We spent the last two weeks in February on a whirlwind trip to Florida to break up the winter. We could only afford two weeks away from work, so we had to get down and back fast - five days' total - to optimize time basking in the sun. We had to keep expenses down, so we drove our hybrid Honda, at 44 mpg, and stayed with friends when we could. We spent the bulk of our time at friends' in Bonita Springs, just below Naples. There, we swam in the neighborhood pool, biked around the neighborhood, went to the local farmer's market for flowers and oranges, walked on the beach, and gloried in the sun and freedom from parkas, mittens, and face-masks when we walked outside. Our friends' condo backed up on a golf-course which has been abandoned, so there were ibises, mockingbirds, buzzards, and other birds foraging in the dried brown grass.
And on our seven-hour/day full-bore drives down and back, we had audio books to eat up the miles. On route 95, 72 miles would woosh by in three or four good chapters. I heartily recommend audio books - except remember to take them with you in a tote bag whenever you leave the car in warm weather for extended periods of time. If they're left in sun in a hot car, their plastic cases will bubble, earning you a considerable replacement cost when you go to return them. (They're so expensive, I'm just assuming no one buys them, that we all get them from the library).
On this trip we discovered Michael Connelly, a very good detective-series writer, much less formulaic than P.D. James. His protagonists are flawed and gritty, making you root for them because you're intimate with their vulnerabilities. There's uncertainty whether they'll succeed for the same reason, upping the suspense.
We listened to two Connellys: "The Lincoln Lawyer," and "Echo Park." I'd recommend them in that order. We listened to a Peter Carey Booker-prize winner, "The Kelly Gang," and turned it off after the first disk. It was beautifully written, but moved too slow for a road-trip. We listened to a P.D. James novel: "Unnatural Causes" all the way through, but that was before we discovered Connelly, who blew James out of the water. James is a good writer but follows a mystery formula, so her world seems narrower than Connelly's. James has a cozy, limited circle of characters who could have committed the crime; Connelly seems to have all of L.A., or Denver, or whereever his books are set. This makes his work edgier, more suspenseful.
And the last book we listened to was "Death Match," by Lincoln Childs, about a high-end couples matching service. There was some flawed writing, but the work was well researched in the fields of computer science and psychology, and keeps you turning pages - or, in this case, listening intently for two full days.
When we got home, we were disappointed that winter didn't seem to have receded at all. There was 16 inches of new snow and a three-day power outage. The power company had restored power to all but our little town on the morning we got home. Our neighbor had kindly turned on our back-up heat: a small propane stove in the livingroom, the night before to keep our pipes from freezing. And another neighbor had plowed our drive. Both of these acts were unbeknownst to us, so we again felt grateful to be in such a small, caring town.
It seems we hardly got the power restored when we were woken up by a call from the retirement home where my husband's mother lived in the skilled care unit. The nurse told us that she had passed away. She had pneumonia, and was in her late eighties, so it wasn't a shock, but it was eerie to get the call at 2 am, and then to drive over there in the middle of the night. The fog was thick on the roads because of the high snowbanks on either side releasing moisture that condensed, sending thick white clouds of steam up from the pavement and over our windshield. It would have been impossible to see deer or other hazards right in front of us. Luckily, we have deer-whistles on the front of our car, but still we kept to 45 or 50 on the highway.
The eerieness of the travelling blind in a white cloud at three in the morning was conducive to reflection, and we talked about Win's mother, the new perspective that we had on her character now that her story is done. I was glad to note that my husband has her abundant sweetness, a wonderful legacy.
My husband had about a day to plan the funeral and write the obituary, and then we were hit by yesterday's storm. While Win snowblew the drive, I shovelled some of the snow off the deck. Its accumulation from two storms was three feet deep and four in the corner where the deck meets house. I was afraid it might collapse.
But even with vigorous shovelling, my fingers turned numb in my warmest gloves because of the unrelenting wind. Fierce winds seem more prevalent this winter than ever before. They, and the frequent heavy storms, remind me of the predicted effect of global warming: more extremes in the weather.
I think it's time for Obama to draw on his large store of political capital to ask this nation to do all it can to reduce its carbon footprint. I think we're ready to pull together, sacrifice things like unmonitored electricity use, frequent car trips to the store, energy-hogging appliances like clothes dryers and hair dryers, etc. If we know we're doing it together under systematic leadership and evaluation to effect significant change, I think we could really get behind it and feel good about ourselves.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on coming home. It's great to be back, but we're ready for spring.