On the second to the last day of October it was finally chilly enough to light a fire and sit outside with my feet in fuzzy socks, crammed in their flip flops. It was 70 degrees. For most people fall weather is marked by chilly weather, changing leaves, and shorter days. For those of us in Florida it’s marked by a sudden release from humidity — as if we had been living in a giant balloon that just deflated and all that hot, damp air is sucked out to sea. It may not be an event worthy of Travel+Leisure’s top 10 fall trips, but for me it is like touching the wings of an angel.
I’ve mentioned my need for floating in water as a creative act. Fall basically begins for me at the exact moment it becomes too cold to be in our pool. So yes, I floated in the pool on October 29 when it was in the eighties, but the minute it hit 70 degrees on October 30, even though the water temp was still 82, I was done. Out came the fire pit for the first fire of the season. It will hold a prominent place on our deck until March, when I can float again.
Fall is the season of watching things change. It’s about process. In our front yard the king palm tree blooms, its fingers stretch long. Tiny white blooms appear like hairs standing on end and the bees gorge themselves. Then those long fingers turn brittle, like brown wrapping paper and drop to the ground from two stories up. I gather them up and put them in the fire pit where they crackle.
More than floating, it’s sensory intake that brings creative restoration for me. It’s not sensory deprivation to float — there is breeze, sun, water, movement, and the sound of the water lapping. For Florida fall, the fire provides that for me — the licking flames, the log crackling with a few pieces of dried palm fronds, and the glorious smell curling around me like a blanket.
Is the flame moving at the same pace as the float? It just may be. Once at the beach, my son Henry spent a full two hours holding my hand. This from a man-child who barely acknowledges my presence. For some reason, I brought pool noodles with us that time, and we hooked them under our arms, held hands and floated, the water up to our ears as we bobbed. Each time I asked if he was ready to go back, he said, “More.” We ended up with burnt shoulders but I didn’t care. There were two solid hours of quiet connection.
Henry’s language improves when he is on the water. The first time we noticed it his Gramps took him out on a motor boat in the waterways of the Florida Panhandle. He was three and still not speaking with any kind of accuracy, just incoherent babble. On the fishing boat with Gramps Henry’s face lit up and he started calling out words, “Fast! Go! Yes! Water! Gramps!” It was like the Helen Keller water pump moment for me. A break in his disability; a glimpse inside.
That seems to be what sensory intake does for me, too. The “Indiana Jones” music underscoring the pace of my daily activities — Alice Fairfax and the Missing Sock — goes silent. My heart rate slows, the the float or the fire acts as a conductor and I follow their baton. I start to sense the space inside me. The jumble of thoughts and layers of ideas unfold. There is no one to answer to, no deadline to meet, and no dish to clean — it is just me. Floating, flickering in space at the pace of now. When I ask myself, “Are you ready to go back?” I answer, “More.”
Categories: Alice's Voice