My winter of solitude begins

coontie(Alive and well in Florida)

Did I mention that I will be mostly alone this winter, save the company of two fine cats? Rich’s work will keep him in Chicago so we will be long spells apart. For the three weeks before Christmas, this was sounding like a fine idea to me. I suppose I’m the only one of you who thinks the occasional marital hiatus is a good plan. Sometimes in the past, I’ve admitted to this kind of idea, thinking everybody must feel the same and then, much to my embarrassment, I find out it’s not true and you all are still like giddy newlyweds.  Anyway, just before Christmas he was, for the umpteenth time, at the “single most stressful’ point of his career and I was, for the umpteenth time, trying to figure which of his relatives I should send cards to while managing every single non- business aspect of our households and life and, well, things got a bit testy. And I thought, thank God, we’ll be getting a break from each other this winter, because familiarity breeds contempt as does underwear piled up on his side of the bed and a total inability to read mail. His absolute refusal to engage in any holiday cheer leaves me with all the fun of driving around in Chicago to stores I don’t want to be in buying gifts nobody needs and by the time Christmas comes, especially this year after that hellacious drive south, well. You get the picture. We were both a bit raw around the edges.

And then he was gone to the other side of the state for meetings this past week and six hours into that I was missing him. Just a little, until it was time for bed and then it was a whole lot. “I’ve got your back” came to mind and since I didn’t, literally, have his, I cried a bit and the f-ing cats couldn’t be bothered to come around and offer a little comfort. They’re on vacation and between nocturnal genes and Florida weather, they’ve already switched to sleeping all day and yard prowling all night. Sometimes cats are a waste as pets.

So. Here I am. Bracing for, yet looking forward to a winter of peace and quiet. Alone. Without my main squeeze. Because I am seasonal, I usually take the initiative and let my Florida friends know I’m here. Then a winter social schedule kicks into gear with neighborhood porch parties, morning yoga, gardening outings. I’m co-chairing the garden club these next three months. We’ll have the big monthly neighborhood get-together at our house in March. I have good company scheduled to arrive here at various times during the winter. I could get very busy, especially if I unleash my gregarious side. And yet, right now, I’m more in touch with the quiet, loner part of my personality and really, that’s no small part.

I’m thinking of this as my Anne Morrow Lindbergh sort of winter, the one when she wrote Gifts from the Sea. Not that I’ll do anything like that, but time for contemplation is nice. It feels like the best of times to be still and move slowly, mull over where I’m at as I approach my seventh decade (ye gads. I’m still two years from sixty, but still…). I plan to attend yoga 3- 4 mornings a week and on the other mornings take an early beach walk along Ft. DeSoto. Grow the earth boxes. Eat well. Read. Work on my surface design efforts. Watch the Hannibals. (He’s here, calling for her. When she returns that wonderful hawk season will gear up in our live oak out front, with steamy mating dives, nest padding and stick throwing and, my personal favorite, rain showers of feathers and small bird carcasses, with the occasional snake bits). Ride my bicycle to City Produce and make lots and lots of salsa from the dollar bags of over ripe Florida tomatoes. Go to Saturday morning market.

hawk1(Meet Shadow, a beauty of a red-shouldered.)

This year one activity I’ll miss is working with the children at the Family Village. With changes in administrative personnel and funding cuts, that program, sadly, fell apart. Don’t ask me how they can let go of six competent and compassionate volunteers for want of one low level administrative assistant but so be it. (I’m calling this to the attention of my new President as soon as he has time to address the roll of volunteers in America). Instead, I’ll be volunteering my time and experience at the local nature preserve where I’ve already begun working with the birds of prey program. There are about a dozen raptors, none who can be released back, and a nice group of volunteers running the education program. For now, I’m in with the little Eastern Screech owls- a comical and wild looking pair who peer out at me from their side by side boxes as I pick up their casts, mutes and give them fresh water- and the red-shouldered hawks. They are a handsome, unafraid couple who look at me with great interest, especially the hands that might feed them. In a week, after a quick turn around to Chicago and a zoo program there, I will begin training to drive the tourist tram. You can see me, giving the talk, dodging the alligators and pointing out the snakes in my Tilley hat, right?

casts(Casts, collected for study. Squint and you can see the, um, baby chick.)

