People post photos of their thermometers when it registers minus six, or minus twelve, and there is a heck of a lot of talk about degrees, wind chill factor, frozen pipes, and all the things that accompany record colds. But there is not much whining or self-pity. We live here. Not just in the glory May to October days, but year-round.
I love biking Acadia in the summer, dining at ten pm because the sun has finally gone down, and having early morning hours to garden before I go to work. But winter is actually the best of the year. The days are short, it is cold, most tourist–based enterprises have packed their bags and fled to warmth. But it does not feel closed up, grim, and lonely. There is a calm, a peace, and a strong sense of camaraderie. Barbados and skimpy summer dresses call to me, and someday I may answer, but I am not ready yet.
Now, I need the biting cold, the sparkling brilliance of a sunset on ice and snow, the instant freezing of nostril hairs when I inhale, and the connection with our climate and our world. It is far more intimate than in the summer, and there is a much stronger consciousness of the elements and the weather.
There is also a deep communal awareness of the grandeur and power winter offers. An acquaintance I passed in the snowy streets this morning said, “Those Florida snowbirds just do not know what they are missing,” as we both looked at the fresh snow, over an inch thick, on every twig and branch.
Spring, summer, and fall are full of wonder but are also busy, and there never seems enough time to enjoy it all. There is also the urgent need to enjoy it before winter returns. When winter does arrive, things slow right down. I am once again aware of breathing.
In winter we get down to it. When the ice is good, we get out and skate, because it may not be good tomorrow. Piles of snow, and we are strapping on snowshoes, or heading to the carriage roads for a ski. Winter is fleeting, and when conditions are good they need to be enjoyed right then.
The core population that overwinters, while appreciating the stunning beauty, has a tough, unsentimental “we can handle it” attitude. I am reminded of the 1970’s slogan “love it or leave it.” Some may complain about shoveling, and there are the occasional frozen pipe disasters, but while people help each other year-round, in winter it includes a deeper feeling of unity and bonding.
In winter, almost every face we pass on the street or in the store is familiar. We have time to look at them. The population is a combination of those with roots here, and those with spirits here. Together we connect, and get it.
It is the weekend, and so we get out. We hike Wonderland, an icy path along the ocean. Creepers keep our feet from sliding and at the point waves are spewing seaweed and debris in the air as they smash into the rocks. The sky is bluer than it ever is in summer.
A couple rounds the corner coming towards us. We smile, and pause to remark on the cold. There is silence as we look towards the beach, and a row of ice-shrouded shrubs is sparkling like a ballroom chandelier.
We part to walk our opposite ways, knowing that we are the winter people, and we get it.