I’ll start with a simple, if blunt admission: Florida is not the type of landscape that most Contemporary Pagans would think of as beautiful, spiritual, etc. Florida, particularly Boynton Beach, is just how I remember it. A sprawling plain of concrete and canals interspersed with manufactured greenery and that ever present hint of swamp. When you do venture outside of the sprawl you are greeted with the murky quiet of the scrub pines and vast savannahs of grasslands. Lizards, amphibians, reptiles, and the usual suspects of urban wildlife are here. The heat, humidity, flatness, and lack of traditional wildlife archetypes found in Contemporary Paganism, and alienating seasonal pattern distances Florida from more traditional landscapes found in Contemporary Pagan media.
It all began with a walk. Walking is a vital part of my spiritual practice. So once I was settled and had some free time I pounded sand and took a stroll. Trodding familiar streets, I soon spotted an animal which all Floridians will recognize. An anole. Anoles are the ever present lizards of South Florida. Growing up, my family called them Critters; a term that reflected their status as curiosity, pest, and, clown. There is hardly a window sill in the state that has not been graced with these little guys doing push-ups and puffing out their bright red dewlaps for all the world to see. They seem to spend their time scampering and basking in the sun, a perfect metaphor for life in Sunny South Florida.
However what the Anoles aren’t telling humans is what they are really up to. These funny little lizards are, very territorial pest controllers. They are hunters, who feed an all matter of invertebrates. Their charming little exercise routine is a territorial display, featuring an ultrasonic screech to drive away intruders. What we’re laughing at is really anole for ” Keep off my patch!”. In addition to their abilities as hunters, anoles are one of the most adaptable lizards. These little guys adjust to changes in their environment so quickly that quantifiable shifts in their behavior and physiology appear within a single generation. Fast, territorial, reactionary, vicious, and above all adaptable, the little anole has been a boon companion in my home coming.
So…what I’m really on about here is the importance of attention to place. Sure Florida is far and away from what most European forms of Paganism would recognize as home, but is this land any less rife with land spirits? Sure maybe the land spirits here speak quickly and have a twinge of asphalt about them, but they are here and love offerings…just replace the milk with margaritas and you’ll be just fine.
You might think that a sunbeaten urban sprawl is a desert of meaning, sacredness, or natural wonder. Tell that to the stubborn hedges that have survived in their three foot wide curbside home. Tell the 100 plus year old banyan who live in the parking lot of my favorite fried food joint. Tell the iguanas who live a predators life after being abandoned as pets. Tell the raccoons in your garbage, the swamp pawed panthers, the coyotes in your alleyways. Tell the anoles.
There is no unsacred place.