Get through a Maine winter without sulking in the overwhelming 4PM darkness nibbling the last of the Girl Scout cookies that everyone else thought ran out a month ago. Embrace winter by separating yourself from the ghost of past long, dark winters. It will be different this winter.
Find little things lined up to fiddle with, write about what makes you smile, and explore while the frosted landscape holds back the brilliant green tender leaves waiting in their cozy bud tips.
What things do you enjoy and want to become better at? Mine are working with different art medias, writing and making plans with friends. Uncovering the secrets of the forest which winter tells is my true go-to coping method. I follow trails to find where the deer sleep in little round nests in the snow, where owls snatch a fat voles from snow tunnels, and pass by massive leaping tracks of lynx following those of a darting rabbit. Along the way, I find things to pick up, photograph and write about.
Separate the cold months into parts with goals to overcome each. Early winter is pretty at first and creeps up on you with the chaos of the holidays. I personally put off dragging a tree in until the kids reach critical annoyance. Then, it just gets kind of mundane and the temp keeps dropping. Each day is so much like the next after weeks pass that it feels endless. Winter has seasons of her own here in Maine.
If you have not lived through a Maine winter, take heed of the following schedule before listing your worthless Beanie Baby collection and making the move.
The 8-mo Maine Winter
October: Yes, this is when the Maine winter starts. Clean the yard before everything is buried for half a year. Why is there snow on my pumpkin?
November: Make a list of shit to do that you won’t finish before it freezes for good. Eat too much.
December: Buy stuff. Give stuff. Eat stuff. See lots of people. Stress the fuck out.
January: Fresh start feeling. I can do this. Calm.
February: Gawk at heat bill. See very few people. Secretly contemplate a move to FL.
February: Yes, twice. Accept this as a fact and move on.
March: Why is there still snow?
April: Why is there snow? Fucking seriously.
Give yourself a few spread-out goals and a Big Thing to look forward to at the tail end of the long Maine winter, when the sap starts flowing in mid-to-late March. My husband planned a vacation for late winter when the snow turns to muck and our end of the mountainous road becomes impassible.
Create an easily-attainable and fun reward to yourself for making it to spring without Googling FL real estate.
Maybe it’s learning something new, finishing a couple books or joining a group of like-minded folks. It’s never too late to try something new.
Preventative Maine winter planning sounds boring as fuck but it really is worth the minimal effort. I know, I know it requires adulting in a way that’s borderline embarrassing. It’s hard to feel like you’re living life on the edge when you’re packing a winter auto breakdown survival kit add-on.
Prepare a winter roadside pack.
Pack a blanket, towel, gloves, windshield wash, food that’s alright to freeze (cans burst), a complete outfit in case yours becomes wet, (additional) super thick socks and stretchy kitchen trash bags to line boots with. This is all in addition, of course, to the general tools for simple repairs and normal year-round roadside breakdown stuff.
Frozen landscapes are nearly alien worlds compared to the lush green forest floor underfoot only a few weeks ago. The only leaves left clinging to trees are drab brown curled beech leaves. When the wind picks up they shiver and make an awful fuss.
Find a place to call yours and visit it often.
Several places on this little mountain have become places to sit and center myself since moving here five years ago. Three areas feature elaborately woven trees with long rows of arches over naturally formed game trails carved by the many wild creatures we call neighbors. I look forward to witnessing the branches gradually tighten and uplift as they grow and morph into the living structures.
Each walk leads to a place I sit and rest and think, or sometimes I try not to think at all. Needles sway silently on spruce, fir, pine, and hemlock. I close my eyes and listen to one evergreen brushing the next carrying a faint whisper across the forest with word of our presence.
Thankfully, no red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) live here to tell me off in a rude chatter. Instead their cousins, eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus), reside in complex year-round burrows sleeping off the deep freeze.
Even when the land is frozen it’s still very much alive.
Evergreens don’t do much growing in the colder months. They focus on surviving. This goes for animals too. To see if a burrow is inhabited, visit on an early morning following a particularly cold night a common occurrence in the long Maine winter. Respiration causes faint crystallization of the snow surrounding the tiny opening, giving away the slumbering resident.
I keep little bits of food in my pocket for training our young dog and when I find a little hole like this, I always drop in a little surprise for chipmunks which often wake on warmer days.