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Sixty-Something: Fighting Off The Winter Blues

T.J. Clemente

"During these brutal winter days I still feel the light of spring then summer coming to me," the author notes. (Photo: TJ Clemente)

On most February nights, one can hear the winter wind blowing through the leafless trees. Perhaps feel a cold draft seeping through the bedroom window behind the reading chair. It's tough to see because it's so dark out due to some low lingering snow clouds that are puffing over the East End. At sixty-something, you can sense a snowstorm just a few hours away.

I suppose if you stop and concentrate, you can conjure up memories of your coldest times outside experiencing wintertime. However, when I am sitting in my bedroom reading chair, and it's real cold out, I start counting the days to when I will be swimming off my sailboat, out off the shore of Gardiner's Bay. I recall those high summer moments when the shallow water right off the shore of Sammy's Beach at low tide is like a jacuzzi! When coming out, you don't truly need a towel.

One winter, on a snowy, seven-degree day, helping someone with his boat I fell off the dock into the high tide, cold water at the 3 Mile Harbor Marina where the boat was docked. I actually remember clearly how strange it was looking up at the bottom of the boat, realizing I was standing on the bottom, wearing all my warmest things now underwater and then knowing my phone was destroyed! I remember climbing up a dock ladder and instantly taking off all my clothes and going to my car and starting up the engine and turning the heat up! Only after a hot shower and putting on warm clothes did I begin to deal with a ruined phone and my soaking wet wallet.

In 2016, I decided to show my wife the magic of Stowe, Vermont in late February by booking our accommodations a month in advance. We were amazed when on our first night, while coming back from dinner at the Von Trapp Family Inn, the car thermometer on the dashboard read minus 22 degrees - and that's not including the intense wind that was blowing. My gloveless fingers stuck to the car door handle when I later went back out to start the car at 1:00 a.m. to prevent the engine block from freezing!

Back in time, I loved my time living in Montauk - even if the window in my room could never totally close, due to warping window frames. The positive was I always had a flow of wonderful, pure ocean air; the negative was in the winter that wasn't such a positive. At the time, I was renting and living on a writer's earnings, so I could not do much about it, other than duct tape and cut a plastic tarp filler. Once or twice a winter, I slept wearing my down jacket and three pairs of thick, warm socks. The dog slept on the bed with me under the covers.

We usually take a trip to a warm destination in late February to combat the last of the tough, dogs days of winter. This year that's all but impossible with COVID-19 and our ages while still waiting to get the vaccine. However, now I am smiling writing this next line - because summertime in the Hamptons is a vacation day every day. It's a process getting there, but in three weeks I will be getting the bottom of my boat painted. Then the inside cleaned. By the end of April or early May I will be getting it into the water. At first, the evenings will be cold and raw, but then slowly every day it gets warmer until it's time to take that first jump back into the water. It's like getting re-baptized and energizing my soul. So, during these brutal winter days I still feel the light of spring then summer coming to me.




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