The True Joys of a Maine Winter

Last month my esteemed colleague Barbara Ross wrote a “what were we thinking?” post about moving her primary home this winter from Somerville, Massachusetts to Portland. It started out like this:

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!”

A bunch of us commented, all along the lines of “Oh, Barb, it’s not that bad.”

But as anyone who has been here knows, the weather these past few months has been pretty awful.

The driving has not been easy

Winter started early. Christmas week was marked by bad weather, including a nasty ice storm that had everyone fretting about family members who were traveling in the days around the holiday.

Then the deep freeze set in, a sustained spell of bitter, painful cold that sucked fuel out of tanks, induced car batteries to die and forced us all to bundle ourselves in six layers of clothing before stepping outside.

A typical reading on the thermometer on our porch those two hellish weeks after Christmas

Stuff inside the spare refrigerator in our garage froze, memorably several cans of ginger ale, which exploded like little soda grenades.

It was grim, but we survived it, and now we’re in the first week of February, so things are looking up. I’m writing this on Superbowl Sunday. It’s gray out there, and spitting snow. But if the sun were visible, we would have first seen it at 6:53 a.m., and if skies were to clear today (they won’t, I’m using my writer’s imagination here), sunset would occur at 4:58 p.m. This translates to ten hours of daylight, up from slightly less than nine hours at the solstice, and 11 (count ‘em) hours of visible light.

It’s enough to make a woman’s heart sing.

Here comes the sun

But the point of this column is not to say Barb is right, though truth be told, she is right about many, many things. But she’s not wrong either, not exactly. She’s simply unaware of the many joys of winter in Maine, and I know she’s looking forward to experiencing them. For example:

There is no need to spend money on fancy balance classes like Tai Chi when you have a front walk of your own on which to practice balance and mindful motion. The end of January ice was a gift from Mother Nature in this regard, though I prefer the gift of grippers to keep me upright and my limbs and joints intact.

Can’t get through a Maine winter without these babies

All the little joys of life that you miss in the rush of summer are front and center. The pleasure of a finding a mitten you thought you’d lost. It’s frozen to the driveway, but at least not gone forever.

The ecstasy of the car wash on one of the few-and-far-between warmish days, scouring the salt off not just the car’s exterior, but the filthy floor mats as well.

And the bottom-warming bliss of a car with heated seats, which makes the drive to work a high point of the day.

You can have the table of your choice at some of Portland’s hottest restaurants on Portland’s coldest nights. The summer lines out the door are a distant memory when the mercury is below zero. The staff is delighted to see you, and, you know, reservations, schmezervations.

But for me, the best thing about the cold weather months is having the beach to ourselves.

Slush on the water

Barb might be strolling the soft sand in Key West right now, but I’m getting ready to put on my big boots and cruise the slushy verge where the ocean meets the Maine shoreline, to feel the wind bite my ears through my hat, and savor the relief of hiking back to the car. The one with the heated seats.

Brenda Buchanan is the author of the Joe Gale Mystery Series, featuring a diehard Maine newspaper reporter who covers the crime and courts beat. Three books—QUICK PIVOT, COVER STORY and TRUTH BEAT—are available everywhere else quality ebooks are sold.


On Monday March 5th, hot scenes from books by MCW bloggers Barbara Ross, Lea Wait, Richard Cass, Brenda Buchanan and MCW alum Chris Holm will be given staged readings by professional and community actors at Portland Stage Company. The fun starts at 6:30 with a reception in the lobby, followed by readings in the theater beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door, so why not buy yours early? Portland Stage Company is at 25 Forest Avenue in Portland.

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13 Responses to The True Joys of a Maine Winter

  1. Anonymous says:

    Excellent! There is also the pleasure of feeding the squirrels from your bird feeder . .

  2. Gram says:

    It sure sounds a lot like winter here in MA.

    • You are right, Gram. All of New England is in the same sorry boat this year. But at least we aren’t in the mess we were in 40 years ago this week, when the fabled Blizzard of ‘78 hit.

  3. C.Michele Dorsey says:

    You almost have me convinced, Brenda. I admit the frigid six weeks I spent unexpectedly on the Outer Cape this year were a wonderful surprise to me. I found I actually love winter there. You are right about the beaches and restaurants (although many close for the winter).

  4. Lea Wait says:

    I’ll add — I love the crinkled ice along the shore lines, especially on rivers. Sunrises and sun sets dramatically reflected on snow. Juncos and other birds that only visit us in the colder months. The roar of a fire in a woodstove. Cocoa and an old movie on the TV (or a new one, via NetFlix). The beauty of a snowfall. Being able to find a parking space almost anywhere. Short (or no) lines at the grocery store. Lectures and plays and concerts and art exhibits and adult education classes and … so many more wintertime events. (And I don’t ski or ice fish or snow mobile — there are lists of winter activities in Maine.) Thanks for posting, Brenda!

    • Brenda Buchanan says:

      For me, winter allows for re-charging after the busy summer season. It’s all good, so long as you have grippers . . .

  5. Barbara Ross says:

    You know I was only teasing, right?

  6. sandy says:

    Oh, Brenda. Always an “UP” voice in our lives. Thanks for that and I LOVE the pink grippers. Tip: do not wear them in fresh snow. They gather between the cleat-things and get packed and smoothed down into lethal, surprise ice skates. (Did my hamstring on that 3 years ago.) I can’t seem to post it here but will send you a pic of my dog trying to get out the front door. (Another pleasure: Is there another way out of my house today? No? Then it’s “Casablanca” and warm cookies again. Nice. ) Thanks, thanks!

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

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