Winter Silence

ImageEveryone wants to move to Maine these days...It wasn't like that when we were growing up. In fact, very few people that lived here wanted to stay here, but they couldn't afford to move. No one knew where Maine was, they would stare blankly at you like it was a foreign country.

My neighbors are still the neighbors that I have had for the last fifty years or so. They watch out for you in a non-cloying way just as you watch out for them. That is just what you do in a small town. I always am thankful that my nearest neighbor is over a half mile away except for my sister's house a mere 100 feet away.

It is heavenly to be in a dense oak tree forest on a bucolic lake watching the snow storms make their way across the frozen lake. It has been peaceful and people-less for the last 35 years. Neighbors in seasonal cottages that stayed a month or two but never more than that – until now.

We have new neighbors that recently bought a seasonal cottage next door to us, thankfully over a large hill. I can't see them but I know that they are there and staying "for the winter". Things are going to be different, forever. The land that their cottage sits on has never been big enough for all the yard clippings so those get piled on my land. My small trees were cut down. I was told that they were just scrub trees but what happens if I liked my scrub trees? Too late, they are gone.

Does it matter that the well driller making them a well tapped into the aquifer that I have taken my water from for 50 years and now I have half the pressure but their well is over-flowing onto my land, flowing where the scrub trees use to be. Oh well, what difference does half the water pressure make or am I just being picky?

The endless parade of trucks driving way too fast force my country dogs to stay in the house. I bite my tongue and continue to be mute. I live on a basic gravel road not a super highway, sure I could fix it but why would I do that, so I can have more neighbors for a longer stretch of the year.

ImageBeing down a half mile road in Maine in the winter is a lesson in survival it isn't always about the peacefulness, or the wildlife it's about the harshness of elements. My access from the rest of the world is closed off until I get dressed in my down jacket and pants, put my snow boots on, hat and mittens and plop through the heavy snow to start my plow truck. While it heats up I brush a foot of fresh snow off the truck and then hand shovel the walkways of our houses. It's a process that takes hours as long as everything goes as planned. Why would my new neighbors from New York City think that they could "Just" move here and be okay?

It isn't about what color the kitchen cabinets are going to be or if I wouldn't mind plowing their road because it is only another 400 feet past me. It is about basic survival, no more, no less. The winters are harsh and everyone moving here thinks that just by installing a generator its mere presence will protect them, but that only happens in the movies. We had an ice storm that paralyzed our state for weeks. Where do you get fuel or money from an ATM if there isn't electricity? How do you run a gererator for 17 days non-stop?

You suddenly have to adapt, you live in the room of the house that has a wood stove, you flush the toilets with buckets of water from the hole through the ice that you re-chip twice a day. You make do and enjoy the simple things that used to go unnoticed and under-appreciated. The dinner that you composed from the top layer of the slowly melting freezer by candlelight becomes your day's highlight. My neighbors have no plan to get themselves into their house without my assistance, no snow tires, no snow shovel yet and a freshly broken wrist, but I bet they think they're ready for winter....

If they stay for the winter I am having a special celebration dinner at the end of February for them to explain to them mud season is next, but until then I am cooking up a storm in my kitchen and freezing it just in case the power goes off.


Brenda Athanus runs a small gourmet food shop in Belgrade Lakes, Maine with her sister Tanya called the Green Spot.

The Green Spot
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