To someone with no Maine winter snow experience, there are mixed emotions.
The reaction to the snow flakes in the weather forecast hits folks in many different ways. If you are not prepared for winter like most things in life, you get dragged into the experience. Rather than excited about a shift to a new Maine season that changes the look and feel of everything in Maine when the white wash happens.
Jack Frost adds a new dimension to the place called Maine in winter.
Variation on a Vacationland theme seasoned with snow makes it more black and white simple. It keeps it interesting, new and different. The what we do for fun changes up big time as the temperature numbers shrink. Water skis swapped for cross country and down hill boards. The wardrobe gets layers added and legs, sleeves combined in what we wear to avoid hibernation. To enjoy the long wait until spring has sprung.
Cabin fever is a real ailment that must be avoided. The right outdoor equipment, the correct clothing is the sure fire fix for “stuck inside” boredom. Books and board games, knitting and cross wood puzzles can only help so much in a Maine winter.
Maine winters offer solitude, peacefulness, crisp air, blue skies with white powder and crystal sparkle enhancement.
The hunker down secure feeling inside your home as the winter winds howl around the exterior means you prepared for the season now playing. As you retreat inside with warm food prepared slowly from a quick trip down the stairs to the root cellar. Where the fruits of your canning and preserve efforts… the bounty of your garden, gleaning the Maine farm fields awaits.
For when chores in the farm barn are done and the animals are grained, hayed, watered for the night. You feel contentment, caught up and ready for earned relaxation. The focus shifts to the positive ions radiating from a hot stove or fireplace blaze as the outside landscape gets a thicker, continuous blanket layer of pure white everywhere.
Snow hides the scars of the landscape in a forestry wood cutting operation. Makes your backyard items disappear.
It helps you forget you did not get the fallen leaves of orange, red, yellow and brown raked or mulched up in the lawn surrounding your Maine home. Erased from view. Winter gives you a feeling of satisfaction when your wood supply is bigger than you will ever need. And the left over seasoned wood cut to fit your stove or furnace natural fuel of a renewable resource will be spill over and be welcome to use the next heating season.
When you don’t live in Maine, have not made a snow man of wet sticky winter white stuff.
If you have never driven a snow sled on a groomed trail or swish swished down a white mountain top with the chair lift rides back to the summit for do it again. Ice fishing in some pretty elaborate lake shanties is one way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Just check the depth of the sheet of ice as the water turns from liquid to solid. As you clear a patch to make a perfect place for a spirited pond hockey game or to ice skate in a winter landscape. Where everything that was full of color and lush and green is suddenly dominated by mostly white. But touched up here and there with some green, brown, gray and the skies of blue. You notice the change in the color scheme most hoofing it through a tree plantation on snow shoes alone. When the conversation you have are inside and pondered at a peaceful pace.
It is easy to feel the worst and think how dangerous old man winter weather would be to driving, to staying warm and on and on.
If you let those fears snow ball. Mainers don’t live in terror of winter, they embrace it. Sure we are careful to scrape and salt the walkways because no one wants a broken hip repaired with a big pin and a long recovery with a metal walker. To swipe a patch to see out of on all the windows of what we drive. We leave a little earlier on trips and errands around town, to get the kids to school if they are not seated in the long yellow bus. We watch the current weather forecast out of one corner of an eye to stay prepared from what is predicted to happen tonight, tomorrow and beyond.
Where I live, a national weather service reporting facility in Caribou gives me very clear expectations about how things will look in the hours and days ahead. Being on the Canadian border too allows tapping into other broadcast signals of another valuable source of weather information. And there’s always the farmer’s almanac predictions along with the conversations you hear in small Maine towns that point out how high or low the busy bees put their nest this year. Or other signs in Mother Nature’s world about what this or that means that occurs in the outdoors around us for what to expect weather clues.
Yesterday I felt the rush of a little kid’s reaction to the new white fluffy snow.
As I ventured down around East Grand Lake, the northern tip of Washington County where it meets Maine’s Washington and Penobscot, there was lots of new stark, bleached white snow dusting. Tall fir and pine trees loaded and bending, drooping with white snow dropped from the skies overnight was impressive. Clean, pure, natural. Maine.
After every snow storm, especially when it is brand new, where no sign of man but lots of wildlife tracks are the only interruption to the white total overhaul of the winter landscape.
Those times of feeling the winter wonderment flood back into the brain to remind all Mainers of the excitement to what it feels like to get outdoors happens. A kid again. Rigged up with ski pants, a winter coat, mittens your grandmother knit along with the scarf wrapped around your neck. You slipped on your boots and exiting the home in search of friends, shovels, sleds, skates. To dig the tunnels, build the forts. Slide like running and surfing on a stretch of ice lubricated even more by the new snow that only polishes it even more slippery slick.
