No, this isn’t a post about domestic violence that happens during mud season.
Other posts here lately have talked about spring in Maine and that got me thinking about my personal list of “signs of spring.” Of course, we all know that this spring is exceedingly early, but whether it’s still April or all the way into May, the forsythia blooms, the apple trees bud, and the forget-me-nots that are now naturalized but had ancestors in my mother’s rock garden come into flower. Most years it’s too early for them in Maine even at mid-May. I know this because my wedding was on May 10th and I wanted forget-me-nots in my bridal bouquet. Mom had to bring them with her from New York. This year all bets are off. No blossoms yet, but soon. Very soon.
However, I’m straying from the point—things that mark the start of the season for me.
Number One: Giffords in Farmington and Dutch Treat in Wilton open for the summer. The one sells ice cream and the other what we used to call “custard” when I was a kid. My father and I walked to the “custard stand” almost every night in July and August for a soft-serve ice-cream cone.
Number Two: The Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race. How do I explain this? This is the forty-sixth year that hundreds of strangely dressed people in canoes or kayaks have paddled from Kenduskeag Village to the middle of downtown Bangor, Maine. Crowds gather along the banks to watch them. The biggest crowd is at Six Mile Falls, where a good percentage of the participants end up upside down, backwards, and/or in the ice-cold water. Never fear, there are well-trained rescue personnel stationed there, in wet suits, to make sure everyone gets out safely.
This rite of spring takes place on the third Saturday of April every year. For those of us who don’t live all that close to Bangor, it is sometimes televised. This year, with the water so low, Channel 5 decided it wasn’t worth it. Dang. Of course, this year on that day (April 21) I was volunteering at Treat Memorial Library in Livermore Falls as part of the Sisters in Crime “Librarians and Booksellers Solve Mysteries Every Day” event, I’d have missed it in any case.
Number Three: Malice Domestic. This annual gathering of mystery readers and writers, held in Bethesda, MD, is one of the highlights of my entire year, not just the spring. It also marks the point at which my long winter’s hibernation, where I hole up and get a lot of writing done but don’t see very many people, is over until November or so when I once more retreat into the cave. This year is the twenty-fourth that this convention has been held. I missed the first two, but since Malice Domestic III, I’ve attended almost every year. It’s a chance to see old friends and meet new ones. There’s a dealers’ room, loaded with the latest mysteries and other treats, as well. My good friend Christina Cowan sells unique jewelry and for the second year in a row will also offer some of the “magic wands” my husband Sandy makes. There are panels. The one I’m on is “Murder by the Book: No one is Safe in the Book Industry.” I’m on it because the most recent Liss MacCrimmon Scottish-American Heritage Mystery, Scotched, is set at a fictional mystery fan convention (The First Maine-ly Cozy Con) held in Moosetookalook, Maine. Yes, I freely admit it here—many scenes in this novel were inspired by events that really took place at past Malices. Other amenities include a hospitality suite staffed by Malice veterans, offering that absolute necessity—coffee—but also providing a place to sit down and play catch-up with friends. The other place to hang out is the lobby bar. It’s rare to walk through and not see someone you know. It’s not unusual to see eight or a dozen chairs pulled up to a table designed to seat four. There are also awards, the Agathas. The physical award is a teapot, appropriate since the gathering celebrates the traditional mystery where sex and violence are kept to a minimum and the amateur sleuth thrives. I actually won the Agatha for Best Nonfiction of 2008, for my How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries (written as Kathy Lynn Emerson). Both of my mystery-writing personas will be at Malice this year, and both Kathy and Kaitlyn will be returning home to Maine just in time to enjoy those forget-me-nots.