We thought we’d end the month of January with a few pictures and stories to share our own Maine winters with you. Enjoy!
Kate Flora: I spend much of my winter hunched over my desk, trying to make the book that won’t write . . . uh . . . write. Otherwise, there are birds at the feeder and patterns in the ice and tracks in the snow. I do wonder why deer are coming right to my back deck. Nothing to see here. Oh, yes, and cooking. In theory, I should have done my baking and eating in the fall, like a bear getting ready for hibernation, but I don’t seem to have stopped. Trying to be more “plant forward” I am experimenting with recipes like this one: https://www.bonappetit.com/rec
Right now, on breaks from that darned stubborn book, I am reading “flower porn” and dreaming of spring and summer gardens. Did take a break to go snowshoeing and came back with a new scene for the book!
John Clark, I used to love outside winter, especially ice fishing and sledding with the kids. At almost 74, my body and cold don’t speak to each other much. However, I have had a couple interesting changes recently. I’m watching more football and like most everyone else, I think the second weekend of playoff games was the best series of games EVAH. My reading tastes are changing a bit as well. I’m hooked on dark, dystopian YA fantasy, to the point where I’m trimming romance and angst from my TBR pile. Since the dark stuff is boiling out from multiple publishers, I’m in no danger of running out of reading material. Taking nature photos and marveling at how much easier shoveling a paved driveway is, coupled with writing more short stories rounds out the winter report from Waterville, Maine.
Susan Vaughan: Unlike John, I have never loved winter and always have felt the cold deep in my bones. I do remember loving sledding down the steep hills of my native West Virginia, but didn’t much care for the steep icy sidewalks. We’ve had a couple of pretty snowfalls, lovely to look at. Although the temps have been in the single digits, I take the dog for her daily walks. Sasha loves the cold and off we go. My TBR pile is a list for the library, mostly historical mysteries. I’m catching up on the Daisy Dobbs mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear and am deep into Ariana Franklin’s second book in her Mistress of Death series, The Serpent’s Tale. My writing brain was temporarily frozen too, but a new writing book, Story Genius by Lisa Cron, has thawed it a bit, reminding me that story is more than just the plot and even more than just the characters. So even if I’m snowed in, I’m busy.
Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson: I can’t say I much liked the nights when it got down to -12 here in the Western Maine Mountains, but I still prefer our winters to climates that are hot and humid. That said, my husband and I have different ideas on how to spend a winter’s day. Here’s the view he prefers:
That was taken on one of the ski slopes at Saddleback. Now here’s one of my preferred winter views:
The woodstove heats our downstairs up to a comfy temp in the mid-seventies even on the coldest days. And yes, that’s Shadow, formerly Lea Wait’s cat, enjoying both the warmth from the stove and a sunbeam. Works for me, too. I also enjoy looking out the window at our snow-covered back yard.
Maggie Robinson: My kids think I’ve got agoraphobia. While it’s true I’m not tramping merrily about the icy countryside (I have a replaced knee, and a knee that probably needs to be replaced), I do peek out on my front porch every now and again—and then peek right back in. I am an indoor cat.
Of course, I spend a considerable time at the computer working on the current mess. I have, like everyone else in America, discovered Wordle. I subscribe to the New York Times Games page, and am so addicted to the daily Spelling Bee that my oldest daughter bought me this Queen Bee pillow.
I keep myself amused by decorating the artificial Christmas tree, which is now in Valentine’s mode. Soon it will be covered in bunnies and eggs. It stays up all year now because I am basically too lazy to take it down.
And I’ve promised myself to read this research book, which is 813 pages long, including the notes. The print is so small I’m not sure I’ll ever really know why the British aristocracy declined and fell.
Snowshoe Rock of Doom Jule Selbo
This is my first full winter in Maine, and I’ve become a snowshoe fan. So many Mainers are “outdoorsy” and usually, I prefer to curl up with a book and cook the soup while the hikers and skiers sweat. I’m always ready to make everyone a hot toddy when they return with cold cheeks and frostbitten toes. This year I’ve discovered the joys of snowshoeing, being on a trail with the winter white and the dark trees and the refreshing cold on my face.
