Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Miami's Hills

To speak of Miami and hills seems an oxymoron—there are no natural hills in Miami. The only way to achieve elevation in Miami, short of flying, is to spend time in a high-rise. There are many to choose from and quite a few along the coast, with spectacular views of the water. As a New Englander, I miss the rise and fall of the land when I'm in Miami, but I compensate by living on the eleventh floor of a high-rise. In Miami, high-rises are the next best thing to hills.

There are advantages to living in a flat landscape. I love to walk and I appreciate the endless level terrain. The flatness of the land allows winds to sweep from the Gulf of Mexico east across the Florida peninsula, clearing out pollutants and helping to make Miami a city with exceptionally clean air. The land may lack definition, but the sky here is big and beautiful, an ever-changing landscape in itself, with mountains of clouds often nestled at the horizon.

Still, living without hills can feel monotonous. Sometimes, I long for the beauty of a gentle slope or the curve of a road through a valley surrounded by hills. It's then that I most appreciate my apartment aerie, where I can perch on my terrace overlooking Miami. From there, I see houses submerged in lush greenery and sailboats dotting the water. At night, I survey the lights of the city and the dark expanse of the bay. The view never fails to provide a sense of space and possibility.

From the outside, many high-rises appear hulking and out of place. I sympathize with Miami natives who wistfully remember the days when much of the coast consisted of only sand and surf and an occasional house. But I've come to appreciate the value of buildings that rise up from the flat land and, like hills, provide their residents with the gift of an elevated perspective.

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