I don’t want to alarm anybody, I really don’t; but something strange has been going on outside my house in Augusta.
At first, I thought it was just an anomaly. You know, a freak occurrence before regular service resumed.
But no — slowly but surely it continued to reveal itself, until one day last week I realized what it was I’ve been walking over between the door and the driveway.
It’s grass. I had no idea there was grass out front of my apartment building.
You honestly could have fooled me. There had been no sign of the green stuff (well, to be fair, the brown stuff) in the first four months I’ve been here. But the mercury ticks a little higher than it had been, the sun gets a little higher and a little hotter, and suddenly there’s a yard where 4 inches of snow used to be.
And for even further proof that the weather is warming up, I heard my co-worker Dana Wilde say just this week that his driveway — which I had assumed, based on his Backyard Naturalist columns, was a remnant of the Ice Age — has thawed to the point of flooding.
As I may have mentioned in my print debut, I had only seen the white stuff once before I moved to Maine, and that was barely enough to scrape into a snowball, let alone create transportation problems or make me wonder whether I’d ever be warm again.
So as much as it was difficult to adjust to a harsh winter here, it was also something quite amazing to behold. You hardened Mainah cynics out there are probably scoffing into your Sunday morning coffee, assuming I’ve got delayed-onset cabin fever or something.
But for three months, every time the clouds unloaded yet another annoying dump of snow, I’d look out my windows with some sort of childlike awe at the fluffy white blanket that seemed to be tucking the world into bed. A cold, wet bed, but a bed all the same.
While I now have a newfound dislike for shoveling — as if anyone in the world enjoys it — I embraced the fallen snow.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize I should use handfuls of fresh stuff not for snowballs, but for icing drinks. The novelty of leaving individual beers in the snowbank outside my apartment door definitely hasn’t worn off either.
It’s with a tiny bit of sadness that I say, though, that all those little things I’ve surprisingly come to love over the last three or four difficult months have been all but shelved until (hopefully) December. Well, except for the “two-footer we get every April that’ll be gone by lunchtime the next day” that I was warned of recently.
Just a second though. Before I continue with this column, I need to throw in a little disclaimer. I know there have been a couple of topics in this column over the last few months that have probably ruffled some feathers. Week two saw me rooting for the Denver Broncos over the Patriots (sorry). Last time around, I confessed that I didn’t think I’d be able to tell the difference between real and imitation maple syrup (sorry — I can now though!).
But this time I might just spark civil unrest. I wouldn’t blame you if you turned the page now.
I was talking to a buddy from high school last week, a guy who relocated in 2008 to Sweden (of all places) for a job. Since he’s obviously got an intimate knowledge of long, cold, dreary winters, not to mention far more experience with it than I have, he asked me how things were going. I replied cheerfully but with tongue firmly in cheek, that it was a toasty 9 degrees Celsius (spoken in numbers he’d understand; it was 48 F out).
He asked me how I felt about those sorts of conditions, given the icy first quarter of 2014 we’ve had.
And after pausing to reflect on it, I realized to my great astonishment that I was somewhat disappointed that the weather was becoming more pleasant.
It’s certainly not because I relish the opportunity to wear four layers of clothing, or because I love the hide-and-seek game I play with my hat and mittens every single time I leave the house.
But after four straight months of feeling like the world was something to be wary of, and that the ground underfoot was determined to drag me down in the most physically embarrassing way possible, all of a sudden it’s a strange sensation to have that constant challenge taken away.
No longer am I stepping over a 3-foot snowbank on my own sidewalk. I don’t have to budget extra time to get dressed warmly, clear snow off the car, dig out the driveway or warm up the engine before I take the two-minute drive to the store.
Driving now feels just like driving, rather than a constantly nervous exercise in looking out for black ice, even though I wouldn’t know what it looked like until I was on top of it.
But despite all those difficult little daily rituals that winter brought, for some reason I relished the challenge I faced every day in the face of ever-changing conditions. I actually enjoyed the feeling of overcoming the weather in some small way.
Even as early as my first couple of weeks, I realized there’s probably something deeply psychological about this. When shoveling my front path, instead of just digging out a walkway wide enough to edge down when my ride to work arrived, I was determined to clear the whole thing, three days of back discomfort be damned.
What I think I’m getting at is, bare dry pavement (or, more recently, a clear and snow-free car) seems to be symbolic of me trying to maintain some semblance of control over conditions that are very, very far from my wheelhouse.
But now that the worry of snow is all but over, I almost don’t know what to do with myself. I mean, what’s left?
I’ve heard more than once that if I “couldn’t handle Maine’s winter, I didn’t deserve the summertime.”
I don’t know what you folks think, but I reckon I’ve earned a few months’ break from battling the elements.
We all have.
Adrian Crawford is a Web editor at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Email him at [email protected]. Maine Walkabout is published the first and third Sundays of each month. More of his adventures in Vacationland can be found at www.crawfinusa.com.