The Snow in Maine Falls Mainly on Everything
Mar 16, 2008
I’ve lived in Maine now for six months. Four of them have been in winter. I have reached the point when I now expect nothing but snow from now on. I have been conditioned. Spring, summer and autumn are from another life, like vague dreams that haunt me like a song I can’t remember. The white, cold reality seems to be the eternal state of things. I live in Dr. Zhivago’s ice palace. I live in Whoville. My soul is on ice. (Eldridge Cleaver must have lived in Maine.) My friend Melissa, who owns a gardening store, told me she feels like we’re in Narnia and the white witch’s spell is upon us.
In December, it began to get dark at 3:30 in the afternoon and then it was dark by 4:30. It was very depressing! Sometimes if the kids slept late on the weekends because they were up late the night before, I’d yell to them, “Wake up! You have two hours of daylight left!”
I heard on the news last night that we’ve had twenty-three snowfalls since the inception of winter, resulting in almost one hundred inches in Portland, and more in the northern reaches. At first, snow shoveling is kind of fun. It’s good exercise. Fresh fallen snow is beautiful. You can stop and throw snowballs or make a snowman. How festive.
Our neighbors all own snow blowers, or they hire guys with trucks and plows to clean up their driveways. We have a fairly long driveway and have been shoveling by hand because there are five of us, and because I don’t think we really believed that we would get as much snow as we did. Every time it fell we were all thinking, surely, this must be the last storm! City governments plow the roads, but they end up plugging all the freshly shoveled driveways, which makes one want to hide behind a snow bank and bury the snowplow the next time it comes in sight.
This past weekend we hired a guy to plow our driveway for $50 because the kids weren’t home. We usually all pitch in together. But it was too much for Peter and me. I knew it was too much after we’d been working for half an hour and had to come inside, where Peter had to lie down on the kitchen floor, his face beet-red and his heart pounding. I made a call to an emergency room nurse to get some feedback if things got worse and was told, “I’m sorry, we can’t give out any medical advice.” That begs the question, “Then why do you exist? This might have been an emergency!” As it turned out, he was okay. What a stupid, litigious society we’ve become, cutting off our medical advice to spite our injuries.
But back to the snow! I’ve begun to think, what did the early settlers do? I think of little old ladies, stuck in a cabin somewhere. What did they do after a blizzard? What if they didn’t have enough food stored, or enough wood chopped and they were stuck in their little hovel until spring? It’s very serious if you don’t have a shovel. Even if you do, how many miles do you have to shovel to get anywhere? Would mail get through? If the entire landscape is choked with snow, are people just stuck in their little houses, unable to venture out to get anything, see anybody, to do anything until the spring?
It’s really a scary idea. I guess they had sleds, but what about horses? Can they manage through deep snow? That must be how and why skis were invented. And little casks of brandy were fitted on the collars of dogs, to help search for people lost in the snow. How does brandy help? I can see how it could make one feel better for a moment, but then one would be too drunk to get up and crawl to a safer place. I guess you could share the brandy with the dog and then freeze to death together. Frozen, but warm and pickled.
Before all the present day fabrics were invented what did people wear? My questions are endless. It must have been a “learn by doing” process. When frozen people were dug out in the spring, survivors would conclude; “Ol’ Mrs. Abernathy din’t have enough wood chopped. She done froze herself”; or “Ol’ Man Stubbs should have bought another fifty pound bag of oatmeal to circumvent starvin’ hisself”; or; “What in tarnation were they thinkin’ livin’ so far from civilization?”
We are so blessed these days with supermarkets and regular oil deliveries and so many modern stopgaps to protect the population. We just need to invent a surgical procedure to help prevent people from deciding to settle on the tundra or other frozen wastelands. Or to learn to do what the Maine retirees do, which is to fly south for the winter like all the smart birds.
Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.
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