When a Snowbird Does Not Go South

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When a Snowbird Does Not Fly South

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.

When a Snowbird Does Not Go South
The snow storm starts

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.

Frosted window panes
Frosted window panes

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  1. I am usually in love with winter in Manitoba until about mid February. That’s when I want a couple of weeks away somewhere warm. Once we’re back in March, things are starting to warm up. I’ve never been away for an entire winter, but I think I might miss it.

    1. Deb, I didn’t miss winter, but I am finding it nice to experience it again, Of course, I may feel differently come mid-February.

    1. Terry, it is nice to have the shovelling done for us. However, in this week’s storm I had to go out before the crew got here and I wound up shovelling enough to get out of the driveway. My arm is still sore.

  2. Enjoy the season. A little winter is not so bad once in awhile. We’ve had none of it on the east coast of the U.S. so I’m heading up to Toronto for the weekend is search of something more seasonal.

  3. Well if nothing else it will probably solidify in your mind the answer to the question should we go south for the winter. 🙂 I can see why it will be nice to be home for the holidays and a smidge of winter wonderland. But by mid January, you may have seconds thoughts as the winter stats to drag on and on and need to head to sunny AZ.

    1. Susan, you may be right about mid-January. We’ll see how things go as the winter wears on. Right now we’re thinking of getting away closer to spring in late March or April, but could wind up moving that up.

  4. Brrr! I don’t blame you for wanting to leave your home for the winter, Donna. I don’t think I could handle that kind of cold. Just seeing the gloomy weather in your pictures makes me shiver. I’m so happy to be able to live in in state where the sun shines 350 days a year.

    1. Anda, the day I took the picture of the storm coming in was indeed gloomy, but most winter days in Winnipeg are sunny and bright. They are cold however.

    1. Jeri, I am not a fan of the cold, but I have to admit there can be a bit of magic to winter. However, the magic evaporates after a spell of bitter cold.

  5. I wouldn’t mind winter if it weren’t so cold. ha ha. I could quite easily become a snowbird if circumstances would allow it. Like you, though, I think it would be good to indulge in winter every now and then just to remind ourselves why we like to run away.

    1. RoseMary, it is good to experience the winter every now and then. It is the super cold days, especially when they go on for several days or weeks in a row, that make it rough.

  6. Well you will be missed here in Arizona. This year we made the opposite decision. Six months in CA and six months in AZ, first time staying through the holidays. It is good to mix it up sometimes, isn’t it? Stay warm!

    1. Sydney, I hope you enjoy being in AZ for six months. I suspect it will feel more settled than going back and forth. It is good to mix it up sometimes. There’s a good chance we’ll make it to AZ in March and/or April, but I don’t know for long. If we do, I hope we’ll be able to meet up.

    1. Anita, it has been pretty darn cold this week, but it is supposed to warm up quite a bit next week. Of course, that’s all relative!

  7. By February, I’m definitely looking for a “get me outta here” trip to somewhere warmer than Philadelphia. I imagine that feeling might hit sooner if I lived in Manitoba

    1. Staying home for the winter turned out to have a number of pluses, although well before the end of it I was tired of bundling up to go anywhere. February turned out to be an unusually mild month here, which helped.