I’ve never been a great fan of winter.
Growing up in New Jersey, I was always uncomfortable in the cold. Growing up in a poorly insulated house, I can remember complaining to my parents that I just couldn’t warm up. On cold days, I would seek refuge in the cold basement where I would lean against the oil furnace which helped me manage to get through the cold, dreary months.
At the age of 30, I jumped at the opportunity to relocate in Florida. I can still remember the day it happened. With two infants already in their car seats in the middle of a snowstorm, the oldest had a particularly leaky diaper blowout. After going back inside to change the diaper, we had one of those “What are we doing here?” moments. The next day, when I found an advertisement for a position in a newly created clinic in West Palm Beach, I knew we had to make the right decision.
The process of getting used to the tropical climate didn’t take me long at all. The summer we moved down to Florida was an exceptionally rainy one. That’s where we learned how the torrential downpours can be seen in the distance.
It can be sunny where you are, but down the road as you see the bright headlights coming towards you, you know you are heading into a storm. Sometimes the rainfall can be so heavy that your windshield wipers can’t even keep up with the volume and many people pull off to the side of the road to wait it out. It’s the Florida version of blizzard conditions.
As the “winter” approached, we began to experience the cooler mornings when the temperature actually went down into the 50s. When I realized I was complaining about the cold, I knew I had adjusted to Florida. My blood was properly “thinned,” as they say here to indicate that you had finally made the transition and you have the right to complain about feeling cold when the high temperature for the day doesn’t even reach 70 degrees.
Now that I have been living here for more than 40 years, I am considered almost a native. On the days when the morning temperatures are down into the 50s and rarely even into the 40s, we bring out our winter sweaters, coats, gloves and scarves. We laugh when look at ourselves, dressed in multiple layers of winter warmth and our Canadian neighbors pass us by jogging in their shorts. We’re freezing and they’re loving the heat wave.
There are some days that my hands and feet just don’t warm up. I wear foot warmers to sleep comfortably and socks most of the time to deal with the cold tile floors. Occasionally my hands remain cold, despite washing them repeatedly in warm water. I remember when I was working as a pediatrician, I had to apologize before examining a patient’s warm abdomen or they would jump off the exam table. I added silly phrases like “cold hands, warm heart” to my apology.
My outdoor plants at this time of year, however, are loving the cooler weather. They are going through a big growth spurt during this season, producing new leaves and flowers.
My collection of orchids that I have accumulated over the years, however, look pathetic. Their last blooms fell off at least four or five months ago, leaving the plants with non-descript nakedness. With scheduled feedings and a careful avoidance of fatal over-watering, I have managed to keep them alive year after year.
While several of my Christmas cactus plants are in full bloom,
the adjacent orchids have been biding their time until the simple looking plants start to produce new shoots. Almost every day for the past week, I have been watching for new buds on one plant after another. I get so excited when these new shoots appear.
I feel a sense of renewed optimism when I see the first sign of growth. I know that they will turn into a stalk of 15-20 delicate flowers with such amazing detail and beauty within a few months.
We often read that it nourishes your soul to express gratitude early in the morning for the simplest things in life.
When I give thanks daily for the warm December mornings and for the early signs of growth on my beloved orchids, you know that I’m thrilled to be living here in Florida.