I have just spent last year, growing, like a Red Mangrove sapling, into the Deering Estate at Cutler’s historic harbor. My roots are entrenched. I recently accepted a marriage proposal on the Estate’s historic sea wall.
Throughout this past year of development, I have seen manatees, egrets and comorants stroll in and out of this portal to Florida’s history. I have read many of the Florida books inside the studio such as Michael Grunwald’s The Swamp and Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ autobiography. These not only ignited my course design at the University of Miami (I designed an ENG 106 course entitled, The Pursuit of Paradise, and made The Swamp required reading), but also inspired the start of a new novel. While the novel still waits for its christened title, its birth took place in the carriage house at the Deering Estate. It begins, “I was never afraid of alligators. They lived underneath and around us, their coarse skin polished by red wine hues…” The novel takes place in both Miami and the Everglades; the Big Cypress elicits its mystic history on the protagonist, shedding light on her mysterious Miccosukee past, aiming to end at catharsis and concretization of her identity.
The idea for the novel came only after I had spent some time at the Estate. Since the start of my residency, I have had two poems published, painted numerous paintings (two of which are inspired by the Everglades’ aesthetics) and displayed them for visitors at my studio. My goal to compile my Florida-landscaped poetry manuscript is nearly met. I have since restructured the collection. It will be ready to be sent out for publication at the end of next month.
In addition to my creative expansion, I have also enriched my professional development. I earned a promotion at work this past January, becoming a fulltime professor at the University of Miami. While adapting to my new position at work, I performed multiple readings at the Deering Estate, and very recently, I took part in designing as well as hosting the Literary Lounge at the Festival of the Arts 2015.
I have fortified my linkage to the Estate by allowing myself to trust in the Deering Family’s Floridian legacy. I am a Florida native. Protective of my home and self, I always wait to come out of my shell, examining the true purposes behind anyone’s use of Florida rhetoric. This topography is mine. Spoil islands, sea horses in sea grasses, the stench of a mangrove biome all produce a sense of sanctuary within me. Though I’m the daughter of exiles, I have my own homeland, and it is Florida. This past year, I have invested my time and energy into understanding the aims of the Deering Estate, as always, weary of too much promise. I have come to find that the Deering Estate is one of the few places left in Florida with uncorrupted aims of real preservation– environmental, architectural and cultural. It is Florida as it once was. It is secure and Floridian.
I look forward to my second year as an Interdisciplinary Artist at The Estate as well as the Estate’s many mango trees and mangos…