Do you remember the Charles Russell painting, “Waiting for a Chinook?” For those who don’t, it is a painting of an emaciated steer, standing in snow, waiting for a warm wind, with a nearby wolf staring hungrily at him.
At the end of a long hot summer, I have often thought of myself as the antithesis of Russell’s steer. I picture myself in a bathing suit, with sweat dripping off of my face, a drink in hand, gazing to the north waiting for a cold front.
I have always had a thing about winter. I love the cool, crisp days, the smell of the dry air, forest green pine needles against a deep blue sky and a glass of wine in front of a blazing fire. When I first met my sweet Ohio wife, I would tell her how much I cared for winter and as I grumbled about the cold Dayton, Ohio weather, she would remind me that I loved not winter but Florida winters.
During the eight months that Terri and I dated long distance, she in Ohio and I in Florida, I would tell her about the perfect Florida winters: when the days were cool, nights made for sleeping and weather not being a factor in planning your activities. She believed me and when she moved to Florida, she left her warmest clothes behind. Her first Christmas she learned that sometimes Florida weather can be brutal.
The temperature in the upper 50’s, Terri wore a dress with a light jacket to the Christmas Eve service. When we exited the church, there was a howling northwest wind and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees. The following morning the thermometer registered 9 degrees and never climbed out of the 20’s. I swore to her it was an unusual—if not historic—freeze that would seldom be repeated. She believed me, until her sister Karen and her family came to visit the next Thanksgiving.
When Karen asked what clothes they should bring, confident of good weather, I told her we would spend time at our house on the river in Crystal River and on our boat and to bring warm weather clothes. Thanksgiving day was rainy and cold: in fact, 10 degrees colder than in Dayton. I was frantically looking for jackets and sweatshirts that would fit pre-teen children; Terri’s sister was dressed in a pair of Terri’s jeans and sweater and her husband Don was wearing a flannel shirt and jacket that belonged to me. Don pointedly told me that he couldn’t wait to get back to Ohio where it was warm. The next year I learned about real winter.
We arrived at Terri’s sister’s home with the sun setting and the thermometer hovering just above zero. Terri didn’t want to leave our dog at home, so Foxy, our Fox Terrier, made the drive with us. As we opened the car door, intent on finding the nearest tree, Foxy jumped out onto the snow-covered driveway and immediately refused to move. When I tried to coax him to follow me he gave me that “I belong to the dumbest humans in the world” look and resolutely sat down in the snow. We solved the problem by carrying him into the dirt floor barn that would become his private privy for the duration of our stay.
That night Foxy, Terri and I slept in a cabin located about 100 yards from Terri’s family home. With heat only from a small electric heater, we fixed a “nest” on the floor for the dog and wearing sweat suits, socks and knit hats, Terri and I crawled into bed.
We were awakened from a sound sleep by a dog desperate to visit the dirt floor barn. I rolled out of the warm bed, put on my shoes and with Foxy in my arms trudged to the barn and then back to the cabin. It was an experience that deepened my antipathy for northern and increased my appreciation of Florida winters. That middle of the night journey also provided me with an insight into how smart a dog can be.
After a fitful, frigid night’s sleep, when I awoke the next morning I felt something cold and wet pressed against my neck. Anxious to find out what it could be, I turned and ended up with my and Foxy’s noses pressed tightly together. Obviously, he had concluded that it made no sense to sleep on the floor when you could jump into a warm bed and snuggle between your two people.
Every season has its blessings: the warmth of summer, the brilliant colors of fall, the crisp cold days of winter, the flowers of spring, the impetuosity of youth, the ambition of the middle years and the wisdom of age. Every time is different; every time is good and every time is bad; every time is what it is. Beyond our ability to change or forecast, the seasons roll by: frustrating in their harshness; sobering in their reality; delightful in their differences and fulfilling in their changes.
The Fifth Season By C.A. Schlea
“In the spring of life,
In the flower of youth,
Everything is bright and new.
In the summer of life,
Time of growth and change,
Each day brings new dreams to pursue.
In the autumn of life,
There’s a settling down —
Contentment and sureness in what we do.
In the winter of life,
Comes peace and wisdom,
Time to relax and reminisce, too.” –