Saturday, December 13, 2008


On the weather map a purple fist trailing white entangled isobars hovered over New England. Memories of the epic icestorm of 1998 were revived. I filled big pots of water and put them on the stove, made sure we had candles and firewood. We hunkered down and listened for the blast which was supposed to arrive here late morning.

There was a restlessness in the house similar to what I have felt before fierce thunderstorms in the summer. The animals were pacing and so was I. From the windows that look out over the Reach, I saw a skiff on the eerily calm water by the island and thought what in the world? An impossible day to be out on the water in a small boat...the sky was a pall of gray, crows bawled from the trees on the island and all around the house branches and grass were crackling and creaking with ice. Then I heard the report of a gun and saw the upward rush of hunters. I watched the small boat as it turned and maneuvered around the little bay, watched the water wrinkle with the first gust of wind, watched the boat swerve and head for shore in a frill of spray.

Soon the weather was upon us, hurling gusts at the house. I went to the door, opening it to let in a sodden dog, and was surprised by the sudden strength of the wind and the warmth! I looked at the thermometer on the kitchen window - 58 degrees. The warmth saved us. Soon I heard the plash of melting from every corner of the roof. The grass sprang upward spraying moisture, the fir trees lost their polish of frost and chickadees swung down to the feeder.

All day the wind blew and whistled. We lost our phone service briefly; briefly the lights flickered and dimmed, but we came out of the tempest intact.

Catching up with neighbors after dinner I learned that one had lost an elderly father and another had just heard that her son, about whom she had been worrying on his drive back to Boston, had arrived safely. Departures and arrivals - I connected with our faraway children and the world clicked back into balance.

Later, I threw apples out for the deer and nearly took a header down the back steps. Frozen again. A glance at the temperature confirmed that we were back in winter...22 and, probably, falling.

Today is bright and sunny - and cold. The snowless garden looks bereft, but soon the flakes will fall, the ice will form crystal daggers along the eaves and we will move cautiously into winter. There will be more weather-related alarms and we'll go to stations as usual. And then the spring will come.

Monday, December 8, 2008


This time of year it's too early for seasmoke to appear, but this morning we woke to a steaming ocean, frost flowers on the window panes and clouds rising from the kettle on the woodstove. We are enveloped in clouds - inside and out.

Across the water, the islands of Mt. Desert appear blue and hazy as summer but the intervening water is a shield of white and ice glazes the granite blocks along the causeway. After weeks of mild weather, we are plunged into an arctic world of blowing snow, blue shadows in the horse pasture, chimneys enveloped in cottony vapor and the ankle-twisting skim of frost on doorsteps.

On the buffet in the kitchen are two small paper houses frosted with glitter; painted icicles dangle from their frilled roofs. One sits on a doily of snowflake, the other is enclosed in a paper picket fence. From the outside, our house looks like a paper cutout in such a winter scene; inside, it's tropical with rosemary trees, amaryllis and Christmas cactus.

This will be a pared-down Christmas for many. Separation from loved ones will make ours melancholy, but an enduring image remains: wintry outside, warm inside. Tonight, yellow light,
as rich and warm as melted butter, will stream from the windows of each house along our road. Inside we'll nestle and thank our lucky stars. So much to be grateful for, even in times of trouble.