Moving to Florida

When people say, “Why are you moving to Florida?” I don’t have an easy answer. A job? Not really. Retirement? Not that either. An ocean, I want to say, and the color green outside my windows. The weight of the air at sea level. Tall birds. 

A few facts and figures:

Albuquerque, New Mexico sits 35.0844 degrees North of the equator; Vero Beach, Florida: 27.6386. I’m moving closer to the fat middle of the planet, a more direct view of the sun.

I’m also moving closer to Greenwich, England (Albuquerque latitude: 106.6504 West, Vero Beach: 80.3873 W). From oldest to youngest, my siblings live at 79.9959, 70.8606, and 82.5863. In other words, we’ll all be in the same time zone now.

I’m also moving a little further from the sky. Depending on where you measure, Albuquerque, NM sits at an altitude of 5,312 feet. My new town clocks in at 13. Maybe I’m moving to Florida because it has a little more oxygen in the air.

I’m moving to Florida

because living in Albuquerque for thirty years was an accident. I moved here when I was twenty-four because I thought it would be fun to see the Southwest. The woman sitting next to me on the plane said, “If you wear out a pair of shoes, you’ll never leave.”

For thirty years she was right. I don’t have any of those Chicago shoes left in my closet. (Technically speaking, right now I don’t actually have a closet at all, but let’s not get hung up on that.)

When I say spending thirty years in Albuquerque was an accident, you shouldn’t think about a house fire or a car crash. You should think of a wrong turn that leads to the best strawberry shortcake you’ve ever had, or heavy traffic heading west on Montano that puts you in the right place to see the cranes fly in. You should think of a flat tire that strands you by the side of the road so you could see a murmuration of birds at play in thin air. Or the kind of accident where you fall in love and find a family and a new job and a great church and great friends and mountains and roadrunners and  green chile and tumbleweed.

Living in Albuquerque for thirty years has been that kind of accident.

I’m moving to Florida

because goatheads.

Kidding/Not kidding.

I’m moving to Florida

because when we were driving around looking at houses, I kept chanting in my head, “Rivers, Lake, Mountains, Ocean.” I was writing my autobiography, mapping the geography of my life. From Pittsburgh through Chicago to Albuquerque to Vero Beach. From the place the Allegheny and the Monongahela Rivers flow into the Ohio, to the icy rocks along Lake Michigan, to the high desert slopes of the Sandias, to this long stretch of sand flanking the Atlantic.

It’s as though I need to make sure I have all of the words. “Ask what I want, and I will sing: I want everything, everything”–some old Barbra Streisand song that’s been stuck in my head since high school.

There are other reasons.

Some ties had to loosen enough to let me go. Some ties had to grow so strong that I could leave without fear of them ever breaking. Some pieces of this landscape had to lodge themselves so deeply in me that I will always be able to see them, the way I can still see the sunset spreading through the cherry branches from the back window of the house on Marvle Valley.

Only then, it seems to me, when you’ve loved a place and its people so deeply that it hurts like a goathead to say goodbye, only then are you allowed to put on some brand new shoes and walk away.

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8 Replies to “Moving to Florida”

  1. Hi Heather,
    I really enjoyed your post in Brevity this morning. Then, curious about where in Florida you’re moving, I clicked the link to your blog and was delighted to see it’s Vero Beach! That’s where my husband and I live and we love it! You’ll love it! It’s a little gem.
    Anyway, I’m involved in the Laura (Riding) Jackson Foundation, a non-profit in Vero that you might be interested in. Among other things, we are offering six adult writers workshops, from Jan ’19 to April in various genres…check out It’s a great way to meet other writers and talk the talk. I’d love to meet you.
    Please let me know if you have any questions.
    Welcome to Vero!
    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Julie,
      What a great welcome to my new town! I’m in Cocoa Beach for the next 6 weeks or so while we wait for our house to be completed. I’m excited to learn more about the Foundation and would love to meet you once we get settled! Right now we’re making quick, occasional trips to check on the house progress while navigating caring for our 11 year old golden retriever. (Any recommendations for a good vet?) We picked VB without knowing a whole lot about it, so I’m thrilled to hear one more reason why it was a good choice! Thanks!

  2. Deeply happy for you and I hope you will be gloriously happy in Florida. Our lives take strange roads at times but the road to novelty is the best. Keep writing. So glad we met in the air.

  3. I would not miss the goatheads! Ha, ha, ha. But I will miss you!
    Have a safe journey! Someday I might do the same thing and outroot myself from beautiful New Mexico. As a matter of fact, perhaps in 4 or 5 years. I´ll let you know where I end up, but I can tell you that it will be in Spain!

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