Deep Freeze

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“We hurry about in inadequate clothing…We bring out our newspapers and old quilts and sheets and drape them over our favorite shrubs,” Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote in her 1942 book, Cross Creek.

Nothing has really changed.

As I write this, it is 51 degrees at my central Florida home; we have the heater on and we are freezing.

Our Old House, built out of brick in 1926, was designed to handle every Florida weather phenomenon from 95 degree heat waves to whipping hurricane winds, but not the cold damp air that’s currently seeping through the walls.

Admittedly, we might not be dressed appropriately or fully prepared for anything colder than 60. But there is no time to root around for jackets in a rarely used closet; there are plants to bring inside.

This little snap should not result in a “hard” freeze, a phrase that launches the local strawberry growers into action: they turn on sprinklers to create an ice barrier that protects mature plants. Instead, this chill will surprisingly do us a favor and make the fruit just a little bit sweeter. I have always believed that the best oranges and strawberries are the ones with a bit of chill to them.

So as the thermometer drops this afternoon a bizarre abstract of old linens will appear strewn on lawns across town in an effort to protect delicate plants. Some plants, like my camellias which are heavy with buds and preparing for their annual Christmas show, will be fine. I’m still debating whether to cover others, including my ever expanding peace lily garden, or just give them some extra water tomorrow morning in an effort to keep them from dehydrating after a cold night.

I subscribe to the theory that our blood has “thinned” since our time living in real winters. Once, I thought it a joke when an old Floridian friend told me that water at his house freezes at 50 degrees.

Today, I agree.

Humidity

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It’s what my son misses about Florida while stationed in the desert too far away.

And it’s the first thing that welcomes me back after the plane lands, the door is opened and that slightly stinky thick air comes whooshing in.

Humidity.

Humidity is home. Humidity is pedaling a 10-speed alongside your best friend after a lazy childhood afternoon at the Plant City Swim Club. Humidity is a June wedding in full regalia 30 years ago. Humidity is deciding to clean out the garage with your teenagers in late August because it just cannot wait any longer. Humidity is the Bartow Halloween Parade.

And it’s a September evening spent enjoying a glass of sweating Chardonnay with friends in the backyard… while you complain about the humidity.

A cousin of my husband recently visited Orlando from her home in Wisconsin and was completely flummoxed when her glasses fogged as she exited a vehicle and stepped into the humid air. “How can anybody stand to live like this?” she pleaded.

How can you not?