Have you noticed? The days are getting longer. We have gained five minutes of daylight in the past week. Given that late December days are about six and a half hours shorter than those of late June, we have a way to go, but still.
You could use that extra five minutes each day to think up a New Year’s resolution or two, or brew up some cocoa to go with the last of the Christmas cookies. The tree can come down, but don’t forget: outdoor lights should stay up until March 6.
Back to the subject of resolutions. They are a strange custom, easily made and soon forgotten. Diet? Exercise? Hey, it’s winter in Maine. We are deprived enough without giving up food or drink, and everyone with a scanner knows the hazards of getting out and about on foot these days. Even the cat is content indoors.
Feeding the birds means feeding the squirrels, too. No matter what anyone tells you about squirrel-proof feeders, it ain’t so. If your feeder is on a pole, grease it. That will provide you with two or three days of amusement, and your neighborhood will be populated with bad-hair-day squirrels before the grease is rubbed off.
The thanks you will get for allowing the squirrels to share the sunflower seeds is that they will chew through the wires of your Christmas lights. Does anyone have an explanation for this? Or a solution that does not involve lethal weapons?
This is a good time of year to give thanks – and money – to your local library. It is a warm place to go when you have cabin fever, and no one will mention your hat hair. Books are the best way ever to while away the long, cold days, and if you can’t find just the right one, the librarians will help.
Get a how-to book and teach yourself a new skill. Get a cookbook, make fancy muffins and leave one out for the mailman. Eat your way around the world with cuisine from different countries. Get a home repair book and fix everything in your house that’s broken.
Drive down to your local harbor and be glad you are sitting in your car with the heater on and not going out fishing. Also that you do not have a boat you need to worry about all night, every night, when the wind blows. Ditto that your traps are not being driven ashore in a winter storm.
Go to the nearest big box store, get a coffee and watch what people are returning after Christmas. Make a note to yourself never to buy that stuff. Check out what was overstocked and is now being sold off at bargain basement rates. Pick up a few useful items at deep discounts and drop them off at a homeless shelter.
The turn of the millennium was 17 years ago, just before the world turned upside down and we started having to pad around airports in our stocking feet. It is a sadder and scarier world in the current century, and getting harder to remember that the world is always turning toward the morning.
If you really feel compelled to make a resolution, here is one possibility. When you disagree with your selectman or your local legislator, instead of raving from the safety of your kitchen table, call them up and ask, “Why do you think that? Why did you do that?” Then listen before you say more. Is it a job you would want to do? If not, thank them for their service.
If you learn that your neighbor occupies a different political planet than you do, ask for a tour. Picture yourself agreeing with him, and think about what points you would use to support your positions if they were the opposite of the ones you actually hold.
Think up three good things about somebody you can’t stand. Three reasons why you love your hometown. Three items you wish you could buy at the local store. Speak to three people you’ve never spoken to before.
Look for the goodness that is Maine. The guy who has a tow rope and knows how to use it. The sound of a plow blade dropping outside your window while you are still snug in bed. The plate of goodies that turns up at the fire department. The churches that make sure everybody gets fed. The fact that if you have need of a restroom in Maine, you won’t need to produce your birth certificate. You are expected to know how to take care of yourself, but if trouble arises, your neighbors will be there for you.
Feel free to show off your sense of superiority if you are staying through the winter. You know Maine the way the snowbirds do not. You will be heartily sick of the cold and everything that goes with it before March is over, but you also will know nights so cold the stars crackle, snow so white your eyes water and stillness so profound that you can catch an occasional glimpse of your deepest inner self.