Or reaching up to gently pull away a long shard of ice hanging off a dripping roof eave. Thick on the top and pencil tip sharp and pointed on the bottom. The sounds of winter are the whisk whisk friction sound of a child walking all bundled up in their snow suit. The site of seeing them sampling an ice shard stuck to their wood mittens or coat cuff as they dream, gaze and everything stand sill in deep thought.
And at the end of the day come back to the warmth of a home kitchen with pink cheeks, a relaxed feeling to remove the layers that protected you outside. To sample something hot out of the oven or cooling on the rack just bake homemade using an old family tested tradition recipe.
Closer to the magic of Christmas, the sugar cookies with colored icing and sprinkles in the shape of bells, trees or stars. Helping your Mom roll, cut the dough and decorate was more fun when the restlessness of being inside was released with the exercise outdoors. After you come in from where you can see your breath, your wet mittens steaming. Where the fresh air tastes like winter green or spearmint fresh, cool, tasty.
Wet outerwear when you do retreat inside hung up on a wooden rack to dry in front of a wood heater. To have it ready for the next trip outside to hear the crunch crunch crunch of snow under your winter boots with the felt liner inserts.
Dry and warm trumps wet, cold and heavy any day of the week in any Maine weather. Interior Maine winters are dry humidity and not damp unless you are along the coast. It’s like Arizona vs Florida for humidity and dryness. And the Eskimos are right about 50 kinds of snow. And what happens to snow when it is left to harden or crystalize.
A Maine winter is hot chocolate, bonfire outside, long underwear. It’s holiday lights of all colors. It’s angles on tree tops, larger ones made by kids on their backs staring up. Using their legs and arms like ping ball machine levers to leave shapes in the powdery snow. Maine winters are crust layers over loose snow made from melting action like a meringue sealer.
Winter is the smell of pine, fir, holly and mistletoe. Of fudge, pies, holiday turkey, whipped potatoes, green bean casseroles. The smell of soups and chowders. Of Christmas movie reruns of Rudolph or old black and white traditional flicks. The sounds of Christmas carols. Reminders of lost loved ones spiked by the memories of winter growing up in Maine. Winter means egg nog, cuddling, pulling the covers up and over your ears. Winter can be dogs and cats in sweaters walking their owners. Or is it the other way around in Maine?
Winter in Maine is snow on trees that release with a puff of dust. It is a time of candy canes, making New Year’s promises, to prepare for spring’s re-birth. It’s Christmas, Santa, a new born baby in a manger. Winter is no mosquitoes, heated car seats, turtle neck sweaters. It’s school snow days. It’s messed up hair days and scratchy heads under wool hats.
Maine winter means grilled cheese or tuna or chicken sandwiches and steaming hot tomato soup in a bowl or a mug. It’s thermoses of piping hot coffee served up outside during a work break. It’s a hot tub to soak your bones, the same ones warmed up another way next to the wood cook stove.
Winter is big bowls of hot spicy chili or cold micro brew at a Maine ski lodge. It’s playing cribbage at a snow sledding cabin just off the trails. Where your cell phone signal is sketchy. But you enjoy the break, the real freedom from mobile devices. Winter is taking a card of a giving tree and then setting off to find a toy or something warm for clothing for the age on the card of the child you do not know.
Life does not stop for winter.
But you change inside to adapt to the weather change. Winter keeps it new and different just like the habits of spring, summer, fall in Maine offer different experiences of the same places. Weather changes everything in a good way to keep boredom from happening of the same ole same ole meh. There are lots of things to do for fun in Maine during the winter.
Think of the bird’s searching for food and hang up the suet, the feeds with seeds. Take your dog with you on walks. Turn out those barn dwelling cows and horses, pigs, boats and sheep. Watch them roll in the new snow. See and hear the happy kids getting exercise and pushed off the couch to make snow angles. To make perfecting hand crafted ammo for a snow ball fight.
Winter in Maine is a time of reflection, a period when your senses sharpen and everything is real.
Nothing is neglected inside or outside as you keep up with the new snow storms and what they leave around our homes, that needs plowing in our roadways and streets. Understanding winter is hard for someone that only reads about it.
But visit a Maine lighthouse in winter and you will see what the temperatures can do to sharpen the experience. Or looking out over the mountainside when you are pole planted and developing a thousand yard stare. That kind of detachment and letting go is the most incredible feeling of serenity that I know when all this beauty of unspoiled Maine is displayed around us. Images of winter solitude.
Look up at the stars during winter in a Maine sky. It’s powerful stuff when no light pollution or smog happens to diminish that wonderment. See how new snow changes everything in your familiar surroundings that magically change your outlook when you live in Maine. Winter means we still go to school, have to go to work. But you will not find a more beautiful place than Maine in winter to live, work and play.
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MOOERS REALTY 69 North ST Houlton ME 04730 USA