Where Summer Is Appreciated

I have lived in South Florida for twenty-five years (with a few short interludes elsewhere). Florida, where there are only two seasons: Hurricane and So-Hot-Hell-Would-Be-a-Reprieve. If we’re lucky we get a few really nice days in January, but if you plan to step outside between now and September you’ll need a change of clothes by the time you get to the car.

At least there’s no state income tax…

Yesterday I got on a plane to visit family in New England. Son wanted me to pack his mittens, as he was expecting the weather to be the same as it was the last time we visited. We arrived late last night in the afterglow of a summer rain and didn’t make it to my sister’s house until about 12:30 am.

We woke today to some very glorious weather. Yesterday was my nephew’s last day of school, and I wanted to make it really fun. We went to a brand new park with a terrific concept: “A place to play for every child of every ability…” and did a bunch of other things fun for an almost four-year-old and an almost nine-year-old. At lunch I overheard my nephew say to himself, “This is a really good day!”

And I noticed something interesting. Everyone was in a terrific mood. Everywhere we went sales clerks and patrons and passerby were smiling, polite, and cheery. These people were enjoying the perfect day perhaps more than I. They wait all year to wear shorts instead of overcoats, and to sit outside on their porches and watch their kids run through the sprinklers. They wait for their ice cream stores to open, for their pools to be warm enough not to cause hypothermia, to see a shade of green other than the dark forest green of an evergreen.

As we drove around this lovely New England town with the windows down, wildflowers of every color of the rainbow decorating mile upon mile of development-less acreage, each kid licking a lollipop given by the purveyors of the local car wash, I reveled in the perfect 73 degree, blue-skied, perfect summer day. I must have passed fifteen garden centers, each ablaze with the beautiful colors of lilacs and hydrangea and sunflowers instead of the mums, wreaths and Christmas trees I saw on my last visit. And they were full of smiling, happy people.

These people appreciate summer.

I appreciate a gorgeous day, but it’s been twenty-five years since I truly appreciated summer.

Thanks, people of New England, for reminding me how glorious it could be.

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Perfect Day at the Beach

I am not one to sit for hours in the hot sun on a crowded beach. I grew up in New Jersey and spent lots of time at the beach, but once childhood passed I’d be bored stiff whenever I joined my friends for a day of tanning (or burning, as fate and my fair skin dictated). I’ve lived in Florida for twenty-five years and I doubt I’ve been to the beach on a typical beach day ten times.

But invite me to the beach at night, or on a windy, overcast or cold day and I’m there in a heartbeat. I love it. I love the solitude, the roaring surf, the endless sky. I love how connected to the earth, and to G-d I feel. I love that it seems like I’m sharing a special secret with whomever I’m with, even if I’m alone.

Today was a perfect beach day, at least to me. I knew the weather would keep the crowds away. Son and I arrived and found a parking place easily. The sky was mostly overcast, and the winds were blowing pretty strongly. The surfers were in their glory, enjoying the windy day’s rougher seas.

Son and I walked, and played in the sand, and climbed on the rocks. We saw birds and jellyfish and lifeguards. We ate sand (three-year-olds like to throw it, don’t you know) and held hands and buried each other’s feet.

What could be more perfect that that?

Weathering Storms

It’s interesting being under a tornado watch.

We don’t normally have tornadoes here. The occasional waterspout, sure. And very occasionally hurricanes throw off a tornado or two, but being under a tornado watch is very, very rare.

After 24 years in Florida I’m used to hurricanes. With hurricanes we have days to prepare. We can buy supplies, protect our homes with shutters or boards or tape. We can get out of town if we choose, or at the very least head inland.

But with tornadoes there’s almost no warning. They go where they want to go, no rhyme nor reason. The meteorologists can tell us that conditions are ripe for tornadoes, but they can’t tell us with much advance notice whether one is actually coming – let alone who’s in the path.

So there’s really no way to prepare, other than to keep the television on, and to know where inside our home to head if things look ominous. I’ve watched The Wizard of Oz. Just head to the root cellar or basement, right?

But this ain’t Kansas. There is no basement. There’s certainly no root cellar. We’re built on the Everglades, for goodness sake.

So, we’d head to the bathroom under the stairs. The stair structure and plumbing make it the safest place in the house. But that doesn’t do us a whole lot of good if the tornado takes the entire house, does it?

Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts.

So, my son is sleeping upstairs in his bed, and I sit here, keeping vigil. And thinking.

Thinking about how much life is affected by the weather. And how much life is like the weather. Thinking about how we think we have control of everything in our lives, but we really do not. Thinking about how sometimes we have lots of time to prepare to weather the storms life throws at us, and sometimes we do not. And thinking about the weathermen in our lives – the doctors, financial planners, lawyers and teachers – who try to steer us away from danger and help us along the way.

But the bottom line is that we’re all responsible for our own safety. I can’t control everything, but if I know a hurricane is coming and I leave my home unprotected and go stand out in the middle of the street, well, I shouldn’t be surprised when the storm knocks me on my ass.

And if I see a tornado coming, I’ll get us to the safest place and duck.

Then, after the storm is over, I’ll hopefully get up and brush off the debris. Then I’ll survey the damage and rebuild. Or move on.

Sounds like an emergency plan to me.

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