Dec. 1: “Winter is icummen in, lhude sing Goddamm. Raineth drop and staineth slop, and how the wind doth ramm! Sing, Goddamm!”

Well, that’s exactly what London is like in December, I thought 40-something years ago when I first read this ironic revision of a medieval lyric that was originally about spring.

Maine Decembers were different, frozen. That was then, this is now: 40 degrees today and the recent snowfall is glazing over.

Dec. 2: The last five or six Decembers, I’ve thrown more salted sand on the driveway than in all the winters combined since we moved here in 1994.

Dec. 3: Driveway glazed like a luge run. On today’s drive to Skowhegan, no snow. Bonnie’s winter refrain: “When there’s no snow, we still have more than everybody else.”

Dec. 4-5: Cold nights. The house end of the driveway is now polished ice. Directly over the kitchen sink, a tiny house spider dangling from her thread. A Western conifer seed bug is put out the back door on its ear.

Dec. 6: Daytime temp back up to 52. Rainy windy. In Waldo, on the drive to Belfast, a large bird flying low directly in line with the road, so fast I’m slow to catch up. A heron? A crow? No – white tail feathers, it’s a bald eagle! In Brooks on the way home, a large bird flying low directly in line with the road head-on at me. The day turns surreal – it’s another eagle. (Or the same one?) On the roadside in Jackson, two ground birds scurry into the woods. They look like quails, I can see the head plumes. But quails are not normally seen in Maine.

Dec. 7: The ice is gone from the driveway. Back to bare. The silver-colored cat who looks like a reincarnation of our long-lost Mojo crying in the yard. Brian looks out at her intently. But it’s December, are you kidding me, he ain’t going out there.

Dec. 9: 3-4 inches of snow last night, the first driveway plow of the year. In the morning, a commotion of colored lights and voices at top of driveway. Car slid sideways off the icy road and down the embankment. Cold cold.

Dec. 10: Fine, relentless snowfall. Along the back roads to Skowhegan, trees are gray and skeletal. They are the spines of an ancient hairbrush. They are the winter of an old man’s head. They have succumbed to the shadows cast as the Earth tilts away from the sun. How do they go away, where do they go, and how do they come back? Who or what invented these cycles, and why, and where do they end? A blue jay crossing the road. Probably staying around to summer.

Dec. 11: Misty, rainy, 35. Then 51. Driveway freezes, driveway melts, driveway glazes. More sand.

Dec. 12: Snow gone. Temp near 50. Along Route 9 by the brown juniper on the ledge and the horse pasture, beer cans and soda bottles thrown out vehicle windows into the grass. A few years ago I asked George Smith if he thought roadside litter was worse than it used to be. He said definitely. Now there seem to be two or three times as many tossed containers as when George was still with us. I stare into the bare December woods. Tell me not to to do it, I’m doin’ it. Tell me to do it, I ain’t doin’ it even if I die not doin’ it. Anti-this, anti-that, anti-government, anti-responsibility of any kind. It feels like all recognizable moral logic has gone out the window. Are we self-destructing? From somewhere in the trees, a crow calls, shakes me back to reality, and saves some part of a day I was set to rue.

Dec. 13: In late afternoon, the moon, just past first quarter, hanging over treetops like an image in a book. Later I read in an autobiography by my friend Philippe, a zen monk: “The moon evokes not just wisdom and clarity of mind. It also arouses sadness, melancholy, the passage of time, the trials of life, tears that fill up an entire night, and a mournful wind.” Bangor temp hits record high, 60, around midnight.

Dec. 14: Winterberries still bright red along the brown half-frozen bog. Venus is a flare in the evening sky, about as bright as it ever gets, magnitude — 4.9. Invisible almost right behind it is frozen Pluto, magnitude 14.4, 3 billion miles away.

Dec. 17: Sunny, 42. Driveway bare.

Thin December ice is seen on the beaver pond recently in Troy. By mid-December 45 years ago, Dana Wilde says people were skating on ponds like this in southern Maine. Photo by Dana Wilde

Dec. 18: Overcast on top of overcast. Waiting for the snow. An eagle over the bog. Quiet. The skim of ice on the beaver pond might hold a cat, but no one any heavier. Fifty years ago in mid-Decembers, my brother and I were skating on a pond like this in the South Portland woods, against the recommendations of public safety watch-crows.

Dec. 19: Portland is on track to have its second-warmest December on record. Four inches of dry, light snow overnight. Second plow of driveway. A crow complaining in the woods. (The same one?) A sparrow inspects the spruces and hemlocks. Longtime Maine journalist writes that “white Christmases” are rare the last 20 years. Commenters beg to differ. Turns out she means snow falling on Christmas Day, not fallen. This year maybe both.

Dec. 21: Deer tracks in the snow. 10:59 a.m., solstice. The sun takes a deep breath, pauses on the edge of some invisible winter immensity, and in a few days daylight will last its first minute or so longer. How the wind doth ramm.

Dana Wilde lives in Troy. You can contact him at [email protected] His new book “Winter: Notes and Numina from the Maine Woods” is available from North Country Press. Backyard Naturalist appears the second and fourth Thursdays each month.


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