This post by our friend and brilliant writer, Kendall Sussman, encourages us to find our center in the places that bring us home in our hearts. Thanks, Kendall, for inviting us into that place for you. We hope to feature Kendall’s writings in the feature, so look for her signature style here!
Lake Placid, Florida
Florida is home to Orlando and Miami, the sleek, cultivated, fast-paced, neon, thrill-seeking meccas. It also boasts of astrophysicists sending shuttles into space and power-house universities with Division 1 sports and sprawling research facilities. But there is a small-town side of Florida, a string of quiet towns on fresh water lakes that measure time in less sophisticated ways, like orange crops, fishing cycles and rainy seasons.
One of these, Lake Placid, is what I call home. The little town on Highway 27 calls itself the calladium capital of the world and advertises a mural display downtown. While those claims are fun, and the murals provide a great photo op, the area’s appeal is simpler to me.
Lake days are fishing in the weeds of the black hole, slurping watermelon slices, paddle boarding, sleeping in the sun, and hanging on through wild tube rides all cut short by the faithful afternoon weather–riotous thunderstorms quieted by unbelievable sunsets.
The swing chair in the old oak tree is where I process life, mentally sorting and tallying the weeks gone by and the words that wrestle in my head. At first glance, the lake is quiet, but if you sit long enough, the wildlife appears: heron, turtles, and egrets waiting for brim at the end of the dock, ducklings hiding in the weeds, and sometimes even an otter couple sunbathing on old boards and rolling into the water.
I can’t give dates or facts of my history there, because the lake to me is a kaleidoscope, some things stay the same, some disappear so quickly you wonder if they were merely a shadow and some intensify like a zoom lens. I remember the year when the water was so high you could walk off the dock and it brought an alligator to our weeds. Or the year the oak tree lost its Spanish moss in the hurricane. I can picture my grandfather riding his golf cart across the back lot picking mangos and avocados, but that blurs a little when I see my father approach in the same cart with a handful of key limes.
As much as a big city might offer me excitement and cultural depth, I need my small town visits to sift through it all and plait together what I keep.