I can feel my sanity beginning to return to me about a half hour outside of the city, just about the time I hit the Snowbird Road turn-off from US 27. Finally away from the crowded expressways and traffic choked surface streets of Orlando, I glide first through the rolling hills of Lake County, newly festooned with a flock of Confederate battle flags since the rise of Trumpland last November, then past the hard scrabble mobile homes and cow pastures of Sumter County into what is left of the small town of Center Hill.
There is a familiar comfort about all this that wears like an old shoe.
The words of Neil Diamond’s “I am, I said” often come back to me as I make this journey:
LA’s fine but it ain’t home, New York’s home, but it ain’t mine no more.
That’s how I feel visiting this place of my childhood, this place where I grew into my late teens, this place I fled immediately upon graduation from high school leaving my family and 11 years of my life behind, this place that taught me much about who I am and how I see the world, this place in which I could never live again but have always begrudgingly loved.
As I near town, I see a field dotted with rolled up hay, ready to be cut into bales and sold to farmers with hungry cows this winter. It’s one of many such scenes along the way that touch my soul, where I hear whispering of “Deep down, this is who you really are” in my ears.
There is a profound beauty in the simplicity of this place.
I’ve come this day to continue in my duties as the personal representative of my Dad’s estate. Today that includes depositing the check for the deposit on his power bill into his savings account. It will be part of the rest, residue and remainder that my siblings and I split three ways once the probate is complete in the next couple of months.
I also need to pay for the yard service that continues to keep the yard with its hundreds of azaleas that my Dad and I worked so hard to create looking beautiful. The Sumter County Adult Retarded Citizens crew does a good job of mowing and picking up limbs that fall in the storms. SCARC now occupies the stone building at the site of the old high school my Dad, my siblings and I all attended. I spent two years in vocational agriculture classes in this building.
This is one of the places where I learned to grow jungles.
I observe that the some of the azaleas that line the road coming into our place from the nearby highway have already begun to creep out into the road. Nature has a mind of her own. Time marches on.
A few feet away, on the state road out front of our property that connects Lake Panasoffkee to Bushnell, a steady stream of traffic roars by, many times the volume of when I was a boy. It’s one of the many reminders that this is no longer the little town I grew up in.
I suppose it is silly but I just can’t help myself. I know my Dad is gone. But my heart involuntarily leaps each time I get to the end of the driveway and spot my Dad’s car sitting in the carport. “Daddy!” I exclaim, losing my breath. And then just as suddenly my heart plunges back to earth, the acknowledgement of his death now six months ago once more painfully forced upon me.
The tears come without warning.
In our yard, a set of pagoda plants are in full bloom, slightly withered in the blazing sun (it will be 94 degrees this day, no doubt a bit hotter in the full sun). Daddy got these plants from the yard of his sister, our Aunt Delphine, in Tallahassee. He brought them home to plant for Momma because the butterflies love them so much. There is no shortage of butterflies this day.
Mother had a great fondness for butterflies. At the end of her graveside service at the National Cemetery 9 years ago, a flock of butterflies suddenly appeared. I figured they were there to take their new playmate home. To this day, when I see a butterfly, I always say, “Hi, Momma!”
I have begun to take a journal with me on my visits home to scribble down notes about my time growing up in that rural county on the distant edge of two metropolitan areas that have since grown out to meet it. I think my first real writing project may be a book to talk about what it was like growing up in a place where I never fit - and the residents never failed to let me know that - yet I learned so much about the good Earth, about human nature and about the Spirit that has always been vibrantly present in my life. Much as I begrudgingly love this place, I also begrudgingly recognize the debt I owe to those 11 years spent in Bushnell.
As I turn to go into the house, where the presence of my Father and Mother both still loom so powerfully, I see my journal has attracted a visitor. It’ll be a neat trick to pick up that book and dislodge the spider. He’s a big one, not sure what kind, but not willing to take any chances. One quick movement retrieves the book and the spider goes flying onto the hood of the car and scurries off.
Now, to the ongoing business at hand.
Harry Scott Coverston
If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.
For what does G-d require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your G-d? (Micah 6:8, Hebrew Scriptures)
© Harry Coverston 2017