Back in North Georgia, I knew when winter was coming. The leaves turned from green to vivid yellows, oranges and reds. Temperatures dropped steadily from hot, to warm, to cool, to frigid. Geese flying south in their V-formations were frequent sights. The scent of the air changed to the musky scent of fallen leaves, dry wood and pine needles. And each year, I would cringe at the notion of impending cold weather and mourn the loss of summer.
This year, I live in “Sunny South Florida” and the biggest indication that winter is approaching are not geese flying south but snowbirds returning from their northern summer homes. No geese, no change in the foliage, only an increase in traffic with the return of half the city’s population and shorter days.
And it’s been a strange experience. All of my life, the change back to standard time has been almost synonymous with the advent of fall and cold weather. Shorter days and earlier sunsets meant sweaters and pants initially, followed by jackets, boots and gloves. It meant Halloween, pumpkins, Thanksgiving, raking leaves and frost on the windshield in the mornings. It meant a drop in humidity, the scent of holiday foods baking and more time indoors curled up with a good book.
But that isn’t the case here. The days are still shorter, the sun sets earlier, but that’s the end of it. I’m still wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts and flip flops. While the weather is cooler than it was a couple months ago, it’s still quite comfortable. In Georgia, I would have already unpacked winter clothes and put away the shorts and t-shirts until next year. This year, I pulled a light sweater out of a box to have around in case it gets chilly of an evening. I’ve only worn it once and was teased mercilessly about it.
The arrival of fall holidays was a little bizarre this year. I’m floating happily along in this endless summer when driving through the neighborhood on my way home from work one evening, I see little kids in costumes going door to door asking for candy. Halloween? How could this be? It’s not fall yet! But sure enough, there’s a jack o’ lantern sitting on someone’s front porch, next to a bronze pelican statue. Halloween is supposed to be dark and spooky with dried leaves crunching underfoot and naked tree limbs casting eerie shadows. There just isn’t anything spooky about a palm tree lined street with blazing sunshine overhead. Which I suppose is why The Headless Horseman lives in Sleepy Hollow instead of South Beach. Even more out of sync was the sudden appearance of Christmas lights the week before Thanksgiving. Even aside from the fact that Christmas décor before Thanksgiving is absurd, it was just downright weird to be driving home from the beach with all the windows rolled down and sand still clinging to my toes and pass houses with colored lights strung up under the eaves and wrapped up the trunk of palm trees.
Thanksgiving was a new experience as well. In years past, the extra heat generated by a roasting turkey was welcome warmth. This year I had to turn up the AC to compensate for the added heat of having the oven on all day. Maybe next year we’ll take our neighbor’s advice and do it on the grill. It’s also still a little too warm for the usual fall comfort foods to be appealing. Sausage balls and pumpkin pie seem a little heavy when sitting on the patio sipping a frozen drink.
The foliage is different here. Somehow you just don’t expect the “leaves” of palm trees to turn orange and fall, drifting in piles in the corners of the yard, so no real surprise there. But it isn’t just the palm trees. None of the trees have turned colors or lost their leaves. Instead of raking leaves this year, I’m planting a garden. Tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce, cucumbers and herbs to start. Outside. And I’ll have to wear sunscreen so I don’t burn. Our mango tree is still deep green and full, the banana trees are still thriving, the roses, hibiscus, mandavilla, desert rose and that other yellow flower I’ve yet to identify are all still blooming profusely.
And yet for all of that, I’m planning my Christmas shopping list, responding to Christmas party invitations, browsing for cards and gearing up for the holidays, in between work, boat work and yard work. It doesn’t feel right to be doing this in shorts and flip flops, and it certainly doesn’t feel like December, but it sure feels good to be warm!