6 Months in Paradise

Palm trees. Beaches. Endless summer. Those were the things I was craving, the reasons I rattled off breathlessly when friends asked why I was leaving NY. The deeper answer required more time and effort to explain, so these tropical preoccupations topped my list. And six months into my Florida adventure I have found them, in abundance. There is beauty everywhere here, far beyond my expectations. Paradise found.

In Tampa I have watched more gorgeous sunsets than ever before in my life, and lucky for me, I have a great view from my apartment. I found the local neighborhood beach five minutes from my place and go often to walk the coastline. There is a park nearby with a pier that meanders way out into the blue waters of the bay, where friendly fishermen can always be found. Leaning over the rail looking into the water one night recently I saw my first dolphin. This silver smooth creature surfaced right below me next to the pier and blew the water from his blowhole with a huge exhale, then disappeared a few meters out into the water. An incredibly brief and oh so moving encounter!

I knew I would love the sun, and I’ve realized I love the storms here, too. Watching a thunderstorm move across the bay while the wind whips the mangroves into a gyrating wave of green is thrilling. I’ve learnt why our hockey team is called The Lightning (other than they are fast!). I can sit on the balcony and watch strike after strike hit the bay during storms, also very thrilling!

Right after I moved I thought about my old house in NY all the time; and my neighborhood, my favorite places, the barn, the roads I used to drive. I don’t think about it so much anymore, and I find myself wanting to remember the details even as they slip away a little, small things like the smell of my house and the sound the refrigerator always made at night or the feel of the backyard on a warm spring morning with the sun shining through the pines and maples. When I was leaving, I walked through my empty house one last time, running my hands over walls and counters, trying to imprint the details to forever memory. I want to remember not just the place but how I felt living there and the life I lived.

My cat is incredibly happy in Tampa, and that makes me happy. She sits by the glass door to the balcony after she has breakfast, waiting to be let out. The balcony is her happy place, with streaming afternoon sun and mornings filled with bird watching. There is a blue heron that likes to take his breakfast in the grassy area by the mangrove and Sasha has a birds-eye view from our place. She had no outdoor space before and it pleases me to see her love it. Both of us are spending much more of our time enjoying nature. It is good for the soul.

I have made some new friends, joined a dance class, and found a great local coffeeshop to hang out and work (shout out to Buddy Brew on Kennedy- great lattes and avo toasts!). An extremely exciting and recent development is finding a great barn to call home with a sweet mare to ride and nice people to ride with (horse friends are great!). I follow the local mayor on social media, and I like her. Local politics is interesting when you do not have any history in the area! My Florida list of places to visit is growing and I am anxious to try all the guava pastries.

One weird effect of living in the tropics – time slows and my awareness of what month it is has been very off. I still think NY is blanketed in snow and we are somewhere in mid-winter even as Father’s Day rapidly approaches. I have also learned about electrolytes and how to stay hydrated in the humid summer, a novel issue for a native New Yorker. It will be an ongoing challenge, especially as I get back into riding shape in the depths of summer! In the meantime, I will enjoy small restaurants serving sweet tea and cheesy grits, endless summer days and nights, and postcard bay views for miles.

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