On Sunday morning I crossed the Everglades for the second time in a week, this time heading back toward the Gulf Coast. I took Alligator Alley (I-75) instead of the slower-paced, photo-op-friendly Tamiami Trail; I had some dogs in Dunedin who were waiting to meet me, so the quicker trip across Alligator Alley was a must.
I was happy to be back on the road, feeling recharged and eager to see some new things. Having that haze of depression and uncertainty lifted off of me made all the difference in my ability to appreciate the awesome scale and true beauty of the space I was driving through.
I-75 runs through the Everglades Wildlife Management Area and Big Cypress National Preserve. There are almost no access roads or places to stop for several long stretches, just marshland as far as the eye can see, vultures wheeling overhead, and the sun beating down. I came across a scenic view stop about halfway across and climbed up some steps to hang over the railing and search for alligators (no luck, sadly). There were water lilies crowding the banks and gently moving in the rippling water.
Eventually I got to the end of the preserve and headed for the turnoff from which you can view the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. It was really hot, but there was a good breeze and the sun was filtered through the palms. I could have stayed and listened to the waves lapping against the concrete barrier for hours. The cables holding the bridge up are bright yellow; it's hands down the most cheerful structure I've ever driven across. I was wishing for a taller vehicle as I drove across so that I could see more of the view!
I found my friends' house in Dunedin and introduced myself to their hilarious dogs, Riley and Hughie. This visit would be an impromptu house sit since Mike travels extensively and Katy planned to be away for the night. It worked out super well for all of us! We went out for a walk later in the afternoon to explore the neighborhood and then came back to the house to cool off and snooze on the couch.
I spent a lot of time in Dunedin putting into motion some of the things that had occurred to me on my drive, especially the feeling of self-imposed pressure to keep this space entertaining, which wasn't exactly jiving with my need for some totally introverted downtime. I was trying to do ALL the things or NONE of the things. This is pretty classic for me and part of the purpose of this trip is to figure out some sort of balance - the grey area, if you will. Of course, my good friend gifted me with a black and white journal before I left. What better place to find the middle? I started writing in Dunedin, which helped me process some thoughts and feelings in the moment and is helping me with recall several days later.
The other thing I did was to ask friends for help on narrowing down a list of places to see. I gave a rough itinerary for the next 6 weeks and got a ton of responses back, which was so helpful! My goal now is to try to focus on seeing just one thing as I pass through any given place. This should help focus my travel a bit more and provide me with some much-needed structure.
While I was writing in my journal, I went back to a piece of poetry that I'd seen floating around Instagram and has really resonated with me; I keep revisiting it as a reminder that this is all evolving every day, that it will take its own time, and that it's going to be scary sometimes. This poem articulates a lot of what I have been feeling over the last couple of weeks. I finally managed to track down the author, Elyse Morgan (wild moon woman), who gave me permission to share it here.
On Monday I spent the morning in search of groceries, gas, and a new pair of shorts. My next stop was a farm about an hour north of Tampa and it was bound to be hot and sweaty work, no matter what. The afternoon was devoted to several episodes of The Walking Dead and a nap or two, then a walk down the Pinellas Trail with the dogs before Katy came home from her night away. I went to sleep feeling excited and nervous about learning some new skills at Circle T Farms in Brooksville.