December 27, 2010

As I type this a snowstorm is barreling up the East Coast with blizzard warnings from Philadelphia north to Maine – a scenario guaranteed to put a wrench into many peoples plans to get home after spending Christmas with loved ones. Ahh, the risk / reward of holiday travel in winter!

Was sitting on the patio tonight in my lounge pants and t-shirt nursing a Johnny Walker Red. With not a lick of a breeze stirring and temps in the mid-fifties, it was OK to fire up the tiki torches, and the new coral paint on the woodwork gave off a cheery glow against the flame. It’s taken me a long time to psychologically break loose from the New England I grew up with, but once you get used to the idea that winter in New England is what it is, and winter in the Valley of the Sun is what it is, you realize that maybe you’re too old to be dealing with snowstorms and shoveling and scraping and bundling one’s self against the bitter cold and pushing grocery carts through parking lots covered in slush.

I mean, there was a time when you just accepted winter as payback for the privilege of experiencing three other distinctly beautiful seasons (no place does the four seasons better than New England), but after a while and as you get older the winters just seem to get longer and the nicer seasons shorter. And there is nothing like the depression that sets in after the champagne is consumed and the gifts put away and you’re taking down all the Christmnas decorations knowing that you’ve still got the better part of three months of cold and snow ahead of you – the only solace being seeing the days getting longer and the promise of spring.

I remember the days of winter and snowstorms – it wasn’t all that long ago. Back when we lived on Eighteenth Street in Dracut, on a night like this I would be prepared to get up a little earlier than usual – not just because there would be shoveling to do, but the birds that regularly visited the feeder on my back porch would be hungry and looking for food. You had to get up pretty early – before first light – because the deep-eyed juncos would be the first visitors, followed shortly therafter by the tufted titmouse to get the peanuts and sunflower seeds I spread across the floor of our tiny back deck after clearing the drifted snow. The cardinals would follow shortly thereafter (we had two beautiful pairs that used to visit frequently), and they’d make their presence knows with loud “chick!”s and gobble the sunflower seeds in the feeder. By this time, the blue jays would also arrive and fill their faces with peanuts just before the sparrows, mourning doves, red-breasted grosbeaks, nuthatches, and any other stragglers would show to make a mess of the deck. What a beautiful sight and a wonderful memory!

We don’t see a lot of birds around here, though people say they’re there if you want to attract them. Of course, we have mourning doves by the bunches who come by the swimming pool every afternoon before dusk to take their drinks. There are a lot of hummingbirds out here, and some black and brown birds everyone seems to hate. We have some kind of gray bird that resembles a jay in both appearance and behavior that hangs around our lime tree, but that’s about it.

On nights like this back home the excitement of a big storm would always be tempered with the realization that from now on the scenery would change radically for the remainder of the winter. The sides of the roads and the farthest ends of parking lots would have mounds of snow that would soon turn icy and dirty from the sanders that followed the plows. There was no longer any chance of sneaking out for nine holes of golf if the temperatures hit the mid-40s or better – golf season is officially over in the northeast.

And that’s why after all this time I’ve finally come to appreciate the Arizona winters. Am I far away from my family and friends? Absolutely, and that still hurts. And there is little doubt in my mind that, if I absolutely had to, I could still suck it up and tolerate a New England winter: there is, after all, beauty to behold even in the cold and the bone chill of an icy February morning when you walk outside and the wind hits you like a 2 x 4 and the snow is crunching under your winter shoes. But Tracey and I have worked hard to create a little place of our own with a sense of color and design that feels more like the tropics than the desert southwest. And after all the Christmas decorations are taken down, we can crank up the tropical music MP3 and open the patio doors wide to enjoy the nice weather until May comes and the miserable heat starts back up again. Better to be too hot than too cold, I think.

It’s taken me a long time to accept and appreciate my surroundings for what they are, and the Johnny Walker sips easy and clean as I look up at bright pineapple lights twinkling against a tranquil mild December evening. There’s not a lick of wind, and the wind chimes all hang lifeless. But even with all the fond memories of winters past back home, right now I think this is a far better place to be right now, at this place and time, than even I could have imagined a dozen years ago when we lived back on Eighteenth Street and watched the TV coverage of the snowstorm enveloping our condo and region, and would marvel at all the birds that would visit our snowbound back deck, a lifetime ago.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:52 | Comments (4)
  1. And let’s not forget having to shovel out TWO driveways growing up in Tewksbury, Doug!

    Salem Rd. got most of the attention, but the Main St. side had the highest snow plow-induced mess ever.

    Comment by Dave Richard — December 27, 2010 @ 3:49 am

  2. Hoping all your family are safe as this looks to be the Mother of Blizzards.

    Comment by Jana — December 27, 2010 @ 5:39 am

  3. Dear Doug: Like you, we too have decided that this (Florida) is the place to spend a New England winter. While it is colder than usual here (and has been for about 3 weeks), the sun is shining brightly under a beautiful blue sky and the promise of temps in the low 70’s coming in a couple of days sounds awfully good. Also, the saying in Florida is that if you have a cold December, January will be unusually mild and I sincerely hope that’s true.
    It didn’t take us very long to appreciate Florida – I think it took maybe 30 seconds into the Weather Channels video of the first Northeast winter storm back in our first winter down here about 14 years ago. And I agree with you wholeheartedly that New England is the very best place to experience the other three seasons. Luckily, we have the best of both worlds – six months in Florida and six months in Massachusetts and we wouldn’t change it for anything! Love and Kisses from Auntie Marge and Don.

    Comment by Auntie Marge — December 27, 2010 @ 8:15 am

  4. Nice to hear from you, Auntie – hope you and Unc had a boffo Christmas in the Sunshine State. Bundle up, it’s supposed to chilly down there the next couple of days!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — December 28, 2010 @ 9:32 am

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