From Winter to Summer

Yesterday morning, we left Columbia and drove southeast across frozen, snowy terrain.  The snow depth peaked in southern Illinois, where a large flock of snow geese circled above Rend Lake, apparently searching for open forage.  By the time we reached southern Kentucky, the snow had disappeared but we soon encountered split trees and broken branches in north-central Tennessee, evidence of the recent ice storm.  After climbing through chilly fog west of Chattanooga, we descended into the Tennessee River Valley, where relatively mild air offered a spring-like respite from our wintery travel.

This morning, we resumed our journey, negotiating Atlanta's traffic in a steady, pre-dawn drizzle; beyond the city, we headed south under gray skies, driving through a landscape of pine woods, pecan groves and, south of Macon, what may be our country's largest concentration of billboards.  Nearing the Florida line, the intermittent drizzle gave way to bands of heavy rain, broken by swaths of steamy sunshine; the temperature had risen into the low 70s (F).  South of Gainesville, the skies cleared and, as we crossed Sarasota Bay, it was a summer-like 80 degrees (60 degrees warmer than our departure temperature in Columbia).

Of course, the landscape changed in concert, from barren trees and snow-covered fields in the Midwest to the ever-verdant pastures and live oak/cabbage palm woodlands of Florida.  This afternoon, we saw cattle egrets mingling with the livestock, sandhill cranes feeding on the prairies, ospreys fishing along the rivers and bays, brown pelicans cruising above the Gulf of Mexico and a mix of shorebirds racing along the beach.  A nineteen hour drive had taken us from the deadly chill of a winter morning to the carefree warmth of a summer afternoon.