All posts tagged Florida

Life’s Season of Winter

Yesterday, it snowed.

Barely.

Just enough to cover our meager lawn and dust the stark trees.

Beautiful.

I think winter has a bad reputation. Of course I don’t live in Milwaukee where your lawn is covered with snow in September and you don’t see it again until March. Or April.

I lived in Florida for almost thirty years and maybe saw snow once for about fifteen minutes. You could predict the weather almost everyday–sunny and humid with an afternoon shower.

Since calling North Carolina my home almost three years ago, I hadn’t realized how much I missed the seasons. They give a kind of cadence to life.

I thought of that yesterday when I stayed home from church to care for my 95-year-old mother. We observed the white ice drift down on the front porch railing. We smiled as small birds searched for food while our wily cat watched carefully from afar.

Since becoming a farmer, winter takes on new meaning. Shorter days and cold weather prevent much in the way of crops. (Although, miraculously my chickens are still producing eggs.) I’ve gotten some much needed rest.

Because of the weather, my life slows down and gets simpler. If I can’t make it to the superstore, I open a can of soup or have a bowl of cereal.

Sure, Tom and I watched four NFL playoff games over the weekend, but for the last few months we’ve mostly been watching reruns of the fire in our new wood stove. Sometimes we drink hot coffee or sometimes we read, but often we just stare at the flames and discuss how beautiful and unique they are.

I’ve noticed during the winter I can see more. During other seasons of the year, I notice several shades of green from my bedroom windows. In winter there is some green, but mostly I see weathered trunks, and brown leaves, and intricate twigs on bare branches.

I can also see farther. In front of our house, I catch sight of two tobacco barns hidden behind our forest. If I stare into the woods I view trees I’ve never noticed. Small ones that stretch for the sun. Beyond them is a mystery of gray. I can only guess at what lies beyond.

Mom is in the winter season of her life. Most people dread it or avoid it all costs. Some even avoid those who are in winter since it reminds them of the mystery after their lives are over.

I’m beginning to embrace life’s winter season. I look at the intricate lines on Mom’s face and see time and years have worn her soft young skin away. In those creases, I see wisdom, and strength, and love.

Both our lives have slowed down out of necessity. Mom can’t walk anymore so her movement is limited to her bed, the wheelchair, and a big chair in front of the fireplace.

Often in the evening, she sits in her chair while Tom and I watch reruns of the fire. I don’t know that she can see the fire much but she feels its warmth and she is content. She has to be fed now and the food must be easy to swallow since swallowing is difficult. Her food choices are limited–simple.

Her life is simple. She has few possessions and even fewer clothes. She doesn’t need them.

I’ll sometimes ask her how her days has been. “Good,” she’ll reply.

She can also see farther. She looks back on a life filled with lots of color and she looks forward to the mysterious gray of the woods. She can see the trees better and understands their intricate designs. Mom appreciates the gnarly trunks and weathered branches.

She’s lived them.

Her winter forces me to examine mine. It compels me to slow down and enjoy the day. To understand that under the green canopy are sturdy trunks and elaborate designs that are meant to be appreciated and enjoyed.

It also reminds me that soon Mom is headed to the mystery beyond the gray.

And I’ve heard it’s spring there.

It’s just in a different place.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.” Ps. 23:4-5 (ESV)

 

 

Good Friends, Great Time

The recommended pizza place with our “dear friends.”

Middle-aged people should frequent middle-aged vacation spots and middle-aged lodgings.

We batted 1000. Meeting our Florida friends in Florida wasn’t even on our radar a few weeks ago. But unused vacation points beckoned the Gordons who beckoned us. We couldn’t turn down a free stay in Ormond Beach, Florida. Since becoming farmers, we’d hardly taken a day off, much less six.

We packed up, tucked Mom in with competent caregivers and hit the road. I’d never traveled to that part of the state so I googled it.

“Tom, it says the city is a great quiet place for middle-aged couples.”

“What?” Tom asked.

Arriving at the beachfront hotel, our friends hovered over the balcony. A smile spread across my worn face.

“We’re in luck, they have shuffleboard!” Michael grinned.

I felt as if I’d been in a dessert and reached an oasis. An oasis of friends and memories and fellowship. We walked the beach and talked. We ate “Sticky Burgers” that combined a hamburger, peanut butter, bacon and cheese on a bun at a local hangout and watched college football.

The next day, our other friends, the Brinkers, made the three-hour trek to visit for a few hours. We crowded into the apartment and laughed, snacked, and reveled in just being together. Priceless.

Tom and I haven’t made much money over the last 18 months, but I feel rich. Those friendships didn’t bloom overnight. They took years of cultivation and feeding and pruning. Now we have a beautiful strong friendship that’s endured storms and even neglect–because like a magnificent tree, it’s rooted and established.

On Monday the four of us traveled to St. Augustine.

“Oldest city in the country. How appropriate.” Tom said.

Overwhelmed with touristy venues and parking, we stopped a mailman to get a quick restaurant review.

Without hesitation he said, “To be honest, all the places around here are overpriced and the food is (expletive).”

“Gee, tell us how you really feel,” Diane added.

We ended up at a pizza place he recommended. It was near the chocolate factory we toured earlier in the day. Lots of “early birders” there, too.

The Gordons left yesterday and Tom and I spent the evening alone last night. That part is a secret.

Today we see our son and his wife at their apartment. We also meet the Grand dog, Kratos. Tomorrow we head home.

I don’t miss Florida. I miss walks on the beach, sure. Mostly, I miss my friends. I’m making new friends in North Carolina, but friendships take time.

For now, I’ll remember great times with good friends.

If I can remember.