Friday’s Weekend Column
Living the Winter in the South

by James Glaser
January 13, 2006

I knew moving down south would be a change, but I had no idea that it would be this great. It wasn't just moving from the North to the South, it was moving from a rural area to an urban one. From the "sticks" to the city.

I now have people all around me, and before I had wildlife all around me. Maybe the biggest change of all is the constant hum of man-made noise down here. It isn't just a noise that Tallahassee has, but any populated area. Light pollution is bad too. I can see stars down here, but like one one thousandths of what I could see up north. I can not remember hearing a siren at my house up north. Police and ambulances don't need a siren on, because there are no cars on the road to warn of their approach. Also there is no railroad within 40 miles of my house up there, but down here I hear the train horn and sirens from the police and fire department every day several times.

Something I never hear down here is the sound of the wind, except if there is a storm. In northern Minnesota you can hear the slightest breeze, because it is competing with nothing. Also I miss the sound of the water lapping on the shore of the lake. You can go to the ocean down here, but the sound of the ocean is nothing at all like the lake. I love the power in the sound of the ocean, but it is something different.

I didn't think of this until last night when I was sitting out on the deck, I miss the sounds the lake makes in winter, when it is frozen. It groans and pops and crackles and when it gets real cold the trees in the forest pop loud like a gun shot.

With every move in life there are trade offs. One thing that stays the same pretty much, is the people. Farmers in the south would fit right in with the farmers in Northome. Their accent would give them away, but their smiles and willingness to have a bright outlook is the same. Loggers down here are about the same as up north too. They have this rough exterior, but they are good people, family orientated, maybe a little more involved with their church down here, but I think everyone down here is.

There are way more different kinds of churches down here. There has to be over a dozen different Baptist ones, and then there are churches for white people and churches for black people. I honestly didn't know there were that many denominations. There are scores of churches, all reading the same book, and all coming away with something a little different. I wonder if God thinks, "I made it so simple, why can't they understand it?'

People get up tight when I say black, but nobody gets up tight when I say white. You can call somebody "white trash, and there is a bar down here called the White Trash Bar, but nobody talks about Black Trash. They tell me I should use the term, African American. Charmaine was an Indian, an American Indian. She didn't mind being called red, but she wasn't. I don't think there are red Indians , but for sure she didn't like being called Native American. She didn't even like being called an American. She liked the fact that she was an Indian. I guess that is where I got the Black term. Beside that, it was the term we used in the Marines, and it was the term Black Americans used. Maybe I will have to change with the times.

In Tallahassee there is a white university and a black, OK, African American University. The white one is Florida State (FSU) and the African American one is Florida A&M University (FAMU). FSU isn't all white and FAMU isn't all African American, but if you go to a sporting event at either one, you might think so. FSU has an Indian for a Mascot and FAMU has a snake. Things are different down here. Minnesota has a rodent (Gopher) for a mascot.

Besides so many more churches down here, there are also way more people. Just driving to my studio, I see more people than I would see in a month up north. I think almost every one of them has a dog too. Lots of dogs down here. If I go out side late at night when the city has quieted down and make a little bark, more like "rrruff," and say it a few times real low, I can get a couple of dogs going. They start barking and soon others join in. I'm only guessing, but I bet in a few minutes there are dogs all the way across town answering those barks.

Hey, it gets boring and you have to come up with things to entertain yourself. I have started my walking routine that I had going real strong up north. There I would walk down the middle of the road and in a hours walk, I seldom would see a car or truck. Down here there is no walking down the middle of the road unless you have a death wish. People drive fast down here, so I am walking down side streets and staying on the sidewalk where ever I can. There are lots of other people walking and you start saying "hi" to every one you meet. It is January, and I am walking around looking at the different flowers that are blooming and trying to figure out what is what. Heck I don't even know what most the trees are. Some of them have the weirdest seed pods. Some lose their leaves and others are just lush and green. Studying the flowers and foliage makes walking more interesting.

I must admit that I like this wearing a short sleeve shirt in the winter, but I don't think I will last in the city. Oh, I'll stay this winter and get all I can out of it, but that constant hum of noise day and night really cuts down on the quality of life. I am going to start looking for a place out in the country a bit. Ocean front property is out of the question price wise, but I have seen some nice places on back roads. I'm not far from Georgia and I could look there, but I think it would be pretty cool to have a place way down upon the Suwannee River. It has a ring to it.

Free JavaScripts provided
by The JavaScript Source

BACK to the Essays.