Florida…its seems to be on the mind of many in the Midwest. Seniors of all types, snowbirds and spring-breakers, escape to its ever sunny and bright climate to wash away the grime and grit that is winter. As they soak in the 60° of separation, what they fail to realize is the Floridians around them wearing North Face jackets and those hats with the ear flaps (y’know…like Ralphie from a Christmas Story?). To Floridians winter is also an unbearable season in which swimsuits are exchanged for sweaters and windows are shut for the season. They gawk at the Northerners who come for a week or three months and audaciously dress as if there were a heat wave.
Being in Florida thinned my blood, made me less able to handle the extreme temps of Chicago and the deep snow of Northwest Indiana (lake effect is a feared word). After being picked up that morning the icy blast of a blisteringly cold wind had chilled me to and through the bone. I sat in the back of the car wondering why I would come back home to this slop. The car ride was awash of small talk and news radio as we whipped down the Kennedy towards the Loop and eventually to the Dan Ryan. I stared out of the window at the salt stained cars and the piles of gray snow that seemed to be exuding from the concrete embankment. Who could love this? I sunk further into my sweatshirt and jacket and all but curled into a ball in the back of the Ford Escort.
It was in that somber ebb that a reminder of all that is winter washed over me. The salt-licked brick buildings and skyless clouds whipped past my eyes, as did the resurging reassurance that winter brings. Life moves on, even after the coldest of days, life trudges towards Spring.
Florida may have its days of sub-70 weather but it never hibernates, never shuts down to recharge. There are no hearty meals and cherry-red cheeks; no nights of silent snowfall covering the earth in muted beauty. Something was missing from curling up with the one you love to a good movie, bowl of popcorn, and a fire massaging the winter blues from achy shoulders and numb noses. Winter isn’t a trial to be suffered, but a necessary player in our internal cycle of rebirth.
Six months later I moved back to the city. Back to the winter wasteland so many try to escape. But what I found is that if you grow up in this yearly drudgery of shoveling and scraping, you might find it very hard to escape it. You can move where you like but it doesn’t go away. It is a part of you: a need to reset, to rest, to hibernate, to thicken the blood so that you can deal with the extremes.
The Snowman by Wallace Stevens
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.