If I had to guess why people don’t flock to Florida during the Christmas season, I’d guess it has to do with the weather. Don’t get me wrong. On the whole, we loved the weather there during the holidays. It was great to hang loose in our shorts and T-shirts again, while back home we would have been wearing jeans, long-sleeve shirts, and a jacket. But sometimes we needed jeans and jackets in Florida too. It just depended on the weather, and whether or not the sun decided to come out and play.
Sometimes the sky rained down on us. Other times chill winds blew through us. Sometimes, on otherwise pretty, dry days, the fog lingered over the coast like an uncommitted lover. We’d be walking along a beach, and suddenly the wind would pick up, and we’d need to put on our jackets. Or the fog would thin, and we’d need to take them off. Sometimes the sky was bright and we needed sunglasses, but when dark clouds passed overhead we didn’t. And then there were the days when the fog just hung there, and kept the air so bright we couldn’t see so well with our sunglasses on, but squinted if we didn’t wear them.
One morning, we watched a man paddle-surfing in the ocean. Sometimes the fog enveloped him, and he became a ghostly figure, barely perceptible from the shore. At others, he stood out clearly, standing atop water so calm I wondered if he could have walked across it. Others waded into the water, sought out seashells, built sandcastles, or clipped newspaper coupons. He ignored all of us as he paddled along, either for enjoyment or exercise.
With one eye on him, I noticed that strange, humplike shapes lay ahead in the sand. In the fog, it was impossible to see what they were. It wasn’t until we got up close, almost within walking distance, that I realized I was staring at sandbags. Huge sandbags. They stretched out into the water, or atop sand, marking territory and forming artificial bays. Perhaps they had been placed there to protect the sand from eroding during winter storms. But the birds didn’t mind them: to them, it was just another place to hang out. Perhaps they too discussed the variable, changeable weather, before flying off again in search of food, or whatever else it is that birds do during the day.
After returning home, enjoying the holidays, and fighting off lingering colds, I’m no longer hanging out in shorts and T-shirts. It’d be so easy to just hunker down until it warms up, my mood brightens, and the way ahead looks clearer. So, I remember the man steadfastly paddle-surfing through the Florida fog. I think of the birds gathered on those huge sandbags, taking a break and enjoying the day together, before they get on with their tasks. I think of anything, except the disruption, disharmony, and discontent I feel. Instead, reminding myself of my goals, and the tasks that I have set before me, I stride into the uncertainty, and the promise, of a new day.