Leaving the world of the North for the land of the South brings endless change. Familiar ways of doing things must be spun around and looked at anew.
My current spin involves how to fill the short, dark days of winter. The porch remains closed for the season, the garden is still asleep. The cold has created a world of hermits hiding behind closed doors in slipper socks and fleece-lined vests, many nursing the flu and indifferent dispositions. Few loiter on street corners ready to fill me in on the ways of the South.
February routine in New York includes afternoons sitting in the dark watching a toe-tapping matinee or a film with subtitles. Restaurant week lures you to fancy dinners with bargain prices to keep tables full during the winter chill. Macy’s puts on its flower show with blooms foreshadowing spring. The Metropolitan Museum offers new exhibits with a wider view of the world and a café with perfect lemon squares.
What does a northerner find to fill a southern February? For theater I make do with city board meetings. While there is still a cast opening, new characters have stepped into their roles. The change brings a longer script with occasional lectures on democracy and individual rights to drink alcohol. A company of walk-on players lobbies for the needs of the Red Cross and a $200,000 sanitation truck with an automatic shift.
The weight of city government appears to have increased and now requires a monthly double feature to keep the wheels of transparency moving forward with theatrical tensions and plot twists, including who now owns the trailer park.
Water Valley offers its own version of restaurant week. Mr. Jerry and Mrs. Margaret Daum invited me to Oakland for the catfish buffet with sweet pickles and the Lions Club flips pancakes for the first Saturday breakfast crowd.
Mrs. Yvonne Shield’s forsythia branches promise eventual flowers in my living room; Miss Pati D’Amico and Mr. Bill Warren have opened the Gallery in the GREEN ROOM hanging a show with sparkle to ignite winter imaginations.
However, even with all these substitutions for New York’s ways, I still needed more input on what one does in the South to while away dreary winter days. I pulled on my boots and went looking.
At Valley Agri, winter is a time to recuperate. Mrs. Virginia Wood still coughs from the flu or as she calls it, the crud; Mr. Jim Bowles limps with his second knee replacement. (He also fills the dark days irritating his visiting liberal granddaughters with the television dialed to Fox News.)
At Mr. Mike Redwine’s Beauty Shop, the advice is to have more coffee with friends and more naps. Mr. Redwine himself suggests staying “naked in the bed.”
Miss Sandra Johnson offered that while it is a bit late to start, her family put up a card table, dumped out a thousand-piece puzzle and set to work. A puzzle and sweet tea keeps minds off the cold wind outside and, according to Miss Johnson, can see you through to April flowers.
After mulling over my options, I went down to the shed and dug out a few pots, filled them with dirt and planted lettuce and radish seeds. Tucked onto the porch, they are visible from my long windows and I notice them throughout the dreary days. Perhaps, whether North or South, the purpose of the cold darkness is to be quiet and watch for signs of what is growing, what is coming to us.