I live on the coast of Maine. For most people that statement conjures up visions of lighthouses and lobsters and moose and breakers hitting high rocky shores. And those pictures are indeed part of “my” Maine. It’s hard to live in Maine during the summer and avoid signs for “Best Lobstah Rolls – Here!” and “Maine-ly Tee Shirts – Cheap!” and “Twenty-six miles to LL Bean!”
As most Mainers do, I wear several hats. One of my hats belongs to an antique print dealer. I’ve been one longer than Maggie Summers, my protagonist in the Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, has. So I also smile at the “Antiques, Used and New” signs, and the “Vintage Clothing” stores, and the “Auction! Here! Saturday night!” directional arrows. I even “Brake for Flea Markets” sometimes.
But Maine has been part of my life long enough for me to also know about the folks who drink too much in their trailers, who depend on moose hunting to supply meat for the winter, who can’t afford to heat their homes in winter, whose teenagers drop out of school to dig for sea worms for a living or work as chambermaids, and who resent the rich folks with out of state license plates who seem to spend money so freely and then leave when it’s time to board up for winter. Most Mainers work 2 or 3 jobs, summer and winter, to survive. At least 2 of those jobs likely depend on the tourist industry.
Right now, early October, is, of course, leaf peeping season in the northeast. Vermont and Maine compete with each other to see who has the most spectacular foliage. (Admittedly, Vermont has the traditional reputation – but Maine has the wider variety of deciduous trees, and its number of fall tourists is growing yearly.) In Maine, this season is known (quietly) by the locals as the time when the “newly wed and nearly dead” visit. Said with a wry smile. These are folks without children, and often with money. Quieter types than the “summer complaints,” to be sure. The sort that enjoy art galleries and high-end restaurants and auctions and drives along the shore, and probably will pick up some holiday gifts for the family at craft and antique shops along the way. (Love those folks from away!)
Meanwhile those of us who live here year ’round are preparing for winter. My husband’s an artist, and he’s ordered extra canvases, and other supplies artists in warmer climes might not think of: biobricks and cords of word to heat the woodstove in his studio. I’m finishing up my Christmas shopping now so I won’t have to think about going out later this year when weather might be complicated, and I’ll be deep into writing my next book.
Because winter, at least at our house, means hunkering down and focusing on new work. We have neighbors who are cabinetmakers and quiltmakers. At our house we work on books and canvases. We enjoy wine and cheese and conversation with friends occasionally. We bake bread or cookies or meatloaf or make stew when the muses are playing hooky. We catch up with movies and books we were too buy to read or see during the summer.
Winter in Maine also means buying Christmas wreaths by the side of the road (they’re so inexpensive some people hang them in almost every window,) eating tiny fresh shrimp in season, laying in a supply of birdseed for heavy snowfalls, and seeing spectacular sunsets reflected in the snow and ice on the sides of the rivers.
I’ve never understood why some people leave Maine and go south for the winter. But it does leave more space here for the rest of us.