Friday, April 01, 2005

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

I am SO ready to be a barrier island girl. I’m ready to plant sea oats and save sea turtles. I’m ready to sacrifice myself to brain freeze in search of the best Bushwacker on the island and check the accuracy of statisticians who say we have 343 days of sunny weather annually. I am ready to stake out my personal space within the privacy of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and let the sugar white sands do their exfoliating magic while I watch the market share of Bath & Body Works drop in my absence. I am ready with my Porter Paints Color Selector Chart and its 1199 different colors to help me identify the ever-changing ribbons of water winding through the Gulf, Bay and Sound. Oh yeah, I’m ready.

I recently told a friend that I believe some people are simply born in the wrong place geographically, growing up in hometowns across America where they never quite fit in. Having been born into a rather large extended family of sixty-one first cousins whom, for the most part, never felt an urge to leave the state in which they were born, no one understood my eagerness to move out and on and away. I felt certain, however, that there were other searchers like me, compelled to travel, looking for places their hearts called home.

On a warm December day in 2001, I crossed a bridge and my life changed forever. One moment I was focused on the drive, anxious to reach my destination less than 10 miles away, when suddenly the landscape parted like a curtain and I caught my breath as a panoramic view of Pensacola Bay stretched out before me. Nothing could have prepared me for the beauty of the sun sparkling like diamonds on the Bay that day. As I drove on, approaching the tallest point of the Bay Bridge, I had a sense of being Dorothy as she approached the Emerald City, each moment bringing me closer to something wonderful. It felt like fireworks were getting ready to explode in my chest and for once I knew it wasn’t the Whopper Junior I ate for lunch. As I drove forward across one last peninsula, across one more bridge, I felt my destination becoming my destiny. And then, it happened. As the last bridge fell behind me and an endless horizon stretched before me, an internal homing device long buried in my heart finally triggered all of my senses to whisper in unison, “You’re home.”

There are still obstacles to overcome in relocating to my new home, but each day brings me closer. After years of hearing others talk about the joys of going home, I finally understand what they meant. It’s just that they think of home and smell freshly baked bread and apple pies; but I think of home and smell salt spray in the air. They think of rolling hills and pasture lands; I think of windswept dunes topped with golden sea oats waving in an island breeze. Poor daddy just can’t understand why I would move so far away. He warned me of sharks and jellyfish and sand fleas and hurricanes. And he warned me just how bad the storm surge must be to wash that Volkswagen Beetle on top of a roof in the Quietwater Beach complex. {sigh}

But I am SO ready to be a barrier island girl. I’m ready to scout out any extra buttons Geronimo may have left behind for me at Ft. Pickens. I’m ready to check out which of Peg Leg Pete’s legs are wooden and expose to the world how he lost it. I’m ready to become a builder of sandcastles. I’m ready to sit on the pier and listen to fishing stories. I’m ready to gaze in wonder for hours at those agile and beautiful young surfers who eagerly watch for a perfect wave at daybreak and twilight, day after day. But unlike Dorothy, this girl’s ready to trade in her ruby slippers for sandals and say goodbye to her yellow brick road. I’ve found home at last and I am SO ready!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fort Pickens is a national parl, not a state park. This is a tiny mistake in a beautifully written essay.glp