Down East 2013 ©
In early December a semi-tropical storm brought Maine a flock of pelicans. My wife e-mailed me with the photographic evidence. Taken off Spruce Head, the pictures showed eight enormous birds sitting on a tidal ledge, looking damp, lost, and generally miserable.
At this time of year, white pelicans rarely venture farther north than the Carolinas, so they had good reason to be confused and ornery. It didn’t take long for the ungainly seabirds to regain their bearings. Within a few short hours, the pelicans had begun winging their way back to Dixie. A good thing, too, because the next day the mercury plunged, and Mainers were soon digging out from our first snowstorm of the year.
A week later, we got our second storm, and this time I had the misfortune to slide my car into a ditch when an aggressive plow truck decided that clearing the road meant removing my Subaru as well. I emerged from the mishap with my body and vehicle intact, although my dignity took a hit. As a lifelong Mainer who’s driven on thousands of greasy roads, I have no business skidding into snowbanks — plow or no plow. But somehow, like the other motorists I saw stranded that afternoon, I had forgotten the basic laws of physics from one year to the next. Given the fierceness of winter in Maine, you’d think we would remember its lessons.
Our ancestors knew what it meant to prepare for short, frigid days and long, white nights. But they lived closer to nature than most of us do. On the day of that first snowfall, while I was trying to dislodge chunks of ice from the entrance to my driveway, I watched my new neighbors make a rudimentary snowman. They come from southern California, and this is their inaugural Maine winter. They seem to be approaching it with a spirit of adventure, which bodes well.
If I had any wisdom to offer, it would be to embrace the season rather than try to endure it. Go skiing, get a library card, set your alarm clock so you have extra time to shovel before going to work. Anticipate the skid, as they say in driver’s ed.
Winter in Maine is all about acceptance, and you either learn that lesson or you leave. I hope my neighbors last (so far so good), but it wouldn’t surprise me if I awoke one morning and discovered they’d taken off again for warmer climes, just like the pelicans.