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They say that the sun in October here in Maine is almost exactly where it was back in March and is supposed to be as robust and strong as the sun we "enjoyed" back in March.
They say!
The idea is that in October - when the earth's axis is tilting south and the power of the sun begins to fade around here and starts to focus on the end of the planet known as the Southern Hemisphere - we here in Maine start to put on sweaters and go to football games and rake leaves and fire up our woodstoves because things start to get a tad chilly.
Fortunately, the earth's southward tilt always seems to end abruptly around the 20th of December at what old hippies celebrate as the 'winter solstice' - when the sun begins to return. The rest of us light electric candles and celebrate such traditional 'feasts of light' as Christmas and Hanukkah. The idea is that as northerners we're glad when the sun stops tilting south and leaving us and we're pleased when it starts heading back toward our end of the planet and warming things up around here.
But any Mainer knows that March has never been a popular month here in Maine because - unlike the approaching month of October - the month of March is often a problem. Think about it. When was the last time you had any problems with October?
On the other hand the month of March is so useless and unpopular that many towns traditionally dump things like their town meetings in March, just to give the people in town something to look forward to avoiding. Often, the weather in March does everything in its power to make a mockery of the "March is just like October' comparison because - as we all know - some of the worst weather ever dropped down on the good people of Maine has been dumped during the month of March. October has never done anything of the kind.
Every month has storms but when March has a storm it doesn't just have one of your traditional 'weather events.' No siree. When March has a storm it likes to mix and match its meteorological ingredients. The typical March storm may begin slowly and easily with a little snow but then it will quickly add a blast of arctic air and more snow from the north west and then - after a few hours of that - it may decide to bring in some southern breezes and turn the arctic snow into freezing rain then rain and back to freezing rain and a dash of sleet and back to snow atop a sheet of black ice then more rain and then a cold blast that freezes the whole mess into an ugly arctic sculpture.
The thing that sets us up for such a late-winter sucker-punch is the fact that March is perfectly capable of giving us an almost tropical sunny day that makes us think of a day at the beach or sailing on the bay. March can give us days that make us foolishly think that the back of winter has finally been broken and spring has arrived.
But to see how different these two months - October and March are - write them down - 'October' and 'March' - side-by-side on a paper and then list all the good times you and the family can look forward to having indoors and outdoors in October. I figure you'd probably need a few more sheets of paper just to finish listing all your October good times, right?
Now, scratch your head and try to think of one - just one - good time you and the family have ever had in Maine in March.
I still waiting.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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