So, of course, I always want to get the background. The oldest snowshoe on record? Found it.
Otzi the Iceman’s snowshoe in the Italian Dolomites in a melting glacier. After some carbon dating, historians believe it to be about 6,000 years old. Otzi’s mummified body had been found in the area 25 years before the snowshoe was discovered in 2013. The snowshoe is made out of birch wood that was shaped into a 13-inch oval with thin branches stretched and tied inside the frame. Apparently, the hunting, sheepherding and foraging was good in the Alps in Otzi’s time – and he was also stylish: he wore goatskin leggings, a fur hat, and a coat made out of a combo of goat and sheep hides. One can assume (?) that he used leather to tie the snowshoe to his feet?
Then there was Mellie. In the 1870s, he became a “famous” snowshoe maker in Norway, learning his trade from fellow Norwegian Clarence Smith who, supposedly, made the first snowshoe with a turned-up front toe. Mellie broadened that toe and made long and short styles – and introduced woven rawhide strips webbed across the frame, as well as leather bindings. His model was copied for decades.
One can also go down the rabbit hole of the designs of the Native American snowshoe (designed well before Mellie’s) – all a great read but this is where my research has to end for now, because I need to get back to work on the last chapters of 9 DAYS, A Dee Rommel Mystery.
Except to point out a perfect place for a murder. The Snowshoe Rock of Doom, in York, Maine. During the Candlemas Massacre in January 1692, Native Americans unleashed a successful attack on a British settlement in York. They marched the British survivors to Canada, making it clear they expected them to stay there. On the long walk, prisoners died.
There’s a large boulder near Chases Pond, with a plaque on it, stating this was the worst Indian attack in history (the article I read debated that claim) and that members of the Abenaki tribe “left their snowshoes on this rock” before destroying the town.
Here’s the mystery novel’s midpoint twist: The plaque is not on the right rock. The real boulder is about a half mile away, but the owner of that property is not fond of tourists wanting to trespass on his land. So, the plaque was affixed to a different rock nearby, close to a public road.
I’m a flatland, one-day-out snowshoer. I’ve read about some of the ski-or-snowshoe-in cabins in the hills of western Maine and New Hampshire. Diehards carry in their own supplies, build fires in the cabin for heat, carry in lanterns because there’s no electricity and hope the weather allows them to get back to civilization when they planned to. Not for me. Like my reading chair too much.
But, somewhere in there is a perfect place for a murder.
Matt Cost: I have to confess that my wife and I have taken to fleeing from Maine for six weeks in the winter. We don’t much care for heat and humidity, so we are only as far as Emerald Isle, North Carolina. We arrived in an ice storm. Luckily, that has quickly melted, and we have been hovering around fifty degrees all week, which is just about perfect as far as we’re concerned. I don’t mind the cold so much as the ice and short days, and there is less ice and a tad more daylight here. In reality, my life is little different in either place. I spend most of the day writing and doing writing activities. Breaks are mostly to take the dogs for a walk. In Maine, that’s in the woods, in North Carolina, it’s on the beach. A perfect blend of two worlds. As Emerald Isle runs east to west, my writing nook is blessed with both sunrise and sunset. There were several pods of dolphins cavorting out front in the middle of the days and Pelicans parade by in graceful flight. Not that I’m looking. I’m writing. Write on.
Sandra Neily here (writing from Moosehead Lake where it’s a 2 paws up wind chill day: when Raven tries to hold her feet off the snow.) Short excursions called for. Like Kate, I am trying to write a book that does not want to “write itself.” My fav winter pic is still of Cousin Annie: the 2017 Haines AK Women’s March. (She’s carrying the Stronger Together sign.) Winter resilience raised to a whole new level. I do find, for me, the best way out of any discouraging time and … yet another Covid winter is to get outdoors. Here’s a mix of current and past winters. Dog snowshoe. Dog thinking about front door snow drift. Husband and I on a ski outing. My daughter and grandgirls. (Now in our second winter of meeting only outdoors.) Antler Camp. A groomed cross-country trail up at Squaw/Moose Mt. (The volunteers doing this are amazing!) Snow art on the deck. Need a lift? Get out there; look here for places. Even if it’s only the coming in that sparks Joy.