Dust Bowl Dance

Today, I experienced a scene more suitable to a depression-era dust bowl (or Dune) than the rainy season in Florida.

Central Florida (c) Katherine Starbird

Central Florida

My husband has been working about two hours from our house, so I took a road trip to visit his new home away from home. The drive wound through the gently rolling hills of the Central Florida Ridge and skirted the Withlacoochee Forest. Miles from any beach, the scenery took on all the flatness of coastal Florida. Sandhill pines gave way to cypress swamps and marshlands.

The air began to fill with dust. I drove past a new housing development with looming gates and signage readable by satellite. As the dust grew thicker, I switched the air conditioner to recirculate. The long straight road divided cow pastures and marshland. Within a mile, a sandstorm enveloped my truck.

Miles farther down the road, I came to the origin. Wind whipped sand from acres of bare ground into a dust cloud that spread for miles. The land looked as though it was being prepped for use as a SciFi movie set with huge tree-felling machines and bulldozers. In the distance the skeletons of half-built apartment homes stood near what remained of the woods, construction crews scurrying over them like ants.

This is what has become of my home state. First the coastline was filled in with hotels and condos, now marshes and pine forests are being converted to housing developments situated miles from any real town. I’m sure the developers will put in a ready-made “town center” to accommodate the new settlers. Those people will have no idea that Florida’s natural beauty was cleared out to build their walled and gated communities. They will lovingly decorate their new homes with items purchased from their sparkling yet generic town center, things undoubtably imported from China. The tragedy is they will miss out on what Florida used to be.

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