We recently returned from a much needed and long delayed vacation. We flew to southwest Florida to spend a few days visiting my snowbird sister and her husband. Then we drove to Miami and flew to the US Virgin Islands to spend a week hiking and going to the beach on St. John.
This little trip proved to me once again, it is all personal and political and that we live in a bit of a bubble here in Sonoma, California.
According to my sister, southwest Florida is Trump country. As old school Minnesota liberals, they have very few friends, and are there for the weather. At a local dinner spot, I actually heard people chanting “Let’s go, Brandon,” a well-known Trump code for what to do to President Biden. Our Airbnb host asked me what I thought of their governor. I told her, “Not much.” She did not seem too pleased and told me her son was in his cabinet. She went on extolling the joy and freedom of not wearing masks and Florida always being business as usual. The house across the canal was flying a Confederate flag. I had to ask someone to move away from me while I was eating outdoors, because he was puffing on a giant cigar. He seemed shocked at the request.
But, the biggest Florida eye opener was the massive rate of development. Houses and condos are going up everywhere. Here in Sonoma we are told if we build, build, build, housing prices will go down. Well let me tell you, Florida proves the opposite. My sister is downsizing to a condo, in four years the home she sold doubled in price. She also says it is a price war buying frenzy for the new construction, with homes going well over the asking price.
My brother-in-law told me that part of the reason for downsizing their abode was that upkeep was just too much. In Florida it is very hot and very humid. Everything has to be cleaned obsessively, if you don’t want it to mold and rot. Over beers each night in their lovely screened porch we could hear a frog chorus, while we discussed the pros and cons of Florida living. The discussion turned to how nature would overtake the place if humans dropped their vigilance for even a short period of time.
At the Trumpian Airbnb, you could see the creeping mold encroachment, signaling that the process of decay had begun. Everywhere where humans were not obsessively cleaning and clearing we could see the vines and creatures taking over. Two thoughts entered my mind: We humans underestimate the power of nature and continue to believe that if we build, build, build it will solve all our problems.
Then on to St. John, where the ruins of old slave culture sugar cane plantations have been reclaimed by the natural world. The Island is mostly a national park. By the 1700s the island had been denuded of natural growth for sugar cane. Today, the forest is back, the sugar cane plantations are heaps of stones, covered in vines. It confirmed what I felt in Florida.