By Joanne Niswander
I've been traveling again, which leads to another column for any of you interested in another part of the world.
Not across the equator this time, but at the far eastern end of our time zone - Maine. Many of you have visited that state, and I suspect that most of your trips have taken place during Maine's glorious, but short, vacation season.
Summer offers cool ocean breezes, scenic vistas, and cheap lobster dinners. Fall offers a riot of color that's hard to beat. But I was there to experience the end of Maine's winter and the beginning of spring's "mud season." Not the prettiest, or most desirable, time of year in the far northeast.
I've been to Maine many times - my daughter Kay and her family have lived there for more than 20 years - but this time I went for a different purpose. It was the call of motherly duty that took me there while Kay underwent, then recuperated from, total knee surgery.
So on this trip, I looked at Maine with a different set of eyes and ears. Here are some of the things I gleaned while there: The old time Mainers - the ones who speak with an accent so thick that it is sometimes difficult to understand - are becoming fewer and farther between. But they're still there, and it's delightful to listen to their conversations.
The winter sun comes up awfully early on the eastern side of our time zone. No sleeping in when the sun shines in your window at 6 a.m. And, although Maine isn't nearly as far north as Alaska and the Yukon, one definitely notices the extra-long days, even in early spring.
Being a fashion plate takes a back seat to comfort and utility in mid-coast Maine. A pair of jeans and a flannel shirt, or a bulky-knit sweater, are the fashion everywhere and for everyone at this time of the year (except on the sunny days where the sweater is just too heavy). Bulky coats? Only if you're working outside or expect to be out for longer than five minutes.
There is an image of Mainers as being "standoffish" and cold to outsiders. But, in my daughter's community there seems to be a lot of neighbor-helping-neighbor-helping-someone-else. Maybe it's because Kay and Dan have always been good neighbors themselves. Maybe it's because Thomaston is a small town. Maybe it's a lot of other reasons.
Anyway, we had some delicious meals brought in by friends when Kay first came home from the hospital, and we enjoyed visitors stopping by.
You may have read about Maine's April Fool's Day snow. Yes, it's true - we had an all-day snowfall of at least 10 inches on April 1. Wet, heavy snow that closed schools (again) and gave my son-in-law another excuse to get out his truck with the snow blade and dig all the neighbors out. By next morning, the snow was still on the ground and in the trees but the roads were clear - Maine is prepared for such occurrences.
For you singers, I have a suggestion for a new kind of outreach service (at least, it's one I hadn't heard of before). My daughter is part of a singing hospice group. This group of about a dozen singers gets together twice a month to practice all styles of hymns and songs, then go to homes or hospitals (when asked) to sing for hospice patients.
I got to sit in on one of their rehearsals and was impressed with the quality of their singing as well as their dedication to a new kind of service. Maybe it can catch on here.
So, that's your travelogue on Maine in late winter/early spring. You'll find good people there at any time. But the season could be improved on. Try July.