“Gee, wouldn’t it be kinda cool to see how high the snow is around camp now?”
Back when I relied on folklore and friends who visited Rangeley more than I in the winter, I heard tales of drifts piling up to the windowsills. Still, the desire to be “upta camp” no matter what the weather warped my reality and, by the first of March, I’d fantasize about my little cabin nestled in the snow just waiting for ice out so I could show up again. “Even though it would take a whole day to heat up the place, I wish I could see it.”
Well, here I am, smack in the middle of my first Rangeley winter! And, boy, am I seeing it! Guess I never listened to all the older, wiser people about being careful what I wished for. Guess I should have remembered why my Bahamian friends (those blessed, barefooted souls) were always problem-free. “Don’t put mouth on it,” they’d say, unless you are totally sure what it is you be asking for!
As I’ve said right along, I do love living here year-round. I love snowshoeing on my big frozen lake right from my front door. I love my new friends and how they’ve given me a sense of neighborhood, even out on the quiet shore in the off months. I love how Main Street looks like a Currier and Ives painting and how my Elmer Fudd hat is never inappropriate attire. And I love how Mother Nature is blessing our local economy with dump after dump of fresh powder on the ski and snowmobile trails. After all, that’s what keeps the lights on along Main Street: all this white stuff and the folks who come up here to play in it—and eat, drink and sleep in wintry wonder—until they need to go earn more money so they can come back and do it some more.
But, c’mon already…wish granted! The snow isn’t up to my windowsills yet but, as of this post, it’s steadily approaching. Back in November, we could only wonder and wait. “What kind of winter do you suppose we’ll get?” Folks started speculating with the same tone of awe and surrender they’d use when predicting the annual black fly hatch. We all knew some snow was inevitable, living in the mountains of Maine and all. But after a barren year that left local businesses hankering for winter tourists, the big question was “How much?” Will we get serious footage, some good ground cover that won’t scrape our sleds? Can we hope to be skiing in our short sleeves just days before the fishermen return? Those who believed Mother Nature evens things out from year to year predicted a wallop. Those who swore by the Farmers’ Almanac agreed that “a cold slap in the face” was in store, combined with plenty of precip. But, just to be safe, most called forth rituals that had worked in years past. “Pray for snow!” store and restaurant signs beseeched. “Do the snow dance!”
Now that it’s March and winter has blessed Rangeley with a rockin’ Snowdeo weekend, the best-ever conditions on Saddleback and me, personally, with snowshoeing thighs of steel, I think we can all say: Mission accomplished. Somewhere between the fifteenth and twentieth storms, I began thinking up my own sign. Bright red and octagonal, it will spell out my one commandment to the weather gods: STOP! If I can ever break trail long enough to make it back down to the lake, I’m thinking I’ll make it big enough to spot by satellite.
I’m guessing I’m not alone in feeling this winter thing has gone from kinda cool to, as my Nana would say, “too much of a muchness.” Even my self-proclaimed snow bunny friends, who wouldn’t trade the brisk beauty of tromping around Rangeley for a beach chair in Florida, have seen enough white stuff to last them the rest of the winter, if not their lives. As the drifts keep piling up, we’ve even had to expand our ways of describing its impact and our ever evolving coping skills. “The dogs can’t go snowshoeing alongside us anymore,” my friend reported the other day. “They’re porpoising.” After seeing my beagles try to go off-road, I could relate. And, now that the snow banks are getting higher than Tom’s shoulders along the bobsled chute we used to call our road, walking them there is no easy alternative, either. When each dog decides he wants to be king of the hill on opposite sides, Tom may as well trade in their leashes for bright orange flags and go get a job at the Jetport.
It is Christmas card pretty out here, though, and Tom and I try to find at least one way to voice our appreciation each day. Food analogies worked for a while. “Look, it’s like we’re walking on a giant glistening sugar cube field,” we raved during a recent trek. Then, after another storm, we thought the marshmallow fluffiness stacked all around us was magical. We also repeatedly fall back on our version of that old “dry heat” observation folks make when they’re baking to death in the desert: “At least it’s light, fluffy snow,” we tell ourselves. “If this was all wet snow, we’d really be in trouble.” Tom said that again just the other day and I agreed. But silently I concluded that, once the snow starts inching up past his mouth and nose cavities next time he’s out there trying to shovel, it won’t much matter if it’s fluffy.
During the most recent storm, our positive outlook ran a little thin. As we stood staring out the kitchen window, watching the sheds get buried, we couldn’t think of much to say. But we weren’t completely quiet, either. By late in the afternoon, Tom was making a noise echoed by others around town when the “s” word is mentioned and how deep it’s getting. Each time Tom looked out the window, he’d let out a half-growl, half-groan, then a long expulsion of air that sounded more like a punch in the gut than a sigh.
Yup, I sure picked quite a year to jump into the reality of Rangeley winter. No more hypothesizing from another state. I’m here, seeing for myself, with all my climatized senses fully involved and invigorated. It’s definitely an adventure—experiential learning at its best. And now that I’m fully immersed, body and soul, I’m learning for sure that the real thing is way better than theorizing from anywhere else.