Thoughts as a snowbird prepares to stay up north for the winter
After several years of spending most of the winter in places considerably warmer than my Manitoba home (Arizona mostly, Panama one year), I’ve come to think of myself as a snowbird. A snowbird is someone from a northern climate who lives in a more southern location for a significant portion of the winter in order to escape the cold. During previous falls, my husband and I looked forward to packing up and heading south. That is not in current plans for this winter. How do I feel about that? So far, all is good. That may be in part because we had the warmest November on record and it feels good to be home as the Christmas season begins. My feelings may become less positive as winter wears on. As I write this, I am watching a snowstorm through my window and worrying about the icy roads I will later need to navigate. Weeks of deep-freeze temperature in January and February may send me searching on the Internet for warm destinations. But being here right now is giving me a better understanding of what parts of life a snowbird gives up (beyond snow shoveling, parkas, and frozen fingers) for his or her time in the warmth and sun.
In past years, the weeks prior to heading south were busy with social appointments, trying to see and spend time with family and friends before being away for months. This fall has seen none of that pressure. Get-togethers with family and friends have been more relaxed. There is a sense of continuum as we meet again, continue previous discussions and make impromptu plans to attend events.
The recreation and leisure classes offered through community centres, the city’s recreation department and school divisions’ continuing educations programs are possibilities for us again. I go to yoga and tai chi classes on a regular basis. I attend book club and writing group meetings. I am fortunate that each group has allowed me to remain a member in spite of my many absences. I participate in work my church is doing. I visit local seasonal attractions and go to events I haven’t attended for several years. I feel as if I am reconnecting with a version of my life I became a stranger to.
Snowbirds give up a piece of their life and daily routines when they leave home for the winter. In Manitoba, activities, clubs and classes take a break over the summer. The sessions starting up again in fall often have a time frame which extends beyond planned departure dates. Snowbirds don’t sign up. They no longer attend the theatre or symphony concerts staged over the winter months. Unable to commit to a year-round schedule, snowbirds forgo volunteer opportunities. They miss birthdays and family celebrations. The distance in miles over the winter can translate to an emotional distance once back home.
Granted, snowbirds gain other things. They have different activities to keep them busy and winter friends to reconnect with. Technology enables them to stay in touch with people back home in ways that weren’t imagined a couple of decades ago, but it is not quite the same as being there.
I am not planning to give up the snowbird life forever, in spite of the trade-offs. Heat, sun and no need to bundle up in pounds of clothing to venture outside has its appeal. But as I approach a winter in Manitoba, I intend to savour the good things about being here, things my snowbird winters have helped me appreciate. I’ve bought a new parka and I hope my old boots can make it through another winter.