Maine Winters

Lea Wait, here – aDSCN0620nd, yes, I’m in Maine.

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.

January 2010 001January 2010 033And, although I certainly love Maine in the warmer months (how could anyone not?) there are special joys in the wintertime.

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.

DSC00775Winter 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?

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8 Responses to Maine Winters

  1. Gram says:

    Sounds like most of the rest of New England…I wouldn’t really want to live anywhere else – visit- yes, live -no.

  2. Such a nice post to start the week, Lea. With his morning’s gray sky and slick roads, I needed that!

    Enjoying winter is entirely possible if you focus on the right things. January is a time to catch one’s breath, always a good thing. In early February, the light starts coming back.

    Thanks for offering such a positive perspective today.

  3. Kathy MacAlister says:

    My husband grew up in Maine and tells me horror stories of winters there. I usually respond with horror stories of summers in Louisiana (as well as spring, autumn, and winter). Your post, however, makes me want to move to Maine as soon as possible.

  4. Wonderful rendition about Maine in Winter. Sort of like Vermont, where we still only have a generator for sporadic electricity. Not living there, but loving living in the Sierra at 6,700 feet–with electricity, regular heat, view of Lake Tahoe to knock your socks off. Thanks for reminding me how to appreciate cold and beauty. Sherie

  5. What a lovely post, Lea. As frequent visitor to Maine, but only in the summer and fall, I’ve often wondered how those of you who live there full-time manage the long winter. I have a friend from Vermont and years ago she and her family lived in Fort Worth for a few years. I remember her commenting on a warm day near the end of February, that back home, winter sometimes lasted until May. I was shocked. I admire the resilience of all of you who do manage the long winter. My cousin in upstate NY swears by her generator! Glad you have one and it works. 🙂

  6. Kait Carson says:

    Lovely post, Lea. I’m from the crown so our winters are a different animal up there, but we use the cold and dark for the same purposes. Winter for us is time of renewal. Having lived in both South Florida and Northern Maine, I often tell people that I was colder in Florida than I ever was in Maine and hotter in Maine than I ever was in Florida. It’s true too.

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  8. Lea Wait says:

    Kait … amazing! Although when temperatures here get to 90 or above .. which does sometimes happen .. we suffer for lack of air conditioning! And I always thought of generators as for wimps, or paranoids .. until, when I was taking care of my disabled mother, we had 5 days without power. No water. No warmth. It was hard for me – but nightmarish for her. That’s when we invested in a generator. Now we can miss tv and computers … and at least we’re warm and toilets flush!

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