Winter is what those who live in Central Florida all year long call "long pants weather". It is cool enough to walk the dog at 5 a.m. and not end up with a wringing-wet tee shirt. Sometimes there is a nip in the air at that hour and a sweater is necessary. Then it feels good to return to the warm house, the heat retained from the previous day giving the illusion of furnace heat.

The season arrives in the hiatus between Octoberfest's biker-and-beer week and the Thanksgiving tourists, harbingers of the snowbird migration. It heralds the end of the Hurricane Season. Praise the Lord!

Now is the time to plant radishes and other delicate crops that cannot withstand the voracity of summer insects. This is when the ornamental trees shed their leaves, creating the vague semblance of a northern autumn. The native live oaks and pines are non-deciduous, dropping a few leaves or needles gently all year long like a housecat shedding dead hair.

Oranges, grapefruit and lemons glow in the dark greenery of their groves like early Christmas ornaments, sweetening in the hot midday sun as they mature for the end-December market. The air is heavy with the scent of blossoming Japanese plum trees; their golden-red fruits will ripen in February but now they are fragrant clusters of creamy white flowers.

Lawns no longer need to be watered and cut on a weekly basis. Outdoor trim can be painted and cement poured without danger of it drying or curing too fast as in the searing heat of summer.

The bird population changes. Pelicans and cormorants, anhinga and ibis are year-long residents, but Canadian geese from northern states arrive for their annual sojourn. After following the eastern coast from the Chesapeake Bay region to southern Georgia, the Atlantic Flyway funnels migrating songbirds across Central Florida to a crossing of the Gulf of Mexico.

It is a time of low humidity and clear skies. Sunrise and sunsets are different. Instead of glowing firehouse red through the diffusion of moisture-laden air, the sun’s colors are softer. Pale gold and peachy pink enhance a mackerel sky.

The torpidity of summer disappears; everyone seems to have more energy. Joggers outnumber sunbathers on the beaches. Christmas is just around the corner. Life is good.

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