If I stood on the porch and really listened, I could almost hear it. Carried on the wind gusts off Saddleback and sweeping through town before blowing across from Haines Landing came a song of celebration—of voices lifted in chorus. So thrilled were we with gratitude, yet so stunned with disbelief, we sounded like Whoville when the Grinch brings back Christmas just in the nick of time:
Welcome snowfall! Welcome snowfall! Welcome snowfall, come this way!
I watched the first flakes fall with childlike fascination. Just like a snow globe, living in Rangeley in the wintertime was…at least that’s what I’d come to believe. Last year it nearly buried us in our tracks, barely leaving room for our little green-roofed village to peak out above the drifts before Mother Nature shook down a fresh blizzard. While I didn’t relish a repeat of that landscape, I felt a flutter of hope as the first flurries turned to serious powder piling up on the porch railings and turning my mudslide of a driveway white again.
Content to be settled in and no more than a couple slipper shuffles away from the wood stove, part of me did long to be out and about. Rangeley folks love a get-together and—especially this time of year—we drum up all sorts of reasons to see how our neighbors are “making it through” and if our friends from away still think we’re worth the trip. We hope Mother Nature will cooperate, of course, by keeping enough snow in Snodeo weekend, and letting us dance on the lake during our Icestock Music Festival. But if she doesn’t (which certainly seemed to be the case this year), we’re almost as happy bringing the party back indoors—warming our spirits at the Chamber’s chili/chowdah cookoff and brightening our mood at the flashiest Fat Tuesday party this side of the bayou. But nothing, I bet, rivaled the revelry of winter returning to Rangeley! Up on Saddleback, staff from behind the ticketing desk must have burst into the night, joining the trail crew in a huge circle of merriment. All over the land, from Loon Lodge to Bald Mountain Camps, pockets of happy dancing erupted as proprietors joined with winter vacationers on the verge of giving up and going home. And there were just as many silent prayers, too, I imagined. Uttered from faces lifted to the night sky as folks at the IGA and Oquossoc Grocery turned off the lights and started dreaming of a busier tomorrow, an echo stirred: “God, it’s about time!”
Those of us already home in our snugglies watched winter make its comeback via TV satellite. Our hopes grew as the Maine weather map turned the western mountains from a green “could be slushy” hue, to that in-between “we’ll get three inches if we’re lucky” pinkish purple, and finally to white—pure, glorious white. We posted the colorful NOAA maps on Facebook like kindergarteners proud to have something worthy of tacking on the fridge. Come morning, when snow actually had covered the landscape once again, we shared more Facebook pictures of it than if we’d seen a bull moose walk into Tall Tales Tavern and order a Sam Adams on draft!
Yes siree, Rangeley was back in business! With the hum of plows and snow machines signaling our pulse had returned to normal, the heavier the drifts got, the lighter we all became. I could feel it, way out here, even though I don’t ski and I rely mostly on my own fuel to get out on the trail. A huge weight lifted as we surveyed our fresh horizons full of new possibilities. In my neck of the woods, the turn in the weather meant I could change my footwear, a momentous event indeed! I could rip off the serious grippers that kept me vertical but feeling like a drunk penguin and go back to my basic Bean boots, walking softly in the snow that now graced my luge track of a road. I could relax, pick my head up, and fully appreciate Nature’s clean slate.
White…is not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black…God paints in many colours; but He never paints so gorgeously…as when He paints in white.”
— G. K. Chesterton
Living in Rangeley through the winter has brought its share of pleasant surprises, and becoming a full-fledged, year-round outdoor person as well as active in my new neighborhood is at the top of the list. Turns out, I can be as solitary or surrounded by people as I desire. Instead of just toughing out the cold as I once envisioned, I immerse myself, appreciating the stark beauty in my big backyard and the colorful community of hearty, like-minded souls outside my doorstep. “We bring our own slippers this time of year,” my new friends told me last January, stomping off the snow and leaving their boots just inside the back door. It was a simple routine, a natural rhythm that told me I’d fallen in step with the right people in just the right place.
I do love warm white, too–especially warm white sand that gently slopes into tropical water. But I’ve discovered nothing quite compares to winter white in Rangeley. It is, as Da Vinci said, “the first of all single colors,” the backdrop that makes all seasons relative. Out here, softly enveloped, I watch the trees wait against the sleeping shore. I feel the promise of new-leaf green and lupines. And, if I really listen, I can hear the hum of ice-out fishermen trolling the lake for trout, bringing us full circle.