People ask me sometimes, “How do you stand the cold?” or “Aren’t the winters long?” They look at me askance, wondering how I manage Maine winters. Or why I do.
To be honest, the hardest part of winter isn’t the cold, it’s the dark. In December twilight comes quickly. Walking the students out to the buses, the sky is already low on the horizon. Days seem to end before they begin. Later, you start wondering if it’s time for bed, since it’s been dark for hours, but then you realize it’s only 6:30 pm. And that’s if you’re lucky.
On the other hand, winter in Maine offers unique and meaningful consolation prizes for those willing and able to bundle up and get outside. Or simply when looking out the window.
In winter the beach has an entirely different feel. It’s vast, open and beautiful. There are typically a few hardy folk wandering and one or two joyous dogs, but mostly it’s a place removed. Somewhere to get away and lose yourself in broad swaths of sand and sky.
Or if you’re so inclined, you can visit the marshes where familiar grasses and serpentine waters are transformed into an alien world.
Winter sunrise brushes warm colors over a chilled landscape. It skates along the ice and highlights the shadows of leaf-bare tree limbs. Throw in the distant thread of a calling owl and there’s clearly magic in the air.
Keep an eye out, for winter is also the time when majestic snowy owls swoop in to visit from northern climes. These owls, used to long stretches of light in their northern homes, are often out and about in daylight hours. Ruffled elegance on a rooftop.
Bitter cold offers more enchantment. When the temperatures hover around zero, it’s time to visit the shore in search of sea smoke. Frigid air moves over warmer ocean water, forming tendrils of fog. If the winds are calm, the fog gathers, drifts, and swirls. Mesmerizing.
Winter ice storms glaze the world in ice. Summer’s left-overs become winter’s wonders.
Closer to home, on those bitterly cold days, blow bubbles and watch frost unfurl, transforming liquid bubbles to enchanted orbs.
Or check your windows, where cold kisses window panes and frost blossoms again into intricate patterns.
When the frost clears, look out the windows. With trees free of their autumn leaves, there’s so much more you can see. Birds gather, deer wander by and squirrels entertain with their endless antics.
Keep your eyes open.
Winter brings rich consolation prizes.