This is an excerpt from “Humor Me”, Book 2 in the Life without a Field Guide Series which is available at Amazon.
In previous essays on the topic, I might have given the impression that I hate Maine winters more than anything. This is definitely not the case, although I must admit that I think they should come with a “best if used before date” sometime in March, and it should be strictly enforced. If we knew that the snow was going to be only up to our knees, the wind was going to be merely a mild gale and the ice was going to be off at least the shallowest part of the lake by, say, March 21st, I’m sure we could all cope a little better with having our ayuhs frozen off every time we go outside.
If, for instance, I could write in red on the calendar on March 21st, First Crocus, or Golf Date with Freddie, I’d be very happy. (And very surprised. I don’t play golf. And I don’t know anyone named Freddie, come to think of it.) Well, anyway, it would be really nice to be able to put some spring things on the calendar before June, but it doesn’t usually work out that way in Maine. April may be the cruelest month, but May is Blackfly Season and please note the capital letters.
We have to crowd all the spring things into the first part of June, because if we didn’t, they’d run into summer, which is so short in Maine, that we can’t fit all the summer things into it without running smack dab into autumn. Since our first frost is usually sometime in August, this results in a good amount of overlap, as you can imagine.
That’s why, around here, you often see people out on their decks, hunched over a grill in a snowstorm, wearing shorts, a winter jacket and a hat with earflaps, with a beer in one hand and a cup of hot coffee in the other. (Grilling tip: If you find flipping your burgers difficult, omit the coffee and substitute hot buttered rum for the beer, thus freeing up a hand.)
In order to deal with this Seasonal Afflictive Disorder, Mainers have become adept at denial. Just today, I was making the bed and got all chuffed up, because I realized it’s time to put on the summer quilt. Summer. Quilt. Two words that don’t even belong in the same sentence. That’s so sad. Worse, I didn’t see anything odd when my son came in to tell me that he had to stop digging the garden, because six inches down, the soil is frozen. This is in April on a day when it’s 78 degrees out.
This is a cruel joke that Maine pulls on us at least once every spring, when it throws us a really hot day or two, just so we’ll complain, so that Ma Nature can feel justified in giving us another six weeks of winter weather afterwards. (I always think that the hot April days that bring out the beautiful apple blossoms early are a nice contrast to the April blizzards that freeze them solid.)
No, in spite of what I’ve said about Maine winters, I don’t want to give the wrong impression and make you think they’re at the top of my hate list. I can take Maine winters when you balance them out against the many good things that Maine has to offer. Maine has nice, low key people who hardly ever shoot anyone over traffic incidents. There are town offices in people’s trailer homes where you can register your car and get laundry tips or even free kittens at the same time.
Several years ago, I scored a cute little stripey kitten, learned how to remove hard water stains, got some advice on soothing the colicky baby I had with me and registered a minivan, and the town clerk even held the baby while I signed the papers. Try to get that kind of service in a city.
I miss it now that we’ve moved to a town with a real town office, albeit it shares a space with the volunteer fire department and our tiny library. When there’s a fire, the town clerk, her assistant and the two librarians and a janitor take off like bats out of hell, which is a tad unsettling. Not as unsettling as the fire siren, which is on top of the roof of the library part, though.
There are Annual Town Meetings where 34 people decide what to do with the town budget of $600,000 and the other 166 registered voters, who didn’t vote, show up to gripe about it at every Selectman’s meeting for the rest of the year. (Who needs Reality TV when you have Selectman’s Meetings?)
No, I want to make it clear that, while I dislike winter in Maine, I don’t hate it with a vengeance. Long, cold and snowy though it may be, there are worse places to be in winter and I’ve lived in some of them. One of them is Washington State, where I learned that they tell you about the rain, but no one mentions the wind until you’ve moved there.
There’s upstate NY, where it’s so cold and dry that the snow squeaks underfoot and trees explode every once in a while from ice trapped inside them. While we do have the occasional random exploding tree in Maine, our snow hardly ever squeaks and you don’t have to worry about rain in the winter here. Nope, just snow and cold and wind and … Have I ever mentioned how much I hate winter in Maine?