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Mary's Farm: How to Get Through Winter

Mary’s Farm: How to Get Through Winter
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I almost ran out of wood last year. In the middle of winter I had to scramble and find some good, dry wood, just about as easy as finding ripe peaches at that time of year. I sometimes think that the best way to save on heat might be to just go to Florida.


I have an aunt who lives on the Atlantic side. She sends me photos of her balcony overlooking the turquoise water and clippings on cheap airfares. It sounds nice.

My mother hated winter and loved Florida, so every year during the late 1950s and early 1960s, we’d pack up the Ford station wagon, strap our bikes to the roof, and drive down there. The bitter cold receded slowly, replaced by the South’s humid heat, which blew in through our rolled-down windows. The three-day journey took us past cotton fields, sharecroppers’ shacks, and Burma-Shave signs. The heavy fragrance of orange blossoms signaled that we were almost there. Our destination was Delray Beach, where we had an apartment on the second floor of an old wooden building, surrounded by coconut trees and a rugged kind of grass that was hard on tender bare feet. The apartment was small, with a big screened porch. My sister and I slept on the porch, as it was cooler there and also interesting. The lady next door played cards with her friends till all hours, and we enjoyed watching them trade cards and refill their glasses as the night wore on. Their talk and laughter, along with the stirring of the fronds against the screens, lulled us to sleep.

We could ride our bikes to the beach–a great expanse of white sand edged by the unbelievably clear ocean. We lay on bright beach towels in our new bathing suits, dove into gently curling waves, and walked the length of the strand to find shells and other treasures. At night we’d find little restaurants that weren’t too expensive, and on rainy days we strolled the village and poked around in the shops. Occasionally, on particularly warm and indolent nights, we set forth for Palm Beach to see the mansions there, imagining the opulent lives within. If I could go back to that time and have my father drive us all down to that same place in my mind’s eye, I’d leave my woodstove in a minute for the pleasure that journey might bring.

But, alas, such a place no longer exists. And I’ve become joined with winter. Like a night watchman, I no longer trust that winter can pass safely without my vigilance. Moose tracks crossing the field, the embracing warmth of the stove as I come in from the cold, the way white outlines every board on the barn after a night of driving snow, the steady song of the wind–these are the treasures I guard. If I were to let the stoves go cold and abandon my post by the window, I’d feel I’d turned my back on a friend in a time of need. Resolute, I stay on. But this year, I’ve added an extra cord to the pile.

Edie Clark’s newest book, Saturday Beans & Sunday Suppers, is available at: edieclark.com

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4 Responses to Mary’s Farm: How to Get Through Winter

  1. Doris Matthews January 19, 2009 at 2:24 pm #

    Sounds just like us New Englanders-we hate the winter but we love the winter. We believe in our hearts that we are essential to our places and we are. For who else would stay on through bitter cold and snow up to the knees, runny noses and chilled hands and feet.

  2. Charlotte Reep February 3, 2009 at 12:05 am #

    As a child I used to love the winter and couldn’t wait for it to snow. Sled riding and ice skating were so much fun but alas, as the body grows older the cold, snow and ice are not welcome visitors. I would love to go somewhere warm for our 3 worst months – January February and March but my husband doesn’t mind winter and he would probably have a nervous breakdown worrying about our house. So I choose to hibernate! It’s an agreement we’ve made that the only time I leave the house is if I HAVE to – usually only for doctor appts. and emergencies. He does all the shopping and anything else that needs doing that requires going outside. Consequently very few people see me for much of the winter – but I do keep in touch and I do get visitors so it’s not really bad. I never get bored as I have all kinds of projects to keep me busy. I’ve become the proverbial “Sign of Spring” to all my neighbors because when they see me outside they know winter is over!

  3. annie Gloss February 3, 2009 at 3:02 pm #

    your winter is just toooo hard, edie! i would rather visit it through the warm, safety of your words. :) we are just too lazy to keep a wood stove going, and i become paralyzed in the first moderately deep snowfall! you continue to impress me with the energy and hard work it takes to survive those cold winters. brrrrrrrrrrrr.

    so you were a family of snow birds! we were in florida, too, during the very same years….but summer instead of winter.

  4. Kate Koza February 23, 2009 at 11:55 am #

    Edie, you are so very right about “that Florida” not existing anymore! I moved to Miami just over three years ago to attend school here, and every day I yearn not only for the cold, but also the PEOPLE of New England. Florida is a materialist’s fantasy land, and good sense and practicality are all but absent. I miss the genuine, hard-working nature of New Englanders and the beautiful scenery that accompanies the bitter cold. Sure, I am sitting outside on a “chilly” 74 degree day typing this, but is it worth it? To miss out on changing leaves, harvest season accompanied by apple picking, snowfall, the genuine need of a hot beverage, and getting to commiserate with your fellow yankees over frostbite? I say no! For all of those hoping to “escape” to Florida – think twice! You may gain a tan, but you’ll lose so much more.
    Upon graduation, I will be readily re-donning my duck boots and ten pound jacket. And I pledge not to complain about the cold ever again. Or at least for a month :)
    Great article, Edie! Thanks!

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