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Winter in Maine is

They tell us it's spring now, as of Monday morning, these experts who know about seasons and time and things. There are signs of spring, of course -- the sun certainly shines brighter and longer into the evening, the birds sing more confidently, and faces I pass on the street show a glimmer of hopefulness, a new willingness to smile or say hello -- but this is Maine, and spring in Maine is not like spring in other places. We still have 5-foot piles of snow at the back of our driveway, and the 20-foot snow tower in the Target parking lot will likely be there until June. We are still wearing our Big Coats because it's wicked cold...and boots because it's wicked muddy. We won't see a daffodil or crocus for at least another month, and we won't plant seedlings in our backyard gardens until Memorial Day.

The arrival of spring, even if in name only, means we've made it through winter, officially. And that's a pretty big deal. It's a long exhale, a softening in the shoulders after months of bracing against cold and dark and the ever-present wind. Any day now we'll be able to walk outside without a hat -- or even better, without buttoning our coats! Imagine how exciting it will be to peel off a layer of clothing, or even to wear lighter socks. Don't even get me started about the day the farmers' market returns...sheer joy, bliss, choirs of angels singing hallelujahs in my head.

Winter, however, isn't entirely bad. In fact, in the three winters we've spent here, I've learned how to settle in, how to embrace that Danish concept of hygge, to simply slow down and listen to what my body tells me to do. "Winter. Time to eat fat and watch hockey," Margaret Atwood began her poem "February." A more accurate description I haven't yet read.

Similar to the way we looked back over our summer as the astronomical year turned to autumn, the kids and I sat down this week to look back over our winter. It was a pretty good season, all told, and we checked off a lot of items on our Winter Fun poster, although I still haven't learned out to crochet.

Winter in Maine is...

  • darkness at 4:00, dinner at 5:30, bed (or sound asleep on the couch) by 8:00
  • flannel sheets, flannel shirts, flannel scarves -- and wool socks
  • a basket of hats, scarves, mittens to the left side of the front door and a throw rug covered in boots, gaiters, and snow pants to the right
  • jumping til we're sweaty and breathless at the indoor trampoline park, then watching the steam rise from our skin when we step outside
  • ice skating lessons on Saturday mornings, snow pants and helmets and teeny penguin steps across the pond
  • sledding any time we feel like it
  • hot cocoa loaded with marshmallows (or peppermint Schnapps)
  • twinkle lights strung across town that stay lit from November through March -- Winter Lights
  • weeks that waffle in temperture between 52 degrees and -15
  • Christmas parties, Super Bowl parties, Oscar parties, birthday parties -- all good excuses to eat junk food and drink beers
  • catching up on our Netflix list
  • catching up on our library list
  • catching up on our emails, letters, postcards
  • catching up on our cookie baking (and eating)
  • ducks bobbing on the surf like they haven't even noticed the wind that's slicing through your skull
  • a perfect blizzard grocery list: milk, bread, cold cuts, cookie dough ice cream, Doritos, wine, cat food
  • walking on the Old Orchard Beach in our snow boots, gulls overhead squawking a promise of warmer beach days to come
  • the warm purr of a cat on my lap, both of us enjoying a fleecy blanket
  • birch trees dabbled with lichen that bridge the gap between snow-sparkling field and cloud-dotted sky
  • never missing a chance to put my face in the sun and chant "I'm alive I'm alive I'm alive"


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