I’m waiting for summer.
I’d like to say I’ve been patient, but I haven’t, and I really can’t take it anymore. If I don’t get outside and feel the sun soon I may do something I won’t regret, like move. South. As in, Belize, Honduras, or Ecuador. I really don’t care as long as it’s warm.
My parents moved to Florida when I was 7, and they were the type of people who embraced the state rather than complain about its heat or lack of good bagels. I took it a step further; I am essentially a Florida groupie. I swoon at the sight of a roadside attraction featuring a stuffed gator; ride with me through the Everglades on 41 and you’ll learn more than you ever wanted to know about the men who died building the road, gator populations, and water levels. You want to know about how we chose Tallahassee for the capital or where The Creature From the Black Lagoon was filmed? Ask me. Just be prepared for the long answer.
And don’t even get me started on our seasons. The one thing you do not want to say to me is that Florida doesn’t have seasons. Oh, we have seasons. You just have to know what to look for.
Fall starts around October, although this year it arrived late. The only way you can tell it’s fall is that you can turn off the air conditioning and leave your windows open. Trees in Florida don’t lose their leaves in fall, so don’t go by that. Instead, look at all the trees heavy with citrus, because it takes a little chill in the air for oranges to taste the way we want them to taste. The streets are largely bare of tourists, and you might bring a sweatshirt with you at night. Floridians- true Floridians- groan, because we know what’s next and, as a people, we suck at it:
Winter generally starts sometime in December, although this year it came a little early. The sun sets early, you can start to get decent greens in the grocery store, and the citrus is abundant. It’s chilly enough in December to think about Christmas, although some years shorts on Christmas Day isn’t unheard of. The Gulf and bay waters are as clear as they get (too cold for algae) and the sunsets are at their most brilliant and the afterglow lasts the longest. Only problem is that none of us want to be outside to witness either. Eventually, though, the days start to stretch out a little more, and we know what’s next:
Spring is strawberry season, and it usually starts a few weeks before today. By the time the state fair closes, it’s generally warm enough to think about shorts, even if you don’t actually wear them. Strawberries are in fruit, and they are big, juicy, and on sale at Publix. In Florida, many of our trees change leaves now, so you’ll see more blooms on the streets and in yards than you do in the fall. The natives, to steal a phrase, are restless. To many of us, this isn’t warm enough, but it makes us itch for the coming heat wave of…
Hot. That’s all you need to know. Summer is hot in Florida and if you don’t live along the coast, you’re screwed. From about April through September we have these glorious days that sparkle with sunshine on hot pavement and lukewarm saltwater that sticks to our hair and seeps into our clothes. We move slower. We stare at sunsets and love the twilight that follows. Warm breezes at night follow the brilliant streaks of orange and yellow that light the sky after sunset, a bold change from the pinks and purples of winter. Summer in Florida is glorious, in spite of and because of the heat that presses against your skin and slows you down and makes you see, really see, the green, lush vegetation and feel the moist air of the subtropics. In the summer you can feel the state breathing, a deep, belly breath that starts in its limestone core and pushes out slowly, each exhalation a tiny wave rolling out to sea, carrying crabs, starfish, and sand along with it. The summer has a slow, sensuous rhythm that pulses through paradise with deliberate, meandering pace. If winter is big bands and classical music, summer is sambas and salsas and Motown and blues.
And it isn’t here soon enough for me. I can taste it in the air some days, and I know it’s coming, although for now I’m stuck with this bitter cold of winter that eclipsed the start of our spring. I hope we go straight through; I don’t need a spring this year if I can have the feeling in my toes back anytime soon.
It’s not just that I hate the cold, although I do. It’s that I am like a child the night before going to Disney World: all wiggles in my seat, anticipating all the things I can do when we finally get there. I’ll take my new kayak out to watch the sunset at Fort DeSoto; I can ride my bike along the beach again. I can start swimming at the city pool again. I’ll be able to dip in the water, fish at sunset, walk along the beach… the possibilities are endless, and I am doing the equivalent of a four-year-old child’s pee-pee dance, waiting to open my front door one morning and smell the summer air.
When almost everything you love involves the outdoors, winter is like a horrible punishment from a parent. And a particularly
harsh winter is like a Brothers Grimm fairy tale with a particularly wicked stepmother. All I want is to be outside and feel the sun on my face and the warm breeze through hair that becomes an impossible mass of curly humidity. I want to taste salt on my tongue. I want to be hot and sweaty from walking Calypso. I want to be immersed in artificial air conditioning after a day on a boat, dodging a sunburn with hats and gallons and gallons of sunscreen. I want to be hot at 8 a.m. and still hot when the sun goes down almost 13 hours later. I want to feel alive in the heat.
I want to be outside.