Category Archives: Five for Friday

Deep Winter

In Maine, we are now in deep winter, a cold, snowy, brilliant time of year. Some people, especially those who are affected by the lack of light, get the blues in February or go stir crazy or a combination of the two. I am happy to report that winter doesn’t get me down. No, for me, that comes with March, just around the corner, and a category of its own in Maine.

While I love the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I am grateful for the calm of winter, a time to write, read, and perhaps do a bit of organizing, although I never get too far with this. I find February restful—unless, of course, there is a big storm—and hunkering down at night is soothing rather than dreary.

Here was the temperature this morning, before I went out to take pictures. Cold but not brutal, the way it has been in the Midwest.

Our driveway is no longer glare ice, and although care is still needed, walking to the car or the mailbox is much less treacherous than it has been.

I always like to see our cozy, little home tucked in the snow.

Out back, the patio is completely covered with snow. No patio nights for a while, no glimpses of flowers as there are with some of my blogging friends.

Then there is the forest, mysterious any time of year.

Hard to resist a season where there are so many blue shadows in the yard and in the woods.



Life Running in a Different Direction

“Life ran back and forth, land into people and people back into land, until both were the same.”  –Lura Beam, A Maine Hamlet

Last Sunday, we had very cold weather and eight inches of snow, both standard for Maine in January. Then yesterday, the temperature shot up to 49° Fahrenheit, and the rain came bucketing down, rapping against the windows, slanting into our faces, soaking our coats as we did errands.

Before we left to do errands, Clif threw sunflower seeds on the snow for the ground feeders, which are often birds but in this case were squirrels.

Then the wind came, fortunately not strong enough to knock out our power but strong enough to make it difficult to open our car doors as we went to the various stores.

Last night the rain stopped, the temperature dropped to freezing, and this is what we woke up to.

First, the good. Our front steps are completely clear of ice and snow, no small thing in our shady yard.

Second, the not so good. Our driveway is glare ice.

As are the walkways to and in the backyard.

And the snowbanks are as hard, dirty, and ugly as they are in March. Except this is January.

I started this post with a quotation from the remarkable Lura Beam, a Maine native, writer, educator, and researcher. According to Wikepedia, “Her interests included the poor, minorities, women, education, and the arts. She co-authored two books discussing medical studies on sex adjustment and sex education with Robert Latou Dickinson, and a noted memoir of growing up in turn-of-the-century Marshfield, Maine. She was the long-time companion of Louise Stevens Bryant.

Lura Beam is perhaps best known for her “noted memoir,” A Maine Hamlet. The opening quotation comes from that book, and I was much struck by it.

Like Lura Beam, Clif and I are also Maine natives, going at least five generations back for both of us. We belong to Maine. It is a part of us, and we are a part of it. For most our lives, we knew the rhythms of Maine and moved knowingly through the seasons—the brilliant cold of winter; reluctant spring, which burst in a frenzy of blossoms upon us in May; beautiful summers, not too hot, not too rainy, just right; and the glory of fall, so bright and beautiful with its explosion of yellow, red, and orange leaves.

But now, with climate change, it hardly seems as if we know Maine at all. Summers so hot that we can barely stand it? September being an extension of August? Rain and 49° in January? In what universe? In this one, it seems.

We must adapt. We have no choice. But for Clif and me, two old Mainers, it is very disconcerting.



The Still Cold of January

The merry hubbub of December is over, and, as always, I am sorry to see it end. Somehow, all the holiday preparations and bustle brighten this darkest month of the year.

Yet January in Maine has its consolations. Yes, it is one of the coldest months, but it is also one of the most beautiful, alternating between snowy days and then days so still, bright and blue  you can hardly stand the glory.

Wednesday was a bright and blue kind of day, and as I was out doing errands—mailing a book, stopping at the library, going to the grocery store—I brought my wee camera along. I knew I would find plenty to photograph.

I am a sucker for dried or wizened fruit on a bare tree, and I took this picture at the town’s Credit Union.

At the Post Office, I saw cattails, spikes of exploded fluff, by the railroad tracks.

Across the road from the post office, on Maranacook Lake, little shacks have been set up for ice fishing, and they have been clustered into a charming, impromptu village.

Then it was on to the public beach, just around the corner.  So lovely, empty, and melancholy.

But on the ice, there were more shacks to brighten the mood.

And onward we head, toward the full moon of January, the Wolf Moon.

When the Cold Comes

For the past few days, this is how it has been.

Cold but beautiful when I went to visit my friend who lives by the Upper Narrows Pond.

And so chilly in the morning, this is what the storm windows looked like.

So what to do? Only one thing. Toast and tea, which makes the chilliest day a little better.

I hope all of my readers who live in a cold climate stay warm and cozy this weekend.

From Pancakes to Christmas Lights

The week started on a good note, and it only improved as the days went by.

We began with pancakes, one of my favorite suppers. I know. Traditionally they are served for breakfast, but I am not a morning person and much prefer them at night. I hate to brag, but Clif makes the best pancakes. Ever.

From there, a couple of days later, it was on to pizza. I went to Cushnoc to meet friends for lunch and to celebrate the publication of Library Lost. We had very jolly time, and the pizza was utterly delicious.

