When we moved to Florida a little over a year and a half ago, I had some concerns about the summers. I’d lived in southern Louisiana a million years ago, and the heat there was absolutely unbearable. It wasn’t just hot. It was that sticky suck-in-your-breath-and-hope-some-oxygen-gets-through kind of hot. After leaving there, I swore I’d never live in that kind of climate again.
Fast-forward about 30 years and — who knew? — here I am, living in northeast Florida. Granted, it’s not Louisiana, though from what I can tell on the map, it’s about the same latitude as my previous southern home. But here’s the difference:
We have seasons here! Granted, summer is the longest, whereas in Michigan winter is the longest. But come late fall, things cool down to occasional sweater weather, many trees lose their leaves, the deep and vivid greens fade to a duller hue, and traffic picks up. And I love it. (Well, not the traffic part). The fall brings with it the most beautiful colors in flowers and shrubbery. I have new favorites like Muhly Grass, Bouganvillea, and Bottle Brush trees. The Magnolia trees with their huge white blossoms and deep green leaves are everywhere. And where we live, outdoor activity is encouraged with beautiful walking/bicycle paths that go for miles and miles through the Florida wilderness.
We’ve been here two winters now. The first winter was so mild we were in the ocean every month, and we sort of laughed when we were told this wasn’t exactly typical. This past winter was cooler with water temps going to the low 60’s. That may have prevented us spending as much time in the ocean, but the benefits were seeing Right Whales, northern Gannets, and Florida Manatee.
Now it’s spring. And what is my very favorite part of spring is probably the bane of many Florida natives. What I thought was the Kudzu Vine is actually just a wild grape vine, but God, I love this thing! I wonder if it’s because it somehow reminds of a beautiful snow that blankets some pretty barren landscaping during northern Michigan winters. This vine dies off quickly at the first early frost. But come spring, the dull green forests start to come alive, and along with that comes the vine, eventually spreading itself over trees and brush until it looks like someone threw a brilliant green blanket over them! I’ve learned it’s not a good thing. I’ve learned that it can kill what it covers because the sun can’t get through. I don’t know too much about that. I just know I really like how it looks, and when I see that, I know that summer will soon be in full bloom. And since we’re near the Atlantic Ocean, we’re finding the heat of the northeast Florida summer is relieved by a beautiful tropical breeze that lends itself to early morning walks and late evening activities.
Yeah, we like it here. We don’t get the thousands of spring-breakers because our winter temps are moderate; that’s a good thing. And while we get plenty of snowbirds, our population doesn’t double in the winter like the southern or gulf areas. We’re more temperate here, slower and somehow calmer than any other area of Florida I’ve been. We got lucky finding this place. Thom’s always saying I should quit telling people how great it is here or we’ll end up like Naples or Lauderdale. But it’s hard not to talk about when we feel so fortunate to have found a little slice of heaven right here on earth.