Feeding sunflower seeds to Chickadee, Marcy Dam, Adirondack Mountains, NY

Language both fascinates and niggles me. It gets right into my grill and won’t break free until I get curious about meaning. What really rankles me is when an expression takes hold that makes absolutely no sense. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a language snob. My vocabulary is limited. When I’m reading, you’ll see me grabbing my phone frequently to look up words. AND I use words incorrectly all the time. Here is what’s currently in my grill — SNOWBIRDS. (Figuratively, not literally, phew.)

The definition of snowbirds:

  1. 1.INFORMAL•NORTH AMERICAN a northerner who moves to a warmer southern state in the winter. “at the peak of the tourist season the hotel hosted an additional three hundred snowbirds and backpackers”
  2. 2.a widespread and variable junco with gray or brown upper parts and a white belly.

How, just tell me HOW, the definition of snowbirds as northerners going south for the winter EVER came into common use?

Me, the junco, chickadee, mourning dove, blue jay, nuthatch, tufted titmouse, a variety of finches, owls, hawks, and birds whose names I do not know are the TRUE snowbirds. We stay. In the winter. In the snow.

I LOVE WINTER. I’ve loved winter from the time I no longer had to struggle through the worst of weather, bitter cold and snow, to drive to my job because without me the hospital could not function (or so I was told by my supervisor). Not to mention, personal days were few and frowned upon for such a thing as a little snow!

You could call me a tough old snowbird. Not so. Winter gives me an excuse to be lazy! Once I was self-employed and my own boss, snowstorms brought snow days. Luxurious days of canceling appointments, so that my clients did not risk life and limb to get to my office. I stayed home too. A cup of tea by the hearth. All was well.

Once my son could walk, snow meant building snow caves, snow men, flying down the hill on plastic toboggans, skiing lessons, hot chocolate, homemade soup, homemade bread, extra reading aloud time, twinkle lights, and snuggling by the fire. Snow days were our favorite days! Unexpected and prayed for — unplanned and spontaneous. (As I write this, he is in Vermont snowboarding, despite the brutal below zero Fahrenheit cold. Snowbird.)

There are other reasons why I love winter.

I can venture into the back woods on snowshoes, something I will NEVER attempt if the temperature is above 32F. Why? DEER TICKS — those awful disease carrying parasites that plague the Northeast. UGH. Winter is bug-free. No midges, mosquitos, blackflies, deerflies. Serenely and completely UNBITTEN. I can keep my blood and be disease-free. At least insect diseases, let’s be real.

Mild season? I am frenetic (definition: fast and energetic in a rather wild and uncontrolled way. “A frenetic pace of activity”) from the time the frost is out of the ground until I can no longer put a garden spade in the soil in November. I feel like I HAVE TO be outdoors from sunrise until sunset, because it’s the Northeast! Snow will fly! Make hay while the sun shines! Take photos while the flowers are in bloom!

Speaking of garden spades, I am NOT a great gardener by any stretch of the imagination. I love my flowers and herbs and shrubs and trees. I’m kind of a “free-range” gardener. Overgrown, out of bounds, maybe-I’ll-move-that-NEXT-year kind of gardener. If the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program included show-and-tell, I’d be stripped of my certification. Fortunately the only requirement is that I volunteer to inform other home gardeners best practices according to Cornell. Another blessing of winter — my inner garden critic is in hibernation.

Back to the luxuries of winter TODAY: Guilt-free power naps after lunch whenever possible, cozy evenings by the fire, early to bed, massive novel-reading, extra Netflix, extra meditation, planning the garden (most of which will never get done), pouring over seed catalogs, ordering seeds, watching the true snowbirds at the feeder and seeing a fox trot over the snow in search of breakfast (which may be a chicken at the neighbor’s house), snowshoeing out my back door, taking on-line “self-discovery” classes, coaching by phone, teaching on Zoom (check out the tabs above), planning my in-person summer retreat (ditto tabs), and just calming the EFF down. Nothing feels frenetic. Indoor projects are on a wish list that may get done. Maybe not. Priority #1: Snow shovels handy, plow guy set up for the season. That’s IT.

AND none of the perils of traveling. No horrendous drives down I-95 or other irksome routes to Florida or other warm climes. No getting stuck at the airport due to canceled flights for bad weather or whatever the latest airline excuse may be. Okay, okay, I know, once you get there it’s quite lovely. But me? I’d be in the same pickle. Frenetic. Taking in all the the sites, staying on the beach until my skin blisters, enjoying sidewalk eateries until my shorts don’t fit. OH the PAIN of it! Year round frenetic me.

So to my friends who are MIGRATORY BIRDS and will return north just in time for the last snowstorm (I promise we’ll save you at least one): Have fun for me in the sunshine and warm breezes and I’ll have fun for you watching the snow fly and being compelled to do absolutely NOTHING. Cheers!

Molting Goldfinch, March 2020
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6 Responses to Snowbirds

  1. Win McIntyre says:

    Excellent, as usual!

  2. Barbie Dallmann says:

    You are so right about that term being irritating! Yes, YOU are the
    Snowbird! I’ll try to remember that!

        For now, COVID seems to be keeping me quieter than usual. (Our snow
    storm has yet to produce a single flake. But there are little ice drops
    hanging from the tree branches.) I’ll bet the roads are slick in places,
    too. Good day to stay put!



    Barbie Dallmann

       Barefoot Coaching
    304-419-4495 (Voice & Text)


    • Yes, Barbie, staying put is the order of the day! I did get in a frigid, bundled up walk while the sun was still brilliant. Clouds have moved in! Snow ahead. Morning will be a winter wonderland, no doubt! Stay safe and warm.

  3. Lorraine Hochman says:

    Lovely post. Keeping it real. It’s a winter wonderland this morning. I sit in my recliner my pup nestled in my lap we gaze outside contemplating the inevitable walk we must do. I think it doesn’t look too bad until a brisk wind creates a whiteout across my window. We’ll sit awhile longer sip my coffee have my morning healthy muffin until Rascal can no longer wait. I’m grateful for his patience and control of his bodily functions.

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