Hello again from Sarah Graves, writing to you from the farthest northern reaches of the Arctic Circle…no, wait, I’m still in Eastport, Maine. It only feels like the Arctic north, partly due to the 47 inches of snow we got last week and the 15 more inches that will start any minute, so sayeth the weather guessers. We had been coasting along on a mild December and January, one in which we took long walks around the island and wore only three layers — silk long underwear, sweatshirt, really big sweatshirt — for them. Now that’s the outfit you wear to bed around here, and a wool hat to go with it. The wind has gone from briskly friendly to frankly murderous, and when you go outside at night you can hear the elements murmuring among themselves, plotting your icy demise.
Not everyone thinks it’s too cold to play outdoors. Evelyn thinks the word ‘snow’ comes naturally attached to the phrase, ‘dashing through the.’ Being a pet, though, means having servants to pry the ice from between your toes and give you a brisk rub-a-dub with a thick, warm towel after your wintry fun. Some dogs would disdain all this but Evelyn knows creature comforts were made for her . After all, it’s creature comforts, and she is one, right? Meanwhile the ice between my toes seems destined to remain there until spring; the old cast iron radiators in this house work great but when it’s this cold what I really want is radiant floor heating. I want it to radiate so hard that it glows in the dark.
Our trusty garden shed is half buried; I’m expecting it will be three-quarters covered or more by tomorrow. To clear our driveway we have a Plow Guy; the sight of the whirling yellow roof-beacon on his truck is among the pleasures of winter. Afterwards, though, there’s still plenty of unplowed area that, like everyone else, we just get out there and shovel: digging out the car, clearing off both porches, and opening up in front of the shed so the doors can swing open. Otherwise we’d be having to hoard our trash until spring, since at this time of year you don’t dare leave the trash cans out. Hungry raccoons and skunks can open them, even if they’re bungie-corded, faster than I’m able to, and I expect the sea gulls to get the hang of it any day, now. Probably they’ll learn to cooperate to do it, and if they ever develop thumbs we’re doomed (and not just about the trash cans).
Here’s what it looks like outside my window. The house in the foreground had British officers living in it during the War of 1812, when Eastport was occupied after the taking of Fort Sullivan and its citizens were made to sign loyalty oaths. (That’s one reason why the 4th of July is a big deal in Eastport.) After that it was continuously inhabited, most recently by the Varney sisters who were born and grew up there and lived there until they were in their nineties, until only a few years ago. There was a very old decorative iron fence set into the very old granite slabs marking the front edge of the front yard; the Varney sisters, I imagine, enjoyed the shade of the stately elms that lined Key Street then, arching over it to form a tunnel that carriage-horses clip-clopped through. Now the house stands empty, awaiting a promised rehabilitation. I think the new owners should hurry up; if they let it sit too long with all its history that place is sure to develop ghosts.
I don’t know about you, but all this indoor-ness is making me feel a little crazy. Not that there isn’t plenty to do (she said, weeping quietly) but I thrive on much more outdoor time than I’ve been getting, even with all the snow shoveling. But…idea! (Picture a light bulb going on suddenly over my head.) I have a pair of cross country skis, and the boots might even fit me, and… And very soon, now, Key Street will be snow-covered, not yet plowed or sanded, perfect for… Well, that’s it. To combat my bout of cabin fever I’m going to make chicken tortillas, and bake some oatmeal raisin cookies. That way there’ll be plenty to eat even if I do manage to suffer some small cross-country-ski kerfluffle. Not that I think there’ll be one. After all, it’s just me with my feet strapped onto long, slippery-skinny sticks, sliding along not quite well-controlled on a Very Hard Surface…really, what could go wrong?