Lea reporting. And, as Sarah might have mentioned yesterday — it’s Spring in Maine! But not exactly a normal Spring. This is the first April I remember that the trees on my road haven’t been posted with bright orange signs warning that no heavy trucks are allowed to traverse these parts for a while. If you lived here, you’d know why. In Maine, from the end of March until at least mid-May is usually mud season; the time when the winter snows and frosts melt, and people wear ankle-high “mud boots” (mine are bright yellow) if they’re going to be walking on any unpaved surfaces. Paved surfaces respond to mud season by sinking. Or at least cracking.
But this winter was so mild, and so dry, that right now we have green grass, and warmer than usual temperatures, and forest fire alerts. I’ve even seen some gardeners defy the long-adhered to adage that most vegetables should only be planted after Memorial Day.
This is a vacation week for most schools in Maine, so kids are taking full advantage of weather in the 60s and 70s. They’re wearing shorts and begging to go to the beach. Monday was Patriot’s Day — a state holiday we share with Massachusetts which commemorates the Battle of Lexington and Concord. It’s one of the few remaining ties reminding us that until 1820 we were only the District of Maine; the northern wilderness of Massachusetts.
Daffodils are in full bloom. Forsythia is out. Willow trees are in that special early stage of pale yellow green leaves. The cowbirds are back at our feeder, as are all the finches and the redwinged blackbirds. The winter birds are learning to share again. The spring peepers are serenading us at night.
It’s not all good: the Maple sap came in so early, and the temperatures rose so high, that the harvest here in Maine was half what it is usually. Maple syrup prices will be up this year. And we killed our first mosquito last week. Black flies probably won’t be waiting for Mother’s Day to appear, as they traditionally do.
The human population is growing, too. Snow birds who live on Southport Island, near Boothbay Harbor, are arriving every day — the town water’s been turned on. (Winter residents of the island have to have their own wells.) My neighbors across the street, who live in Boston, opened their house this weekend. We keep watching for our neighbors on the other side. They’ll be driving up from Florida. They usually open their marina by May 1, so they should be here any day now.
Almost every day another seasonal restaurant opens, or at least puts out a sign announcing when the big day will be. Round Top Ice Cream opened, and we celebrated by having our first taste of raspberry truffle of the season. Gift shops will probably wait until Memorial Day, but restaurants like to get an early start. When I was a child summer started on July 4, but today everything happens faster.
This morning I noticed some of the lobster traps that’ve been piled in a friend’s yard all winter have migrated from the yard to his truck. I suspect within the next couple of weeks we’ll be seeing his grass again, and he’ll be out long hours in his boat.
My artist husband has been meeting with the other artists and craftspeople he shows with. They’ve been preparing new work all winter. Now they’re planning their summer shows. They’ll be up at the Stable Gallery in Damariscotta cleaning out the place in the next couple of weeks. Doors will open there May 12; opening reception May 18, from 5-7 in the evening. Come on over!
The Lincoln County Historical Association called … would I train this summer’s docents for the Old Lincoln County Jail in Wiscasset, where two of my historical novels are set? The Jail’s summer hours start Memorial Day weekend.
Road crews are out, filling the potholes winter left behind, and cleaning winter sand off the roads. Other groups, some volunteers, some “volunteered”, are cleaning up beaches, hiking trails, and the sides of highways. Spring cleaning in Maine is a state-wide chore.
Everyone’s moving a little faster; smiling a little more. Schedules are a little tighter. Hopes are high. People will come to Maine, despite the gas prices. The economy’s a little stronger. Home sales are a little better. That should be good for sales of art, and high-end crafts, and antiques. Maine’s restaurants have gotten some wonderful press. The state’s becoming even more popular as a destination.
Mainers love their state with a passion. But Maine’s economy depends on sharing it with others. And so now, when Mother Nature is preparing for summer, Maine’s residents are preparing for our summer guests. Some may call them the “summer complaints,” but those folks from away, who head their cars and campers north-east, or who buy a ticket to Portland or Bangor, are also our summer residents, our relatives, our friends, and the people who make it possible for many of us to live in this place that we love.
We’re tidying the place up. We’re looking forward to having company. Every day a few more boats are in the harbors, a few more summer homes have flags flying, the farm stands are scrubbed and waiting for the first spring greens, and the weather’s warmer than usual this year. Maybe this is the year to head Down East. We’re lookin’ forward to seein’ you.
And, if you can’t make it in person this year, we could probably suggest a few books that could bring Maine to wherever you are. You see, I know a few writers ….
I remember how quickly things changed when I was the head librarian in Boothbay Harbor. The first winter (1997) we had three months of quietude from summer folk. In less than two years, we saw that three month window effectively vanish and many of them chose to stay longer or remain for the entire year.
A couple other signs of how much different this spring is in Maine (well New England). I weeded my rhubarb and I swear the soil temperature is 20 degrees warmer than normal. Who would ever imagine more than 3000 runners deciding to not run the Boston Marathon because of excess temperatures.
An earlier spring means a busier spring, it seems. As I richochet from task to task I keep reminding myself that it could be worse. Instead of preparing for a college graduation and helping out with the Junior Prom, I could still be the mom of two little league players, swatting black flies on the bleachers!
Sigh. Missing Maine…
Watering the flower beds in April? Who ever heard of such a thing? But the ducks are swimming in pairs and the gulls are snapping something yummy out of the cove and the solitary loon has his webbed black foot up on his back, making him look a bit like Quasimodo, and before the summer rush (warning, warning: Construction all over Portland and on the Maine Turnpike–turn back, turn back) this is a most lovely and peaceful time of year. I hardly need my nice new mudshoes.