It took me a long time to think Florida is beautiful.
I thought only the mountains deserved that description, and there aren’t any mountains in the Sunshine State. There are barely any hills. Sometimes, during the ten years that we lived on the Gulf coast, my husband and I would drive an hour to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa for a little elevation. I just couldn’t figure out why God made Florida flat.
But now I see there are many kinds of beauty. We took a drive today in the early morning, deep into the heart of this tropical state. A heavy mist hung over verdant green pastures where the stark white of egret wings waved a friendly ‘good morning’. Cows grazed beneath groomed oak trees draped in Spanish Moss, and we made eye contact with a family of deer who paused mid-munch to watch us drive past. Serenity drew our eyes into the distance, following winding creeks back to a palm-lined horizon. All along the way, life teemed above and around us in this Southern version of ‘where the wild things are’.
Why did it take me so long to realize that I love this state? That my heart is at home by a salt water bay? That a walk on the beach after dark is almost better than chocolate? Maybe I was afraid of being unfaithful to the heights which always feed my soul.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with landscape loyalty. There are, of course, just as many people who can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would choose to live in a Sonoran desert. Sometimes I am one of those people, even though that’s where my zip code resides. Mostly, though, that’s only each June 28th, when I haven’t seen rain in five months and even my bougainvillea is throwing in the towel.
Why is it so hard to think everything created by God is beautiful, including people? What makes some prefer blondes to the exclusion of every other hair color? Why is it hard to be kind to the elderly while we lavishly smile at youth? What is it about extra weight on a woman that causes us to harshly condemn?
I realized once that all physical beauty is about three days from disintegration—from cut flowers to corpses. I can’t even make my foundation last a couple of hours before it begins to melt off my face. How futile to believe that true beauty is what I can maintain perfectly on the outside. Gravity, time and hardship are devastating allies.
There must be something more.
There is your heart. And there’s where you’ll find the real beauty of every woman. In her tender caring or outrageous laughter, as she listens intently or speaks from her passion, in the touch of her hand and her touch in her home, she offers a fragrance of loveliness.
How rich is the one who breathes it in deeply—with eyes tightly closed.
(Photo courtesy of photomatt28 @ flickr.com)