Where I Come From …. Lea Wait

Sheepscot River Scene

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.

Sheepscot in Winter

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.


6 Responses

  1. Ah, your lovely blog and pictures, Lea, make me nostalgic for Maine. This is the first summer I haven’t been there to visit. My two Maine Coon cats bring Maine to my doorstep here in Vermont, but it’s not the same. (I don’t know why they are called Maine, though they have stripes on their legs resembling the coon.) As for fall foliage, well, I can see no real contest here between our two states, but will allow you to brag anyway! And I have to allow that I’ve long loved your series–especially the latest one, involving those marvelous Winslow Homer paintings.

    • Thank you, Nancy! So glad you enjoy my Shadows books! And Maine and Vermont are very friendly rivals when it comes to fall foliage .. in fact, as I’m sure you know, a number of people have summer homes in Maine … and winter homes in Vermont! Not everyone goes south in the winter. For a short time in my life I owned a home on the west side of the Catskills in NY State … lovely area. And close to where I worked then, in NYC. But I would miss the ocean too much to live there all the time. When I lived in Greenwich Village I used to sometimes ride the Staten Island Ferry, just to see the water. Lea

  2. Thanks for the wonderful insight into a state I love to visit. (I hope I’m not an unruly visitor!) As a native of Massachusetts, I’ve never understood either why anyone would want to skip a season.

  3. I absolutely agree! I’ve never understood the charms of a place that basically stays the same all year ’round. (Although my husband, who grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, does occasionally get homesick for the sun about February or March in Maine, and I can sympathize!)

  4. Wonderfully cozy description of winter in Maine, Lea! I know if I say we have seasons here in northern Calif, everyone will laugh. But we do: wet and dry. I actually prefer the damp one. I need no excuse then to stay inside and read; I still feel that when the weather is nice (it usually is) I should be outdoors taking advantage of it. That admonition by our mothers takes a long time to grow out of.

  5. I will never forget reading MARJORIE OF MONHEGAN while on island and longing to see the ice-skating. Our dream is to experience those Maine winters–to come from away and stay.

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