Friday, February 15, 2013

Home, Sweet Home

"Mid pleasures and palaces, though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!"
~John Howard Payne

"There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home..."
~Dorothy Gale

When I travel I get swept up in the newness and otherness of where I am. I love it all--the foods, the sounds, the smells, the architecture, the nature, the language--it's all fabulous and fascinating. And when it's time to leave, I long for just a few days more. It's so hard when the vacation is over! But no matter where I go, when I fly back into Florida, I feel tugs on my heart as I look out of the plane (or car) and see the lakes and trees and ocean. It's so green here! And the water glistens in the sunlight and the sweetgrass waves in the breeze. Florida is a magical and beautiful place, by any standards. Our 6-week trip through Argentina introduced me to exotic natural wonders--waterfalls, tropical birds and butterflies, glaciers and penguins. But the trip home again reminded me that I live in an amazing place. Having been away, I can come home again and see my part of the world with new perspective. As frustrated as I might feel with our local problems such as urban sprawl, water use and pollution, when I compare my home to places I've visited, I see that we have it pretty good here. That is not to say that everything is perfect and pristine, but I've seen so much worse. Flying into Gainesville, you see miles and miles of forest. Our little city is a small speck in a huge swath of green. Flying out of Buenos Aires, it takes 15-20 minutes before you reach the end of the city and finally see countryside. In Iguazu and Patagonia, squatters build willy-nilly at the edges of the city, which is always expanding. There is garbage everywhere I've traveled in South America (with the very notable exception of El Calafate National Park, where you are required to take out all your own trash). Even in the rainforest in the Amazon I saw plastic soda bottles and wrappers on the ground. In Peru, the water is not safe to drink, mainly due to heavy metals from gold mining. The air in Lima is so dirty that it makes your chest hurt to breath.
Building Willy-Nilly in El Calafate

Houses in the Forest in Ushuaia

Garbage in Wildlife Preserve in Buenos Aires
So coming back home to a place where you can drink from the tap and there are solid building codes and good trash pickup and clean air laws makes me grateful for the order we have here. This doesn't diminish the great experience of visiting another country at all, but when I am away from home, sometimes the rose colored glasses that I put on when I travel make me blind to the negative and I forget how nice it is in my own back yard. Especially here in Florida, we are also fortunate to have an an abundance of natural and protected areas, teeming with incredible wildlife that people from other countries flock here to see. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park matches any wild place that I've visited. And it's mere minutes from my house. I am so lucky to live here. But you don't have to live in Florida to feel this. The important thing is to realize that there is beauty and wonder to be found at home, wherever you live. But sometimes you have to leave to realize what you left behind. In my case, absence did make the heart grow fonder. There's no place like home.

Sunset Over the Plane's Wing--Coming Home to Florida

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