I recently saw a cartoon of a calendar for Florida. The seasons were Bearable, Hell and Total Hell. They referred to late fall to early spring, summer and early fall, and August respectively. My family moved from central Pennsylvania to Orlando in August, 1991. Hell, total hell. The highs in PA had been in the mid 80s, while the thermometer down here consistently read 94-96 degrees. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would voluntarily move to Florida until Thanksgiving came around. A cold front passed through the night before, and the air was crisp and cool on the day of. The humidity dropped too, and for the next four months I woke up in the morning dry and comfortable instead of basting in my sweat.
I’ve been here for 25 years and have gotten used to the oddities of the Florida climate such as maple trees shedding leaves in March while simultaneously budding. Trees overloaded with ripe citrus at Christmas and pollen allergies in February no longer surprise me. Mowing the lawn from March to November no longer strikes me as an unreasonable burden. But the seasons still don’t feel right.
Northerners grow accustomed to the passage of Time marked out by the metronome of distinct seasons. Years pass by in an orderly parade. And each season carries its own emotional tone. Spring releases weary sufferers from cold and gloom into a carnival of warmth and color. Summer is a long celebration of sun worship, an extended opportunity for outdoor revels. Fall starts as a welcome relief from August’s heat, but ends on a down note as the trees shed leaves, the sky turns somber, and the colors of the landscape fade and darken to brown, gray and black. Nature slowly dies, and once winter truly arrives the long, cold, dark vigil begins. Many sink into deep depressions come February. The yearly cycle brings change and suffering, but its consistency provides certainty in the form of a familiar ritual of progression.
In Florida there really isn’t a spring. Bushes and trees bud and blossom at their own pace year round. Time slides by almost unmarked by any dramatic changes in the landscape. One intensely hot and bright day drifts into another from March to October. And time appears to stand still when cool air finally filters down from Canada in November. Days of blue skies and golden light follow one another in a monotonous procession until the first heat wave creeps up from the Caribbean in March.
I’ve learned to mark the passing of years less by seasons and more by the creaking of my joints and the thickening of my waist. The fat pouches on the sides of my jaw and wrinkles on my forehead tell me that Florida and its seasons are liars. My bathroom mirror is my reality check if I choose to look in it. (I’m starting to hate that bastard.)
And perhaps that’s the attraction that brings retirees from Ontario and the Midwest down here. It must be a comfort, when the end grows ever near, to live in a world where time slows down and sometimes stops. The rushing by of a limited supply of years may seem less relentless in a land where things change slightly for better or worse, but nothing really seems to happen.