“Hey, daddy! Look! There’s a turtle sitting by our front door,” one of my children announced excitedly on a hot afternoon in May.
Florida is wild. You can hardly set foot outside your front door without stepping on something squirmy or slithery. And while most people probably know about the alligators, the turtles, the humidity, and the Florida Man, if you don’t live here, you’re probably not as familiar with our vegetation.
In the spring and summer, the grasses and bushes and vines don’t just seem alive, they seem possessed. The relentless afternoon thunderstorms and blazing sun turn normal plants into tangled masses of rage, seemingly intent on taking over the earth.
The tree in my front yard is a prime example of this. It has been completely overrun by the honeysuckle vine that engulfs my neighbor’s fence. The situation started getting out of hand about two years ago when our old neighbor moved away.
When we first moved in, our neighbor had taken charge of keeping the honeysuckle in check. Though we lived side-by-side for two or three years, I don’t think we ever conversed. I would see him outside my window every month, an older man moving slowly but athletically, making his way along the fence beside our driveway, trimming the intrepid vines with an electric hedge trimmer. Methodically, he would rake up the fallen clippings, effortlessly imposing order on the chaos.
Suddenly, a “for sale” sign appeared in his front yard and soon he was gone. The new occupants also keep to themselves, perhaps even more so than he did. The only disappointment was that they were completely unconcerned about the honeysuckle. The vines grew and grew and grew. Occasionally, I got up the nerve to take a few hacks at the knot of greenery, but I don’t have any cool electrical tools and am super unmotivated, so the honeysuckle took over. It owned the yard; we became the tenants.
Florida is wild and chaotic, and, though I’m a native Floridian, I am anything but.