A swallowtail butterfly enjoys a bit of nectar. Photos by Fran Palmeri

I was startled the other day when a catalog arrived with a swimsuit on the cover. Down here they’re on the sale rack! I can tell you the day of the week and the month. It’s Florida’s seasons that confuse me.

Summers, I feel snowed in. Up north in winter, I’d peer out and worry about getting the stuff out of the driveway. Now I long for just one hour of blizzard in which I’d happily shovel away, relishing frozen hands and feet.

Ironwood blooms brighten the natural landscape.

I try to keep farmer’s hours: up by 6 a.m., out by 8 a.m. and in by late morning to hibernate in air conditioning until 5 p.m. Midday’s a wasteland. If I must be out, I fight for a shady parking spot at the mall or seek out a shady hammock, thanking the wise souls who pushed for public lands.

At Sleeping Turtles Preserve on Border Road in Venice, an hour strolling among the sabal palms and oaks revives me. So does the Nature Trail at Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey.

What a view of the Myakka River at Sleeping Turtles Preserve.
Great horned owls peer down from their perch.

Just when I’m longing for peaches and cantaloupes or fried tomatoes with cream gravy, my farm stand closes. No Florida farmer expects northern crops to flourish in summer. Floridians don’t notice, but we Northerners remember suppers of corn on the cob bought on the way home from a trip to the shore and the “U picks” out in the country, where we stuffed ourselves full of strawberries. You can do all this in Florida in the “other season.”

Pine flatwoods beckon at Oscar Scherer State Park.

At times I think the heat will go on forever, but then the world is righted in mid-October when, like an answer to a summons, the first of the season’s cold fronts sinks down the peninsula. The heat retreats. No more farmers’ hours.

When winter sets in, it’s down another rabbit hole. The calendar reads January, February, March, but outside it’s a perpetual springtime. Doors and windows are opened wide. I keep banker’s hours. I can rise at 9 and be comfortable walking anywhere most any time of day.

What's better than winter at the beach?

In early morning a shady hammock is a chilly prospect, so I reserve it for warm winter afternoons.

Reports of blizzards up north send me gloating to the beach.

Oscar Scherer State Park offers up a vast number of idyllic scenes.