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I don’t know what the weather’s doing as you’re reading this, but as I’m writing this here at Storyteller Central, in the third week of the New Year, the weather outside is about as confused as I’ve ever seen it. It doesn’t seem to know what kind of weather it should be dishing out to us.
It’s not like I’ve never seen winter weather that’s different. I’m old enough to have experienced many confused winter days before, and I’ll no doubt experience more in the future. But the days we’ve been having lately – unseasonably mild to sub-zero frigid and even an occasional balmy day – aren’t like any I can remember anytime here in Maine.
Continuing their tradition of reporting the obvious, local television stations fill their nightly news with stories about how cold it is, one minute, and how mild it is the next – like we didn’t know. We’re also being told about how the amount of snow that has fallen is affecting the ski resorts and the businesses that depend on the hordes of skiers that flock to Maine’s mountains in winter.
In Maine in January ice fisherman have their ice shacks available to them, but some don’t trust the ice yet. The occasional sub-zero nights have made the ice thick enough for some serious fishermen but not all. Sportsmen waiting for ice to get thicker are forced to spend more time at home with the family. Some have said that if things don’t improve – meaning get cold and stay there for a while - they may give up ice fishing all together, or at least find a new place to do their drinking cold weather drinking.
Maybe I’ve been listening too much to overnight radio hosts, but I almost feel like I’ve been kidnapped and transported by aliens to a place where several different weather conditions wage a never-ending battle for dominance Despite that, I figure I must still be in Maine because yesterday I had lunch with a friend who owns a store that sells things that have always been useful here in Maine in fair weather and foul. But he said his customers are so confused about the up-and-down weather that they don’t know what to buy, so they don’t buy anything. After settling into a booth at the Mainely Food Diner and giving the waitress our order my friend and I started making small talk. I avoided asking how business was because I figured in his case, it was pretty bad. Eventually he volunteered the information saying the weather’s so strange around Maine this January that he could probably still be selling lawn furniture but then a sub-zero day comes along and his customers decide not to buy anything until the weather settles into weather it can stick with for a while.
When I was a kid my grandfather would tell me stories about the wild winters they had when he was young. I didn’t know if any of his stories were true and to tell you the truth I didn’t care, I just liked the way he told them.
He’d always begin by saying the winters we were having then were nothing like the winters of his childhood when it would snow almost non-stop from December to March.
There were stories about fierce blizzards that lasted for days and when they finally stopped snowing the only way to get outside was to climb out an attic window.
I have one grandchild to tell winter stories to and I plan to tell her about the Winter of 2014 –the winter that didn’t know what it wanted to do next.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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