Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Snowbirds miss the Heat and with it, the Beauty

Poinciana Tree, ferny leaves, fiery red blooms
Every time our friends go back up North to their abandoned winter homes, our neighborhood turns into a ghost town. While they’re gone (approximately six months), I’m reminded of how much they all miss.

Sure it’s hot down here, but the daily rains banish our muggy temperatures and give us brief relief. Yes, it’s uncomfortably hot outside, but so is Indiana, Washington D.C., Georgia, Maryland, New York, and many other states in the summer.

What are these part-time residents missing out on? The poinciana trees are at their prime! Their glorious orange-red florets cascade into pompoms down every branch. They are joined by white sweet-smelling jasmine and multi-colored hibiscus and Mexican petunias.

Even better, the restaurants are only half-filled; no standing in line for a table. The stores are competing with 70% off sales and the cafes have reduced price Happy Hours. The added attention we get in the way of service allows us to eat out more often. Movie theaters are never sold out. There is plenty of parking at the Malls.

I’m not bragging. I’m elated that the traffic is less and that the beaches take half the time to get to and enjoy. We have Fort Myers all to ourselves, we locals. In spite of the heat, this is the time we enjoy best for all it has to offer.

Toppled tree after Hurricane Wilma.
Yes, hurricane season is upon us, but I’ll swap this over the tornadoes and floods they’re having in the Midwest. We can either evacuate to safer areas, or hunker down depending on the directives. We are seasoned Floridians. We have lived here year round for almost 13 years.

We rode out Charlie and Wilma. We were luckier than many who not only lost their electricity for several weeks, but their homes were destroyed as well. We’re far enough from the beaches to avoid flooding, and close enough to enjoy its gritty offerings when we choose.
Palm trees sometimes lost their tops.
Our neighborhood has had a few scrapes with the weather. We’ve had to replace a few lanais’ (patio cages), and a few trees, but all in all we’ve weathered the storms better than some other areas. 

Every year we make our checklist of hurricane preparedness. We purchase the bottles of water. See that the “igloos” and food coolers are clean and ready. Purchase food we can warm up on a charcoal grill if the electricity is down. We’re pros! We’re survivors.

A banyan tree was almost totally destroyed.
Photo taken 13 years ago in Pine Island.

Sometimes we fly away to see friends and family with the hopes of cooling off. But then we discover their homes are less comfortable than our own because they refuse to use their air conditioning system. They’ve just come through a brutal cold winter, and the heat is too precious to waste.

We do the same in the winter. A good month is when we’ve braved the 45-55 degree weather outside and didn’t turn on the thermostat.

Our blood has grown thinner. Our teeth chatter when it gets below 60. But when the August sunshine reaches 99 or above, we’re still going strong!

Several years later, I turned that photo into an oil painting.