All the while, I’ll be missing Rich. He’s such a good heart and even though he’s pretty much consumed with his work at this point, in my good moments I understand and support all that. We’re very fortunate he has meaningful work to do. When he’s not working, he’s a great companion and lover and friend. The cats and the kids love him lots and I figure that means, when I’m cranky with him, it’s most certainly me.

So, if I’m not here, I’m in all likelihood busy adjusting my attitude, picking up owl casts, pointing out sun-bathing alligators, felting on one porch or reading on the other, in yoga class or just plain considering the meaning of life. I hope this glorious weather holds.


(A handsome pair, together for life. She’s the plumper of the two. Sigh.)

13 responses to “My winter of solitude begins

  1. I’m there, too, in that time when the husband will again be gone for long stretches of time. As he approaches a career move – in contract negoiations now – it is good for him and our financial health but trying for me. For most of our 26 years he has been gone a lot. Traveling the world as I raised our son and kept a home together, then cared for my ill mother, etc. I have always been an independent sort so separations were never so hard for me. Now, with our son going back to college next week and husband on the cusp of the new position, I am a bit apprehensive this time around.

    As my college roommate once told me, when I introduced her to my now husband, “Well, Karen, if you marry this guy, life will never be boring.” She was right. And, our son was born on her birthday! Never boring and often just weird.

    So, you are not alone in privately embracing absences yet sometimes not.

  2. I never could do separations very well at all. I always just chalked it up to having been born a twin. I wasn’t even alone in the womb. I think there is something to be said for the alone time. It seems restorative and ruminative.

    Love the photos of your red-shouldered hawks. We have one here the hunts the neighborhood. A very beautiful bird. Your days are very full with such interesting companions, vicki.

  3. I grew up with my dad primarily working out of state & traveling home for weekends and my parents have always pursued their unique hobbies, interests and travels separately; so the idea of marital hiatus is nothing new to me.
    If Mr. M & I spend too much time together I start to get a little cranky and the things that are typically endearing or funny qualities drive me insanely, owl cast crazy. Thankfully we have a good balance of hobbies that are each our own.
    Enjoy Florida, it sounds utterly fantastic!

  4. Well, you know I agree with you. Marital hiatus is my middle name these days.

    And that just made me giggle.

  5. “Familiarity breeds contempt” is my mantra! I found that out years ago, when mr. kenju’s work required him to be gone a minimum of 3 days and 4 nights per week. When that was no longer necessary – I wanted it to be – again.

    Your schedule on quiet days puts mine to shame on busy days for me!

    The hawks are magnificent.

  6. It’s nice to have the quiet, knowing he will be back sometime.

    Love the birds.

  7. It makes me sad to know that the family progam at the Y is no more. What is our world coming to? Do you know our very STUPID state legislators are even considering closing the State Tourism agency. Where are bread and butter is made? We got word today that there is another 20% decrease headed our way. I guess we will be asking visitors to bring their own toilet paper after all.

  8. So much to comment on here–but, first, thanks for stopping by and sharing the Chicago politics joke. Good one, that.
    On separations–my husband still works (I am “officially” retired, though still teaching), and goes away for several 10 day stretches a year. First time, I almost freaked. Now I have come around to–yes, he’s gone. I go to bed when I want, get up when I must, clean the house or not according to whim, drink wine for breakfast . . .ok, for lunch.
    Finally, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea–always makes me catch my breath–I gave that book to my mother as she was in the hospital for 6 weeks. Sadly, she died there-but I always associate that book with my mother.
    Enjoy your winter of solitude.

  9. A winter of solitude in Florida sounds heavenly to me right now. Not that I am tired of Josh, but JESUS I could use some recharging time.

  10. We don’t got red shouldered hawks, but got redtailed hawks. Related, certainly.

    You gonna open a shop of some kind so Rich can stay home and quit gallivanting? Doesn’t he maybe need some down-time? (Nah, that would make life too easy. boring.)

  11. Marital hiatus is absolutely essential. We designed our retirement home with plenty of space for each of us to “get away.” My study is upstairs…his is downstairs. The library is upstairs, and the big honking television is downstairs. While we definitely enjoy doing things together, we have different interests to keep us busy.

    I think you will enjoy your winter of solitude even though you will miss your spouse.

  12. Vicki… It all sounds kinda wonderful to me… I hope you enjoy the time and find some very special gifts for yourself.

  13. I would love to be sans hubby, but it would eventually just about kill me…if that makes any sense.

    Are those Floridian RSHA? They are so pale! I had hoped to see that subspecies when we were near Miami in the summer.

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