinister by the hour. Like the true Conch he is he refused to budge from his island home, come what might. 
     "Stop doing this," he implored.  "You're scaring Mia." (His sensible -- or so I thought -- girlfriend.)
Rob Eggers (escaped from Key West with his family) and Michael Keith, in Sebring, the day before Irma.
     Irma hit Key West on a Sunday morning and and blew into Sebring some 12 hours later.  And just like in "The Wizard of Oz" we watched as carport roofs and road signs flew past our windows. Some welcome wagon!  We lost power. Everybody did. On the morning after Irma there was not a hot coffee to be had in all of Sebring. So we made instant coffee at home, on an ancient portable BBQ grill. Yummy. Fun! Like camping out!
Live TV tells no lies!
     As usually happens after a hurricane, there were sketchy news reports full of terrible and dire reports of damage to Key West. The bridges are all washed out! All 42 of them! Ninety percent of Keys homes are destroyed! We could not get a phone call through to Key West for nearly 24 hours. Meanwhile we received calls from long lost friends and relatives in faraway places, anxious to know we were OK. We were. And no property damage, we guiltily reported. On Monday afternoon Miguel was able to get a 20-second phone call through to say he was safe. In fact, Key West was in pretty good shape, too. Not so the other Keys. 
     In a conversation with Miguel a few days after the drama had dropped a few notches, I spoke of some breaking political news. Miguel advised me to think twice about believing television news. As a quasi-journalist, this really blew my mind.
     "News is real, Son!" I cried.  "News can't lie!" 
     "Mom," he said. "There were news reports after the hurricane that said 90% of Keys homes were destroyed. That was in no way true. Do you have any idea what those kind of rumors do to people?" 
     He is right! Much as I dread the growing distrust of the media that has lately seriously permeated our society, I have to recognize how this kind of fake news -- and it really was fake -- poisons the pot and gives clear-headed thinkers like my son reason to dismiss any and all news as maybe true, maybe not. Who reported that in the first place? I think rumor mongers on Facebook. And in defense of journalism, that's not news!
Saturday night in our Key West neighborhood.  How did they do that?  Nobody knows. The driver didn't speak English.
     Here’s some good news about Sebring. We buy good tomatoes here. Ripe mangoes, too. I think it's because we are closer to places where those things grow. There are farm stands. There are golf carts which people drive around and around the neighborhood just for the pleasure of it. Someone is always mowing a lawn or trimming a hedge. Weekends there are dozens of yard sales. We rarely hear a siren or the sickening sound of screeching brakes. We can see, from the comfort of our living room, a vast and spacious sky, clouds and lots and lots of leafy greenery. There is a screened porch, about the size of half our Key West house. It faces East. At sunrise the birds go nuts, singing and chirping each to each. The other day, just before sunset, I was walking and saw a flock of honking geese cruise by.  On some nights the temperature drops to 50 degrees! That’s quilt weather!
     Last night I asked Siri, my i-Phone pal: "How cold will it be in Sebring tonight?"
     "It's 62 degrees," she replied. "I don’t think that’s particularly cold."
Can we really live here? Testing the waters; visiting Sebring. Christmas, 2016 with Tina Kaupe. 
     In a matter of weeks our pastoral peace will be shattered with the arrival of our neighbors who live up north but for the 3 or 4 worst months of winter, when they live here. The roads and the restaurants and Publix will be crowded -- but only for a few months -- totally tolerable when you see the light at the end of the tunnel, by which I mean the spring at the end of the winter, and the departure of the snowbirds back to their northern nests. 
     Sebring is ready for the snowbirds and the happy influx of their snowbird dollars. The last piles of branches and debris have been removed from the sides of the street. Two days ago they came though our neighborhood and scooped them up with little Caterpillar tractors. My neighbor came out of her house to survey the ruts left in her yard after the trash was gone.
     "Just look what they've done to my lawn," she said.
     "Oh dear," I said, commiserating. 
     “What a mess,” she said. 
     “Yeah,” I said. 
     "If they're going to hire someone to clean this mess up why not hire someone who will do the job right?" she asked, rhetorically.
     "Yeah, really," I said, again trying to be agreeable as I am the new neighbor and want to make a good impression 
     "Well," my neighbor said, "they aren't going to fix it. That's gonna be my problem." 
     I decided to change tactics. 
     "BASTARDS" I yelled in outrage.
     The neighbor lady picked up her head and peered over at me, as I sat on my screened porch, sipping coffee. I think she was making sure she'd heard me correctly.
     "They did come and clean it up," she said defensively. "At least they came." 
     So there you have it. People are people wherever you go. And wherever you go, there you are. 


  1. Love your witty , wise words on your planetary shift from Key West to Sebring !!!!

  2. What a treat! I've missed you! Lyrical, as always (and with a sweet nod to TS Eliot) You're my favorite writer :)