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Reflections: Weary winter weather

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By Thomas W. Ivines

One of the reasons I returned to Florida when retiring from the U.S. Navy, was to return to a warmer climate. When I left Virginia the Chesapeake Bay was frozen over - one of the worst, coldest years on record for the east coast of the Commonwealth State. The snow followed me all the way to Florida on that memorable trek back home. Florida is where I was born and Florida is where I wanted to stay and I was determined to get there.

My very first duty station was the Great Lakes Naval Station north of Chicago and one of the coldest places I ever lived. In the winter the wind would howl as it blew relentlessly off Lake Michigan over the snow covered landscape. Though not exactly barren land, the base was more dominant with buildings than open space. The wind would swirl and carry mini snow flurries in spiral paths around the structures only to smack me in the face as I walked past them.

I can remember many a morning dreading getting out of bed because I knew I would hate it once I did. And, I did hate it, especially when a fresh snow covered the melting, slushy snow. There is nothing worse than stepping into fresh snow on the way to work only to find your feet are soaking wet from the melted under layer when you get there. Once your socks and shoes are wet, your whole body becomes cold no matter what you are wearing.

My next duty station was just about as bad as the Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois even though there was little wind. Instead there were icy roads and dampness. The place was Groton, Connecticut. I was stationed at the submarine base there on the Thames River. For those of you who have never been to Connecticut, you should know there are no level roads. Everything is either up or down. Some days I could not get out of my own drive way and that was when it was clear without snow. The typical scenario was like this: rain and sleet in the evening, freezing temperatures at night, frozen driveway in the morning.

Ironically, one of the warmest places I ever spent time at in the service, was Anchorage, Alaska. I flew in there quite a number of times picking up military prisoners. During that six-month period it was perpetual day with the sun shining brightly at midnight. With no wind and not having to drive or walk anywhere, the place was tolerable. Most of the time the prisoners were delivered to the airport to me and I rarely went any other place, so my time outdoors was minimal.

Now that I am again living in Florida I am once again reminded of the cold - because it is cold. North Central Florida can be frigid at times during the winter, and now is one of them. Today it is overcast and windy. The thermometer is dipping into the mid twenties . . . but it is not snowing so I guess I should be grateful. That is not to say I like it. I hate it but at least there is the knowledge that the conditions will soon be gone. In a day or so I will have forgotten about the cold. Perhaps by that time I will be able to sit back and read this writing from my newspaper outdoors on my front porch with warm sunshine on my face. Maybe.