Loblolly

It’s probably ironic that I’d be complaining about being homebound these last few days, especially after having traversed thousands of miles across the country just last weekend.  I’m not a good traveler but I’m self-admittedly an even worse patient when it comes to being sick.  Since our return on Sunday morning, I’ve been fighting off a nasty virus (I’ve dubbed this infestation of germs The New Orleans Funk) that has made its way in and out of me rather quickly, I think. (How could one feel so awful and not have a temperature? And can you imagine the celebration dance I did when – on day four of The New Orleans Funk – I actually did register a temperature? Finally, I was justified in being a whiny, lazy, cranky, crankety-crank.)

However, I’d rather be traveling, for the record.

Our return to Florida was enough to put me right again as I’d been feeling just a tiny bit homesick while in Oklahoma.  Not so much that I didn’t enjoy myself and kind of fall in love with the whole damn place, but plenty to remind me that deep down inside my core, I still prefer the swampy marshes and flatlands of the southeastern United States over the rolling hills of Central Oklahoma.

There was alot to love about Oklahoma City, so please don’t take this the wrong way at all.  It’s beautiful out there.  I distinctly remember being very excited when I correctly pointed out a birch tree, though I did have to question Matt on whether or not I was right because I don’t think I’ve seen a birch tree since I lived in Upper Michigan – over 20 years ago.  To me, birch trees are now constantly present in my mind when I think back on my time in Oklahoma…which is quite often, by the way.

Here in Florida, another kind of tree holds a significant amount of my affection – the loblolly pine.  My first few years here, I couldn’t decide if I even liked them.  They were kind of an eyesore, as if they’d only been given half of a body…a deformed, mutated pine tree that just wasn’t good enough to make it to its full glory. During the five years I lived in Gainesville, which is about 80 miles inland from the Atlantic and the Gulf Coast (I had coastal options!), I never paid these trees much mind.  They only really seemed to become an overwhelming presence the closer you got to the beaches. Driving east toward Crescent Beach and St. Augustine, I would notice the loblolly pines and know we were almost to the ocean.  From the highway I could see the transition in landscapes as the somewhat fertile soil of central Florida gave way to sand and the mighty oak trees of the inland swamps were taken over by coastal loblolly pines.

I live in Jacksonville now, a coastal city in which loblolly pines thrive.  Because Jacksonville is so large in terms in land mass, one can find only a few pockets of these mostly untouched forests containing a variety of palm trees, sago bushes, and the loblolly. The closer one gets to the ocean, the forests become thicker and the loblolly pines are more prominent.

I no longer think of the loblolly pine as an eyesore or as being only half as majestic as a pine tree from the woods of Upper Michigan.  To be honest, the loblolly pine tree was the image I thought of when I was feeling a tad homesick in Oklahoma. On the way home, I think I even squealed somewhere in Alabama when I began to notice more and more of these trees in the distance, situated precisely next to a body of water that fed directly into the Gulf of Mexico.  By the time we’d crossed into Florida and I saw Escambia Bay’s gorgeous display of loblolly pines, I knew I was home.

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About Dena

I'm a suburban Clevelander by way of Oklahoma City, by way of North Florida, by way of Southern Maryland, by way of Upper Michigan, by way of Northern Italy, by way of Lower Michigan, by way of Texas. Because of living in so many places, I have something in common with almost everyone I meet. I love reading, writing, and American history (especially reading or writing about American history). I'm interested in culture of place, historical trauma, and writing about the kinds of histories most people don't know about.
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