Monday, December 04, 2006
Christmas down south
In Maine, as early September’s warmth gives way to tart days and cool nights, weekend activities begin to include stacking firewood and Googling the lowest oil price. Or digging up the garden, which won’t be activated again until May. The wood stove crackles. One year, we had a necessary woodstove fire as early as September 5th. Columbus Day passes and the leaves drop, the birds disappear, and there’s only a bare branch skyline and nothing green to refresh the soul for the next 6 months.
The bone crunching cold begins in November, and you’ve taped clear plastic over the edges of your window sills. You use a hair dryer to shrink wrap the plastic tight so it becomes clear like glass with no wrinkles. Literally, you seal yourself in for the winter.
To block the cold from creeping in, stores sell items decorated to look like what they are not, which are draft stoppers. A smiling snake, a puppy with an extra long tail, you set them on the floor in front of the doorways. I just used a rolled up towel.
Laying in wood, oil price searches, car anti-freeze fill-ups, hearing the scrape of a plow blade, dusk at 3:59, after thirty years it gets pretty soul sapping. And there’s something else.
Clutching your scarf, you scurry from cold to warmth. Shivering, you might exchange a few words with your neighbor, but if you’re outside you’re cold or too busy scraping the windshield, if you’re inside your heavy coat heats you up uncomfortably. Even if you’re at a function, you leave early “to beat the storm.” Neighborly relaxation exists in limited quantities or not at all.
I know, many Mainers enjoy cross country skiing, or happily go to the winter carnivals all bundled up. Not me. And I know too, that it gets hot here in the summer. But not for as long. And it’s not as dark. That’s what gets you, the dark, bleak relentlessness of a far northern winter. No matter how this Yankee cajoled herself into enjoying frigid outside activities, I still looked through plastic for half the year.
At Saturday’s Christmas event in my new town in Georgia I could stroll, not scurry. I could sing carols without shivering. I didn’t have to rush home ‘to beat the storm’ but could savor the sights unconstrained. Living life hermetically unsealed means there are fewer barriers to connecting with each other. Now, community kinship is a carol I can sing with gusto.
Above, sunset at my house last night. Civil twilight 5:50 p.m. Length of day: 10 hours 55 minutes.