Growing up in Southern California, winter wasn’t the stark change in seasons that it is here in Maine. Sure temperatures were cooler, especially after the sun went down in the evening. But come morning, most winter days were blessed with clear skies and a warm sun that even encouraged the wearing of shorts on the warmest of days, and a light fleece or sweatshirt on the coolest. On rare occasions, I might have scrounged in my closet for the one warm winter jacket that I owned principally for trips to the mountains or to go skiing. Rain was an occasional visitor and snow was a special occasion, though you had to get out early if you wanted to build a small snowman or get a photograph of it. Because when the storm passed and the sun came out, the white stuff would disappear quicker than it had arrived.
Winters in Maine are a whole different animal. By my calculations, we are just about midway through winter here in Maine. It will be another 43 days until spring officially arrives on March 20, six weeks from now. Snow started falling just after Halloween this year and even with an unusually “dry” December we have already surpassed our average seasonal snowfall total of 66 inches. As of yesterday 75 inches of frozen precipitation has fallen and snow is blanketing the landscape again this morning. I have not been tempted to wear shorts outside, and light fleece and/or sweatshirts are often welcome indoors on the coldest of days.
Don’t get me wrong, one of the things I like best about Maine is the four distinct seasons. Each one bringing a different set of activities and adventures. But it certainly requires a whole lot more planning and preparation to be able to enjoy winter in a harsh climate. Heavy coats and jackets, snow pants, layering undergarments, gloves, boots, crampons (for safely walking on ice), hats, scarves and etc. all have to be brought up from their basement storage. Ice scrappers and brushes moved into the vehicles and freeze proof windshield washer fluid installed. Snow shovels and blowers need to be at the ready as well. Cut and split firewood needs to be stacked close to the house and/or moved inside. Of course, all of this happens after the patio furniture is moved up to the barn, the dock and boats are put away, and the camper van is winterized and covered.
There is a special beauty in the landscape when it is cloaked in a blanket of white. I definitely enjoy being able to cross country ski, snow shoe, attend hockey games at the university, and even sit at home in front of the blazing wood stove while the snow falls silently outside. But I would be disingenuous if I didn’t admit that having to bundle up every time I venture outside is kind of a pain. Or that having to constantly shovel or snow blow the same walks and drives after each new storm gets old as the season wears. And while I have gotten more confident in negotiating the icy/snowy streets while driving, it not only requires additional time to get from point A to point B, it can be more stressful as well.
So I take some consolation in the fact that we are halfway to spring. Being ever the optimist, that certainly sounds better than being in the middle of winter. And on a day like today when the snow is more than two feet deep outside with additional falling as I type, the thought of Spring approaching brightens my day.