After a decade away, Florida is at once nostalgic and yet sort of exotic.
Tonight, I sat quietly on the patio, eating key lime pie cookies, watching one of the most dramatic lightning storms I've ever seen. Hundreds of lightning strikes strobed through the night sky, but it wasn't raining, and I didn't hear much thunder. The loudest sound was that of the alligator that's living in the lake behind our house. It's mating season and his loud croak has become commonplace. We make the kids call the lake "alligator water" and they know they're not allowed down by the shoreline.
They know a lot of new things. So many of their new things are the fabric of what made both Matthew and I who we are. So, now that we're here, it seems full circle and obvious that it's all happened this way: to be raised in the sun by the water only to return to it to raise our own children. Ebb and flow, yo.
One of parenting's greatest joys is rediscovering the familiar through our children's fresh eyes. We can't tell if we're enjoying things that were so familiar so much more now because of the decade-long hiatus, because we have the kids now, or both. Regardless, he and I seem as excited as they are to jump in the pool or go outside to catch frogs and I'm surprised at how enjoyable and slowed down our lives have felt recently.
Our kids know the sensations of the water now, like the rise and fall of their grandparent's boat jumping wakes. We all yell as loud as we can together when we pass under bridges. One afternoon, we grilled bratwurst off the side of the boat and swam to an island to build sand castles on the beach. Theo surely could have stayed hours longer then our full day, he was so at peace digging away on the island. We swam together in the water. The kids felt the rocky sand below them when they couldn't see it and tasted the salt on their lips and, for a moment, Matthew and I were kids too.
Our skin is tanned and the house is beginning to feel like home. It's been two months now since we walked into the place we bought from 3,000 miles away for our family without seeing it first. We chose the house because it has a really beautiful pool, the proximity to family can't be beat, and … it was the only one we could afford in the neighborhood.
The house is more then we could have hoped for. The strengths are the pool and the yard, the weaknesses lay in the bathrooms and kitchen. We had to throw our money at boring stuff to make it livable (like holes in the roof, septic drain field, and broken pool equipment), so the decorating budget is a bit thrifty. The four of us are sharing one shower tub with water pressure that leaves a bit to be desired. But none of that actually matters because it's ours.
Of course, it was a risk to come here. And change is downright uncomfortable, but I haven't regret it for a second (yet, anyway). This has been the most surprising thing of all. I was prepared to hate it, suck it up, and then figure out what was next. Instead, I'm... into it.
One of my Oregon besties posted an article tonight further documenting something I already know to be true. It's not our actions we regret at the end of our lives, it's our inactions. The ought-to-haves, the would-if-I'ds, the wonder-why-I-didn'ts. I'll never wonder what it would have been like to move back, because we did. If for that alone, I know it was the right choice for our family.
Life isn't what we think it's going to be, and living back in Florida isn't at all what I was expecting. Matthew and I are finding when we challenge ourselves and work hard for things, sometimes it's even better then we imagined. I want to remember not to be afraid to try. Not to fear dreams. I want to remain willing to go for it. And I want to remember this in my creative work too. I just reupholstered my dining rooms chairs a deep velvety pink/purple color. It wasn't the safe choice, but it felt like the right thing to do. Because why not. I want to remember this with my portraits too. I love shooting available light photographs of my kids, but it's not what creating a "real" portrait is to me.
I'm excited to be booking weddings in both FL and OR, but I've only just begun to dream of the fine art children's portraits I'd like to make next. I have an idea coming together for a shallow water composite session, maybe for mothers and daughters. My vision is hair swirling together, starfish, and dark saturated teals. To be finding the space to dream again, to have ideas I'm pulled to create, it lets me know I'm settling in. It's exciting to look forward to making art both home in Oregon and home in Florida.
I hung a hammock chair my mother bought us in an old oak tree draped in spanish moss in the yard. Over the weekend, the kids were playing over at grandma's house and I took a quiet moment to swing softly as my husband and his dad were working on building our fence together. I designed a dreamy vegetable garden with a chicken moat around it to keep the deer out. I have no doubt the chickens will love it, but I'll love it more. Because my husband is quite literally working in the hot sun to make my dreams come true.
As I write this, I realize that's what all of this has been about. We had a dream that there was a better atmosphere to raise our kids and worked hard to get here. 2018 hasn't been easy, but that's part of what's been so wonderful about it. And why we adore this house so much, because when you really work for something, the reward is so much sweeter. Ok, cutting myself off: I'm rambling. Good night.