The Season Before Mud Season

There’s a reason the song is called April in Paris.  Not April in Maine.  I’ve been sitting by crackling fires for hours, burning firewood with abandon because I won’t need to refill it until the fall.  I finished reading The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, the best novel I’ve read in ages, so good I skimmed it immediately upon completion.  I ate a salad (mixed greens, mandarin orange segments, chopped tomatoes, sliced green olives, feta cheese, blush dressing) by the fire.  The dogs were in and out a half-dozen times, mostly-blind Chelsey sniffing the ground and stepping tentatively to reacquaint herself with the terrain.  The house is dark save for yellow firelight and white lamplight shining over my left shoulder.

Outside is the long transition from winter to spring. Shaded areas contain abundant snow, snow melt fills the low spots, the lake is covered with treacherous rotten ice.  Leaving Boston this afternoon it was spring, arriving here early evening it was–Sprinter?  Wing?  A hybrid season that deserves its own name.

The Way Winter Should Be

I drove north from Boston yesterday afternoon in driving 40 degree rain.  A few miles beyond the Maine Turnpike tolls the rain turned to sleet. Two hundred yards ahead–not close enough to threaten collision, close enough to make my heart race–a sedan spun out in the left lane and skidded, back-end first, across three lanes of highway, stopping 20 yards off the shoulder in deep snow.  Somehow it didn’t hit another vehicle.  I considered stopping to help, call police, console, but a short distance beyond the sedan was a state police cruiser helping another vehicle that had skidded off the road.  I saw a dozen more vehicles that had skidded off the highway, their paths marked by swerving tire tracks through the snow. By the time I exited the highway the road surface was less treacherous and the storm was over.  I passed a man and snowblower clearing foot-deep snow from his driveway.  “That’s odd” I thought.  “That snow is so deep–he must not have cleared it for weeks.” What was odd was how long it took me to acknowledge the obvious.  This storm, only rain in Boston, dumped a foot of snow in this area of Maine.  The camp road was plowed up to my driveway, the entrance to which was blocked by a three-foot high berm of plowed snow.

God invented 4-wheel drive for moments like this.  I punched through the snow, negotiated the  driveway, and arrived at the house–where I stepped from the cab into calf-deep snow.  No boots, no gloves, no hat.  Why did I need them?  It was raining when I left home.  I had to shovel out the front door to get into the house.

It’s worth it.  Winter in the Boston area is frozen piles of dirt-blackened snow, plates of ice seemingly welded to road surfaces, the long, slow, painful wait for a thaw.  Winter in Maine is this:

“Storm of Historic Proportions”

I don’t pay much attention to weather forecasts.  Whatever the prediction the weather is what it is.   But sometimes a forecast jumps up and shouts in one’s face.  Like tonight, when I heard that a “monster storm’ with a track 2100 miles long is projected to bring blizzard conditions from the Great Plains to New England, dropping 21 inches of snow in the Boston area before tomorrow night, followed by sleet and freezing rain.  The last I heard about this storm, from my builder friend John who does pay attention to weather forecasts because they directly affect his business, it called for 3-6 inches of snow.  Not nothing, but not a monster.  What happened between 7 am and 6:30 pm today?

I’m ready.  The back spasms caused by shoveling last week’s snow are almost gone, and I can bend over the sink to brush my teeth without supporting my torso.  Who needs the gym?

Trust Me, I’ve Driven in Snow Like This My Whole Life

On my office wall is a cartoon showing a handbag-clutching middle-aged woman looking at headstones in the Men-Only Cemetery, with epitaphs such as “Don’t Worry, I’ve Done This a Million Times,” “Yes, I Know What I’m Doing,” and “What’s the Worst That Can Happen?”  I thought of this cartoon when over coffee this morning I told my friend Chip that I planned to drive to Maine–during a Nor’easter blizzard forecast to drop at least a foot  of snow over New England.  He noted the smart thing was to delay my trip for a day and recommended I do the smart thing, but acknowledged that if he were going with me instead of heading in to work, his answer would be “let’s go now!”

We both recalled a decision on last summer’s bicycle trip.  Our group planned to ride east to west up Glacier National Park’s Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass, but the weather at our starting point included mid-40 temperatures, driving rain and sleet, and lightning.  We weighed our choices over breakfast. Most of the group said “NFW am I riding in this.”  Chip wanted to ride, and I really wanted to ride. It would have been a long, hard, wet, cold, and miserable climb–in other words, it would have been an adventure.  My sensible friends convinced me not to go (no doubt rolling their eyes at my foolhardiness), and of course they were right, but part of me wishes still I’d made the climb.*

Going to the Sun Road

That’s the part of me that decided to set out for Maine at 4:3o this afternoon.  No drama; I made it.   It took 4+ hours instead of the usual 2.5 because safe highway speeds were at most 40-50 mph, and I drove many miles stuck behind a highway-spanning phalanx of snow plows traveling at 25 mph.  I did manage to squeeze through a gap in one phalanxes’ formation and scoot ahead to the empty, snow-covered highway.  My Maine driveway had not yet been plowed and I had to shovel a clearing to open the front door, but I made it.  The only snafu was when to make room to plow the driveway I backed my truck onto the grass through a berm of plowed snow and got stuck.  I’ll dig it out tomorrow morning.

*We climbed the west side of Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass the following day.  40 degrees, but no rain, sleet, or lightning.