• ,

Summer's end the NOLA way

Eleanor Keller

Eleanor Keller

I love summer.

The heat warms and loosens my old joints and the aches and pains fade with the rising temperatures. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “life begins over again with the summer.” For me, summer is as good as nature gets.

That intoxicating scent of a new mown lawn is something I remember all the way back to my toddler days. I love that first day each summer when I can step outside in my bare feet and quench the fire of the pavement with a walk through cool blades of grass.

But, once Labor Day rolls around and the daylight hours begin to shorten, I know that our version of winter is not far off.  I never really look forward to trading in t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops for woolens, corduroys and (ugh) shoes ... even if it is only for our short winter.

The only time I ever looked forward to fall and winter was during my college years. A new college term was always so full of possibilities, new people, old friends ... so easy to ignore the cold weather back then.

But (for me) school is out.

In our sub-tropical climate a new school year is one of only a few signs of fall. NOLA doesn’t do changing leaves. Our leaves turn brown and fall off. BAM. Done. Summer’s over.

But really. We only have two real seasons here.  Spring and fall last only about a day and a half. Winter, about two months and summer about 10.

Even as I write this my northern friends and family are shopping for leather boots and heavy cardigans. Yesterday I bought flip-flops on sale at JCP’s for $1.99.

During the months that we call winter, I say good-bye to my friends and neighbors and start my annual hibernation with all of its appropriate rituals.

I first pull out the electric blankets ... a full-size for the bed and a throw for the couch. I clear my schedule of all activities. If it can’t be done indoors, then I don’t do it.

I do less and try to focus only on what is absolutely important to me -- like staying warm. I disconnect from nearly everything and everybody.  My only connection is with the aforementioned electric blankets and my big furry dog. I close the door to the world and insulate myself.

I eat slower and I eat less because, unlike a hibernating bear, I don’t lose weight. I gain from inactivity.

I might clean out a closet or two and find pleasure in re-purposing the junk I tossed back there and thought I would never see again.

I single-task. I have decided that multi-tasking is for the young. As I have gotten older, I find I want to do things one at a time, slowly, meticulously and with great relish.  Just in case it’s the last time.

In winter I do love to sit at the window and gaze outward. I do it for 30 minutes at a time, almost every day. This is a lot harder than it sounds.  I had to work my way up to the 30 minutes in 5-minute increments. I see people all the time who can’t sit still at all for any length of time without the aid of narcotics, but it’s part of my winter meditation ritual. Sitting in the silence, aware of everything or nothing, just as it really is, without the past or the future.  The world unfolds outside my window without my interference.

I spend a little more time in bed in the morning thinking about how to turn last night’s dream into today’s reality.

I read more and take longer (and hotter) baths.  Nothing beats a hot bath in the dead of winter.

Pause, ponder, breathe, yawn, sleep ... these are my favorite NOLA winter sports.