If you live in Maine, people from away often ask: Do you stay there all year?
If the answer is “yes,” then you’ll often see a shaking head and the comment, ” How do you cope with the snow and cold?”
The answer is: Snow and cold aren’t problems. Oh, I’ll admit that, living in a house built in 1774, I do sometimes wonder how people kept warm here two hundred years ago. But over the years central heating and a woodstove and electricity and indoor plumbing (water from our own well) have made a major difference in the house’s temperature. And that doesn’t even begin to mention attic and cellar insulation and storm windows. (And a friend with a plow and, in real emergencies, a generator that keeps the water and heat on, if little else.)
But here’s the real secret: Maine, at least near the coast, where I live, doesn’t get THAT cold. Sure … in the 16 winters I’ve spent here we have had some sub-zero days. In fact, in the past week …. But not that many. And snow? Some winters it’s on the ground for months; other years there’s very little. In the past couple of years (really, it’s true!) New Jersey and Connecticut have gotten more snow than we have on the coast of Maine. And Maine copes very well with the amount it gets. Schools and businesses don’t often close, mail is delivered, and rarely is there a line at the supermarket for bread and milk and batteries.
When the deciduous trees (no, not all Maine’s trees are firs and pines) lose their leaves, the views of the water are even more breathtaking.
The crackling ice on the edge of tidal rivers is beautiful.
Many Maine organizations, from churches to schools to libraries to Ys and book groups, schedule most of their activities in the winter. In summer, most Mainers are focused on visitors. Winters are for the locals.
Winters are the time for writers to write, artists to paint, craftsmen and women to create. Focus comes more easily; there are fewer distractions than in other seasons.
Winter is a time to catch up with all the movies you didn’t have time to see last summer; the books you’ve been wanting to read; the recipes you’ve clipped but haven’t forgotten. It’s a time for neighbors to gather together, relax, and get caught up.
I’ll admit it’s a dark season. In December and January the sun sets before 4:30 in the afternoon. But it’s also a time for the warmth of lit windows and fireplaces. A time to assess the world, and our place in it. A time to study garden catalogs and boating magazines; to plan trips, or even take them.
Many Mainers who don’t have children in school take their vacations in January, February, or March. Some businesses that have been open 7 days a week for months close then. Those who aren’t snow mobilers or skiiers head south for a week or a month. It’s a quiet time here, and everyone has their own way of enjoying it.
For me, it’s a time to focus on writing. This year I have a manuscript due March 1, and another to start then. For my husband, who’s an artist, it’s a time to work on new canvases that will be ready to hang when galleries open for the (summer) season.
It’s a time to talk and reassess our priorities.
This time of year we wear sweats and sweaters and sometimes long underwear. We feed the birds and admire the wide vistas that are hidden in other seasons. We make bean soup and beef stew and fondue. We enjoy being together.
What season could be better?