Snow Birds

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Yesterday was the winter solstice. Dark and cold.  Winter was never my favorite season.  And with age (70 anyway) I seem to like the cold less and less. Several retired friends  sent their Christmas cards from Florida, the sunshine state?  At least one used the term “snow birds” to describe their exodus.  Other retired friends have sold their home and “downsized” moving into a smaller house or unit in a complex.

I think about moving; and have even thought about winters in Florida.  But?   I don’t think either will happen this year.  I’ll admit I’m a small town, traditional, slow to change kind of guy.   There are things we don’t like about 121 N Delaware and could draw up a list.  Flooding is a major drawback.  And now that we’re elevated, there is stair climbing.    But as long as we can do it; exercise is good.  And there are other issues.  But for me there is a comfort in that it has been and still is “ours.”

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Winter in Florida sounds interesting.  Some buy; others rent.  How long do you want to stay?  I’ve been thinking about it.  Obviously avoiding Philadelphia’s winter weather is a plus.  Meeting new people; new friends would be welcomed.  New scenery; places to explore; sounds like vacation.

Diane’s parents had a trailer in Briny Breezes, a bit north of Boca Raton, south of Palm Beach.  Diane visited several times with Jenny but for years I had no interest.  Finally I made the trip.  In the 1920s , Briny Breezes was a community of silver Airstream trailers.  Lots of fisherman.  In the 80s, when Smith’s wintered there, it was an incorporated town, with a community center on the beach, swimming pool, post office and a few shops nearby.  Most residents were retired “snow birds.”

I came to like Briny.  It’s been the location for several movies, “Folks,” and  “In Her Shoes.”  Check it out.  Last year Robert DiNero was filming scenes from “The Comedians” there.  Smith’s trailer was across the road from the community beach.  You could see the ocean from their trailer.  I loved the snorkeling.  There were good restaurants on the Intercoastal.  We explored Palm Beach and other towns; made trips to Miami, Key West and the Everglades.  I saw the “senior” guys gather for coffee in the morning, go fishing or hang out at the pool. Not bad I thought; I could retire here.

But I’m not ready to be a snow bird yet!  I actually like a nice snow fall.  It looks and feels good.  I’ll admit we have too much wet cold weather in the northeast but we also get some beautiful snowfalls.  Bucks County (and adjacent New Jersey) has a lot to offer.  We have so many  places to walk  (ourselves and Nala), starting behind the house on the canal.  There are dozens of farms, markets and speciality stores we enjoy.  Despite major development in much of the county; there are still one lane bridges and dirt roads.  Several days ago we took a delightful drive in upper Bucks to an Alpaca farm.   Lunch was a sandwich from Tabora Farm shared at Lake Galena.

We might find similar “explores” in Florida but those at home have a history, tradition.  Example: making apple butter, apple sauce and crisp from Solebury Orchards.  Example: buying lamb chops from Fairview farm in Pineville where I worked summers in the 1970s.  Example: a special dinner on a crisp night at Hamilton’s Grill in Lambertville.

In addition there are restaurants, historic sites, museums, theatres, and shops in Philadelphia and the surrounding region that are part of our life.  We even enjoy a beach trip to the Jersey shore in fall or winter.  Showy owls are visiting Island Beach State Park in the winter.

Owl on Shell Beach, Shelter Island, New York.

Most important are friends and relatives who live in the area.   Particularly our grand kids — Eli and Viv.  We want to be around as they grow up.  Last week we took them to “Annie” at the Walnut Street theatre.  In early January we will go to the Arden to see Peter Pan; probably have lunch in Old City and buy chocolate at Shane’s.  Christmas dinner will be at our house with them.  They join us on winter walks and there are usually a few “sleep overs” when mom and dad go out to dinner.  Retired or even three months in Florida seems too long.  We’d miss them.  At least for the next few, maybe ten years?

Despite my current skepticism about moving soon and retiring or wintering in Florida,  my attitude may change.  We do need to get rid of stuff — harder for me than Diane.  And we should consider, maybe look at possible places in the area.  Where would we like to live?   A project for 2018!

For the immediate, I’ll enjoy my afternoons with a glass of wine and book in front of the Vermont castings.  Keeping the home fire burning.

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Transition

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Several days ago I finished six weeks of daily hyperbaric oxygen treatment in the hope of mending some of the radiation damaged tissue which led to the fistula that  in two years has not totally healed. Previously I’d been hospitalized for 10 days and had weeks of recovery.  Days, weeks, months — to long with medical issues defining my days.  I feel liberated.  I don’t know if there was any healing from the hyperbaric treatments but my psychological state has been lifted.

I made a list of old and new projects, things I want or need to do.  I’ve begun a return to my three prong schedule — daily routines and house keeping, retirement and house projects, relaxation and field trips. After the “get up and together” routine, I enjoy a breakfast– probably my favorite meal.   I’m hoping despite the cold that I will take a daily canal walk, about an hour.  Some will be with the new pup, Nala.  She is a friendly walker.

Winter potential projects range from fixing Jenny’s doll house for Viv, digitizing slides, organizing closets and drawers, “getting rid of stuff,” cleaning and painting the balcony, sanding and varnishing kitchen floors (not me but a contractor).  I want to experiment more with cooking, listen to more music, continue to read and re-read books, write and get back to photography.  Buying a new Nikon is still on the list.

For six weeks there has been no travel and few field trips. We did take take Eli and Viv to see “Annie,” had lunch out a few times, and a trip to Terrain to buy our Christmas tree, but that was about it.  Change needed.  Yesterday we took a beautiful back road ride to Harley Hill Alpaca Farm in Quakertown. Bought gloves and insoles for walking, a few gifts. Also learned quite a bit about alpacas.  Buy several, sell fur, and get a tax deduction.    Stopped at Peace Valley to walk Nala and enjoy a Tabora Farm turkey club with real farm bacon.  Diane stopped in the Lavendar shop.

Recently finished reading “Philadelphia: finding the hidden city.”  The authors have a website and sponsor “hidden city” explores.  I’ve done a few.  Buildings from the past, some in ruins, others being revitalized or reused.  Always exploring the layers of history.  My kind of thinking.  I’m hoping to return to my weekly or maybe bi-weekly serendipitous explores in Philadelphia.  I had hoped to add New York City but that may need to wait a bit.

For an overnight, I’m looking at a B and B with fireplaces in Chestertown, MD — maybe in January.  I just finished Frances Mayes, “Bella Tuscany” and Julia Child’s memoir of her years in France.  Could I handle a major trip in 2018?   I can dream.

I’ve accepted that I’m slower.  Everything seems to take longer.  This transition will be no different.  The wood stove will help.  By mid-afternoon, I’m ready to light the fire.  It’s glow and warmth spreads.  So much seems possible.

 

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