Midweek, the weather turned cold, but even that had its advantages as Jack Frost left a beautiful ice fern on my bedroom window.

The week ended with lights on the deck.

And I had a little friend watch as I strung the lights.

Now, onward to the Christmas tree. Ho, ho, ho!

Celebrating with Seafood and a Whoopie Pie

It’s not every day that you get the first shipment of your new book. Therefore, when the box with copies of Library Lost came in, Clif and I decided to celebrate and go to the Red Barn for some of their delectable seafood and, of course, a whoopie pie. So good and so reasonably priced.

And speaking of Library Lost…my blogging friend Eliza asked how a copy might be ordered. Glad you asked, Eliza! For others who are wondering, all you have to do is click here, and it will take you to our Hinterlands Press website, where you can order a signed copy directly from us. The book can also be ordered through Amazon.

On another subject…the holidays are coming—tomorrow is December 1—and yesterday I went into the woods to gather pine and dried fern stalks for outside arrangements on our little deck.

I went midafternoon when this time of year the sun is setting and the woods are filled with shadows. There were lots of fern stalks by the little stream that runs behind our house and eventually makes its way to the Upper Narrows Pond.

There were some winterberries left, a bright punctuation against the white of winter. Fortunately, I had gathered winterberries a couple of weeks ago, when they were more plentiful.

And I came across this tree, covered with fungi.

Always something to notice in the woods, even in the winter.

A Very Brisk Thanksgiving

Yesterday morning this was the temperature, and a brisk wind made the air feel even colder.

There were frost ferns on the door,

and other windows were frosted, too.

No matter. Clif built a fire in the wood furnace in our cellar, and the house was cozy and warm.

This year we had a quiet Thanksgiving, with our daughter Dee being our sole guest. Although Clif and I missed those who couldn’t come, we had an absolutely delightful time. Being movie hounds, we watched two movies. The first was the excellent The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a dark, haunting Western presented in six episodes by the Coen brothers. The Ballad is available on Netflix. The second movie was the not-so-excellent The Square, which we thought would be a story about modern art and its uses (and abuses) but instead mostly turned out to be the tale of a hapless, bumbling museum director who seemed to be in a permanent state of arrested development. Ah, well!

This year we had a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner, and it was very good indeed. Clif and I have been going down the vegetarian path for years and are now mostly there. Dee has been a vegetarian since her college days. So we dispensed with the turkey and made the sides the main meal. For dessert was homemade chocolate cream pie, but I forget to take a picture of it.

In the upper left hand corner of the above photo is what looks like a golden roll. However, American readers will recognize this roll for what it is—a biscuit.

Here is a closer look at the biscuits, arrayed in glory on a platter.

American biscuits are something like a scone, but they are not at all sweet and make a fine accompaniment to almost any meal, especially stews and soups.

Biscuits are also good for breakfast, and that’s exactly what we had this morning, along with scrambled eggs made from the beauties our neighbor brought us.

Tonight, there will be leftovers and pies.

The feasting continues!


Fur and Feathers on a Snowy Day

Last night it snowed, and we got enough—several inches—so that the plow has roared past our house. A true sign of winter. Here is a picture of our house tucked in the snow, and it always looks so cozy to me. (For supper, Clif is making Snowy Day Potato, Cabbage Soup, a perfect meal for a cold day.)

I always like the sight of dried plants—in this case, ferns—against the white snow.

The remaining garden ornaments take on a different look.

The backyard, with its feeders, draws in woodland creatures with fur and feathers.

One of my favorites is the chickadee, a jaunty little bird.

My friend Barbara, who passed away thirteen years ago, once noted that while chickadees might be plentiful, they are never common. How right she was! I recently learned that in the fall, the brains of chickadees increase in size so that they can remember where they cache seeds. And in the spring, when the chickadees no longer need to remember, their brains shrink in size. Here is a link for the Audubon site for more information about the incredible brains of chickadees.

What a wonder nature is!

And British blogging friends, do you think chickadees resemble coal tits? I know I sure do.

Now There Is Hope

No two ways about it. The recent elections threw me in a tizzy, and I am oh so glad that overall there was more good than bad. I am also coming down the homestretch with Library Lost. Between those two things, I don’t have much energy for anything else.

But yesterday afternoon in the front yard,  the light was so beautiful that I did make time to take a few pictures.

Looking up, there are oak leaves.

Looking down, ditto.

Little Minerva is nearly buried.

And one lone phlox flower hangs on.

Finally, this captures how I feel after Tuesday’s elections. So light, so grateful.

While the work certainly isn’t done—we can never say, “There! Finished!”—after the past two miserable years, there is now hope.

That Austere Time of Year

Farewell, October and welcome, November. The glorious bursts of colors are mostly gone, replaced by the more somber tones of the oaks and the beeches. November is an austere month with so many subtractions that many people find the landscape bleak this time of year.

They have a point, as this picture of the public beach illustrates. No laughing children, no watchful adults. Summer’s pleasures are definitely over, and we no longer have the dazzle of October to console us.

Still, the more subdued colors do brighten the forests around our home, and I find beauty in the more muted tones.

As always, looking down provides its own rewards.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but think that Sherlock has the right idea. Do you suppose he is trying to decide which books he should read during the long, dark cold of winter?