Moving to Maine, Part 2

Move to Maine they said.

It’s not as cold and snowy as you think, they said.

The ocean mitigates the temperature on the coast, they said.

To which I say, “HA!”

Actually, I’m not in Maine. We’re on our annual sojourn in Key West, but I’ve been watching the Portland temperatures and snow fall tallies with interest. (Not to mention, we paid someone to go into our house to make sure the pipes were okay.)

Before and After

We left before Christmas, but not before two decent snowfalls and some temperatures that, at the time, seemed cold enough. I thought the City of Portland would be champs at clearing the streets and sidewalks, but I think in Maine the attitude is more, “Only wusses need clear places to walk. Good luck!”

Indeed Portland (known as Northern Massachusetts to the rest of Maine, or as Portlyn due to the insurgence of hipsters) seems to wobble between the high tax, high regulation, hot-and-cold running services philosophy we were used to in our dense little city in the Peoples Republic of Massachusetts and the more laissez-faire Live Free or (be prepared to) Die (at any moment) attitude of its neighbors to the west and south.

Guest room. The bed showed up the day before we left.

For example, in Massachusetts, we had to pay a guy hired by our realtor to pre–inspect our smoke alarms, so that when the fire department came on the only day before the closing when they had an open appointment our alarms would be sure to pass. The consequences for not passing were that dire.

In Maine, at the closing, the buyer agrees to have the smoke alarms inspected within 30 days. “By the way, no one will ever come to check on that,” the closing attorney told us cheerfully. “Good luck!”

That “Good luck,” thing comes up a lot.

On the other hand, in Portland it took us three weeks to get up the courage to put out our garbage. The problem wasn’t a lack of instructions. It was too many of them. First, per the city, we have to buy the bags to put our trash in. (In talking to others, I’ve discovered other places do this.) So if something doesn’t fit in the bag, I guess that’s a no. And second, we’re not supposed to put the cans out until 6:30 am on the morning they get picked up, which is around 8:00. (Per the condo association, because..sea gulls.) Bill and I spent many anxious Trash-day Eves hanging out the windows trying to figure out how our neighbors did it. We normally aren’t up at 6:30, but Bill’s been making the sacrifice.

Living room. Sorry it’s so dark. I didn’t think to take it until we were running out the door and Bill had already pulled the blinds.

Despite much declaring of our goal to ourselves, each other and everyone we saw over the fall, Bill and I didn’t quite get the place totally unpacked before we left. The living floor and the bedroom floor are done (or done for now), but our studies are…not.

People keep asking why we moved to Portland to which I have no answer except we like it. They also now ask how we like living there to which I answer that with all the unpacking and travel this fall, we don’t quite feel like we’re living there yet.

But we’re looking forward to finding out.

About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at
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9 Responses to Moving to Maine, Part 2

  1. It’s not the cold ya worry about. That shovels pretty easy. The Everest high snow banks left by the plow trucks are the real hazard. Every time I climb up and lower them, those idiots plow past again, filling the driveway and undoing my efforts to see up the road. I’ve hired a laid-off air traffic controller to get us in and out safely.

    • Barbara Ross says:

      LOL, John. Because there were some issues related to our condo association, we were given a years worth of notes from the meetings to read before we closed. MANY discussions of being plowed in.

  2. Lea Wait says:

    Relax! Every year is different. The first winter I was in Maine full-time it snowed the day before Thanksgiving and we didn’t see ground again until March — when everything melted and we put porch furniture out! Other years we’ve had almost no snow until April. This year has been colder than usual (although, yes, other years have also had cold spells.) We have a fair amount of snow on the ground now, but temperatures are warming, and I’m much more concerned about the rain storm due Friday and the freezing due Saturday. What you’re missing in Key West? The bright glint of snow, especially when it reflects the water or a sunrise or sunset. The amazingly artistically frozen ice and snow on the edges of the rivers. The weather forecasts for “only a dusting – maybe three or four inches of snow – tomorrow, so your commute shouldn’t be affected.” Snow plows that clear (at least major) streets very quickly. (Although, yeah, those piles of snow at the end of driveways and cross streets can be hazardous to sight lines.) Getting to know your postmaster well since your mailbox is enveloped in several frozen feet of snow, so you have to pick up your mail at the post office. (Great place to meet neighbors.) Seeing someone in the supermarket the day before a predicted storm loading up on 5 large bottles of Vodka, a half dozen bags of Doritos, and a bottle of Diet Pepsi. And all the smiles as people say, “What else? It’s Maine, after all!” Miss you guys!

    • Barbara Ross says:

      Miss you guys, too. I’m actually pretty optimistic about this move to Maine. I’m not sorry we’re missing the winter, but I’m eager to get back in the spring.

  3. Brenda Buchanan says:

    Ah, Barb. It’s not perfect, but it’s close. Lea has done a great job explaining what you are missing, and I’ll add a bit more:

  4. Brenda Buchanan says:

    Oops, that comment loaded on me without my hitting the button. Hmmmm.
    a. The lines to get into Portland’s hot restaurants are shorter in the winter, and soon we will celebrate Restaurant Week (which has kinda turned into Restaurant Month) when you can go out for a fabulous meal for a lot less $$.
    b. There is ample parking at the beaches, and if you dress right, walking an oceanside strand once or twice a week is better for your mental health than pretty much anything. (I suppose you can do this in Key West, too, but here you have the added benefit of confirming to yourself how rugged you are.)
    c. Farmer’s markets remain active through the Maine in the winter. Portland’s is at the Maine Girls Academy. Brunswick’s is in the For Andross Mill. The farmers and vendors sell lots more than beets and rutabaga in the depths of winter (not that there’s anything wrong with beets and rutabaga) and there’s usually live music, too.
    d. Local bookstores and other writerly venues maintain a full slate of events through the winter. In some ways it feels like the opportunities even increase in the cold weather months, because we aren’t all busy entertaining company.
    e. Portland Stage Company’s season runs through the winter with all kinds of great plays and other events. Go here for details:
    f. Winter is when you really come to understand what people mean when they say the whole State of Maine is a small town.

  5. Barbara Ross says:

    This all sounds so lovely–I’m almost, emphasize almost, sorry we’re not there.

  6. bethc2015 says:

    And here in the wilderness, there is nothing like the stars in the sky on a winter night.

  7. Pingback: How I Really Spent My First Maine Winter | Maine Crime Writers

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