I hear from friends and relatives up North that the first signs of Spring are now appearing. I can remember how as a boy growing up in New Jersey how much I loved this time of year. Now that I have lived in South Florida for more than forty years, I almost consider myself a Floridian. I wonder how I survived back then.
When April finally arrived and the cold, wintry days were in the past, I felt as if my body could finally thaw out. The earliest indicators of the new season were the buds of crocuses, hyacinths, daffodils and tulips that broke through the frozen dirt. In order to know exactly where to watch at the end of March, I used to plant some new bulbs every Fall. Sometimes this new growth would get covered over by a light dusting of snow from an early April snowstorm. Still, these hardy buds would continue to push through towards the sun and by mid-April, I could see daily progress, with a reassurance that winter was finally gone.
I can also remember asking my parents to come outdoors to see the daily progress. Every year, we would discuss our plans for what we would plant in the back corner of our backyard. The yearly trip to the garden supply store was a ritual where I could choose the seed packets for the flowers and vegetables along with the small tomato plants that I would eventually transplant into the outdoor garden. Some of my earliest memories as a child are from when I grew so many carrots and tomatoes that I was able to fill up my red wagon with my harvest to sell to the neighbors.
Now that I live in Florida, we have a completely different frame of reference. We may not have the typical “four seasons” of the North, but we can certainly tell the subtle differences from one month to the next. In this part of South Florida, it is rare that it ever gets really cold. When it goes below 60° F, you hear all of us former Northerners complaining. There’s a saying that “cold is when you can’t send your kids out barefoot to get the newspaper from the driveway.”
When I think it’s cold, my wife tells me to enjoy it. She reminds me that within a few months, the heat and the humidity will be back with a vengeance for our June-to-December rainy season. That’s when we have to adjust our morning walk to close to sunrise because it gets uncomfortably hot by 9 a.m.
Recently, we had what we would call a “cold snap” at the end of March when the temperatures “plummeted” to the high 40s. You would have thought it was the Arctic the way we were dressed for our morning walk. Yes, full winter coat with many layers underneath, gloves and a cashmere hat covering our tender ears. Our neighbor with whom we walk and who comes from Maine had a good laugh seeing us all bundled up.
Where we live, our earliest signs of Spring include some of the flowering trees such as the yellow and purple tabebuias and the jacarandas.
The mango trees which were in full bloom in February now have some early small fruits. The frangipane tree’s bare branches now have some buds and even some early yellow flowers.
On my back patio, my orchid collection is almost in full bloom. The colder days of January and February stimulated their growth and now we are seeing the results of our careful feeding and watering. Now I have an abundance of beautiful white, yellow, pink and purple blooms.
The bird population on our backyard lake is now in full swing. The Egyptian geese are honking like crazy performing their typical mating rituals. We even saw a bright red cardinal, a rare occurrence in our backyard.
Some of the iguanas are now displaying their bright green mating colors.
I’m very thankful to live in Florida. It’s a perfect place for someone like me who never tolerated the cold weather. Because we love to walk and kayak year-round, I am glad that I made the decision to move here over 40 years ago.
Although we don’t have any interesting mountains where we can go hiking, we do appreciate the seasonal changes of the flowers and trees as well as the daily wildlife show coming from living on a large lake. For sure, we’re never bored!