Winter doesn’t officially begin until Dec. 21, but we’ve gotten a good taste of it already this year, with snow in mid-November and a succession of nor’easters that visited wind and rain on us. There’s nothing like a couple of storms to remind us that this is Maine and Maine in winter is a really different animal than Maine in summer. That’s particularly true in communities that attract tourists and vacationers during the good weather months.
Once the season changes in late fall things tend to get colder, stormier, darker and, of course, much quieter. There are many fewer people around, some businesses close or reduce their hours, and things just slow down. For those of us who live here year ‘round, that’s a good thing for a lot of reasons, which I’ll get to shortly.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years, in fact this applies to Susan and me, is that people who vacation here often decide to live here permanently because they love the area. Some of these folks make it in the winter and some don’t. I know of one person who simply couldn’t deal with how quiet and empty it seemed in winter, so she and her husband gave up after one year. “There’s nothing to do,” she told Susan, by way of explaining why they were only here in summer.
Another person stayed only one winter, unfortunately one that was unusually cold and snowy, spending most of it in the house trying to stay warm. A common misconception people have, I think, is that the Maine they know in July and August is the one they’ll have in January and February and that is certainly not the case. But there are plenty of opportunities to get outside and do things, anyway.
One thing we’ve learned here is that the quiet and relative (to summer) lack of people offers certain advantages to explore. For example, it’s possible to walk into your favorite restaurant and not have to wait forever to be seated. There are locals who understand that it is often futile to try going out to eat when the tourists are here, but that a world of outstanding restaurant opportunities exists in the winter. Many of those places also offer great specials then as well.
As for the “there’s nothing to do” complaint, really all we had to do was look. We found that there are endless programs and activities offered at local libraries, many of which are free; high school and college sports abound for fans during the week and on weekends; places like the Wells Ogunquit Center at Moody offer countless activities; there are local gyms and places to ice skate and cross-country ski; there are theaters, museums, and galleries nearby, and so on. Really, all we needed to do was look for something. For those that fear they’ll miss the cultural opportunities available in Boston, I encourage a visit to Portsmouth or Portland. These are small cities, but they are also manageable and offer a lot of quality arts, restaurants and other attractions. Susan and I love to visit Portland and take in a movie, a concert, or eat at one of their excellent restaurants.
There’s really no reason to spend the winter months in self-imposed isolation.
There are other things to consider when thinking about winter as well. Some of these I’ve learned from bitter experience. For example, if you have a wood stove or fireplace and need to purchase wood, order it early. That makes things much easier. This year, I ordered mine early only to find out that my supplier was no longer in business. So, I couldn’t order it until mid-October. Luckily, I was able to find someone to deliver it, but I ended stacking it in the cold of November. I won’t let that happen again.
And, because I had to scurry around to find the wood, I forgot to tell the dealer that I need 16-inch pieces, rather than 18-inch. So, I have a cord of 18-inch logs. With the size of my stove, the shorter ones are much easier. I’ll be spending more time this winter splitting those logs as I use them. Those things happen.
We’ve come to like Maine in the winter, despite the snow and cold, and really appreciate our hard-working wood stove that helps keep us warm and all the people that keep our driveways and roadways clear and the businesses open so that we can get out and do the things we like to do. In some ways, winter is a great time of year. Enjoy it.