Looking up, I see a gecko darting across the pavement. A plane’s engine drones in the sky as leaves rustle in the shrubs surrounding my lanai. In the distance, I hear a persistent chirping punctuated by the steady caw of a crow. Women’s voices drift in from the street where they are walking tiny dogs on leashes.
Another morning had dawned, cooler than the last, yet wonderfully warm when compared to the arctic blast that hit my Indiana home last night. Even though I have spent sixty winters in the north, the caress of Florida sunshine makes them all seem strangely surreal, like something I read about in a novel.
When I was a girl, there were a few couples from my rural community who had made the annual trek to Florida. My parents never said anything negative about this practice, but somehow I grew up thinking that people who went South in the winter were privileged. Regular farm families like ours didn’t usually go, but implement dealer and his wife did. Dad seemed to think it was okay for people for people to winter in warmer climates if they had weak hearts or were recovering from diseases. But it didn’t seem to be something that people like us did.
When I was working, it would have been impossible to take off two months in the winter. Telecommuting was not an option for me, a university professor who began her career at a time when instruction occurred in the classroom, not online. Even after online teaching came into vogue, I felt tied to the campus year round, and I told myself that I enjoyed the change of seasons. I like knitting with wool, and drinking hot chocolate from my snowflake mug. But I wasn’t being completely honest with myself. It turns out that I really like sunshine and being outdoors!
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to simplify, something that’s a lot easier to do when you’re traveling light. As a part-timer in Florida, I’m not surrounded by things that need to be done…to the house, the yard, or the pets. It’s easier to give myself permission to savor the coffee, read with abandon, or simply soak up the sunshine. Let me assure you, this is a major accomplishment for someone as steeped in the Puritan work ethic as I am. I’ve never been comfortable doing nothing (which is why my hands are usually busy knitting if they are not needed for some other purpose). Back home I often try to multitask (don’t ask me about knitting while walking on the treadmill!), but here it is much easier to focus on one thing at a time.
Almost every day I am reminded of the five months I spent in Vietnam as a Fulbright scholar. Like my time in that tropical setting, I have settled into a comfortable daily routine, one that includes healthy meals (rice, fish, vegetables, fruits, and peanuts), daily walks, quiet time for reading, and a feeling of contentment that comes from a daily dose of sunshine. The food seems to taste better, but that’s probably because I am more aware of it. Each time I take a walk, even though I take the same route, I see something new, whether it is a shell, a cat darting across the lawn, or a cluster of seemingly out-of-place pine cones in someone’s front yard. I have no medical reason for being a snowbird, I think my father would approve if he knew how happy and healthy I feel.