In the midst of winter, who could imagine the resorative power of spring?  For weeks and weeks I've been sludging through snow and ice, wind battering my face and stinging my eyes.  I took for granted that this was my lot, to live through this long winter with my shoulders hunched defensively around me. I had forgotten about his magical place where the sun shines every day, the grass is still green, where rhododendrons, impatiens, and geraniums blossom in gleeful profusion.  A place where the herons dive headfirst into the lake, and sandpipers skitter beside my bare feet in the sand.  I'd forgotten that, even in January, one might be able to slip off a sweater while sipping cofffe on the patio at Starbucks, or that it was possible to kick off your sandals and let the cool ocean waves wash over your feet and ankles.

Ahh, Florida. 

For the past year or so, I've struggled with some ambivalent feelings about this southwestern Florida "paradise."   In the seven years we've been coming here, I've become dismayed by the way the area has burgeoned into a mecca of materialisim and greed.  But within our gated community things have remained quiet and serene, and I've always found it a place to retreat, an oasis of calm in an otherwise busy, overcrowded city.

In light of our recent trip to Las Vegas, however, my feelings about Florida have mitigated somewhat.  The past three days here have reminded me just how refreshing it is to escape from the ravages of winter into the gentle pleasures of  a tropical clime.

So today, after breakfast with my father and stepmother, we drove to the beach (for the second day in a row).  For the true Floridian, it's too chilly for beach-ing - but for us, 76 degrees is just fine, thank you very much.  I'm perfectly happy to wear a gauzy long sleeved shirt over my tank top and capri's, and it doesn't bother me one bit to sit for two hours in full sun and never break a sweat.  Plus, I've soaked up enough pure Vitamin D in the past two days to replace those gigantic supplement pills my doctor just prescribed.

I took a long walk down the (nearly deserted) beach, just me and the sandpipers.  I couldn't resist picking up a few more shells, although the shelf in my laundry room where I display them is getting quite full.  One of them will come home with me, I think ~it's flat and powdery smooth, layered with all my favorite shades of ecru and cream.  I imagine tucking it into the pocket of my slacks so that on some cold day, when my fingers are chilled and I thrust them inside my pocket, it will be there waiting to remind me of this magical place where summer never ends and the sun always shines.

The place where I was renewed.