Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hibernation as Senior Winter Life Choice

This is pretty much us during winter time. When we were younger we used to go to Florida at this time of year. However, as the decades wore on, the Florida that we once knew no longer existed. I started going there in the early 1960s with my parents. Then when Jim and I were married, we started going to the Keys every winter. The last time I was there was in this new century but frankly, I hate noise, crowds, congestion, clogged freeways and high expense even more than I hate winter. My father never quite got to this point.  He had been going since the 1930s and until he became very ill, he continued to go there. It's not that he didn't notice the difference.  He would describe present day Florida as, "They've all but put a roof on it and called it a mall." But he hated the cold and it still was nice and hot. The only thing I miss is the ocean but I wonder if I can even use it anymore.

As I've written before here, swimming is my exercise. In recent years I've stuck to pools although I used to swim in the ocean and Lake Erie as well as other bodies of water. I think I could be tempted back into a lake but the ocean now gives me pause. The best part of the ocean, after all, is the waves and the turbulence. We don't go into the ocean for a placid experience. But I no longer think I can swim out and dive through the waves and fight back the undertow like I once did. I can no longer run along the beach either--hell, until I get my knee replacements, I can't take a long walk along the beach! And I positively hate sitting in the sun.  I am overheated in about two minutes flat.

Fortunately, we are not in an arid state.  I doubt I could live in a place which had little to no water as I've always strongly connected with water. We are about thirty minutes away from Lake Erie, above, and there is a beauty to it in every season. Winter is surprisingly one of its most beautiful seasons. It is also the most dangerous because there are more people who drown attempting ice sports out on it, like fishing, than those who drown during the summer swimming in it. 

All of my medical appointments are now on the west side of Cleveland which is very close to the lake.  So I try to blend the two together as often as possible. Lately though it is a heat wave here if we get up to 18 degrees °F and that doesn't even take into account the dreaded "lake effect" or wind chill, see chart on left. Here is that official definition: "Like the other Great Lakes, Erie produces lake effect snow when the first cold winds of winter pass over the warm waters."  We used to live on the east side and thus were subject to the lake effect snow. In short, we were buried in the stuff. Ever since we moved to the south side, we've been outside of it and therefore get about a third of the snow we used to get. So winter has gotten much easier by a forty five minute move to the south, oddly enough.

I used to do some of the winter sports.  I've tried them all: skiing, both downhill and cross country, sledding, tobogganing, ice skating. Quite frankly, except for the ones where you sit down on a device and simply slide down a hill, I was terrible at all of them. Now instead of telling people I'm terrible, I can use my knees as an excuse. My lack of ability in this area was a mystery to my father, who could ski down a hill backwards. (if you were born in Maine in 1922, it was surprising how hardy and athletic you had to be.) Fortunately, my sister was good at all of this as are my nephews so it was just me who stunk. Reading fireside at lodges was my default position. Rebecca used to be a grand skater at the Cleveland Skating Club and to this day does cross country skiing and snow shoeing. 

The above is the Boston Mills Ski Resort, located about ten minutes behind us in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It is very well used and Rebecca's sister-in-law, also a senior and also living in this condo development, skis here all winter long. So, yes, I'm a wimp. This is my idea of winter:

And I like looking at it from a window in my house or my car.  What artist wouldn't? 

"And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

P. B. Shelley, Ode to the West Wind

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