It's interesting how your view of life can sometimes change quite suddenly. It's as though you've been taking a cross-country journey — an old-fashioned sort of journey, by train, let's say — and for a long time the landscape does not seem to change much at all. There are endless variations on a certain set of themes — here a stand of scrubby pines, there the back side of a warehouse — and after a while your attention kind of wanders. Then all at once (what happened? did you doze off for half an hour?) you look outside and the whole world is different.
It's a whole new decade, I hear.
I'm a little reticent about proclaiming this unequivocally. The scars have barely healed from all that tongue-lashing we got ten years ago from number-conscious folks who insisted that, properly speaking, the new millennium would not kick over until 2001. Anyone who thought otherwise was "innumerate." I've heard nothing from those folks this time around. Maybe they're all busy studying for a math test.
I made it a point when launching this blog never to write about the weather. Blathering on about the weather, I reasoned — though we all do it in Maine constantly — ought to be reserved for social networking sites (by which I mean, for example, the checkout line at the grocery store). It has no place in a sober and literate forum like Down East.
"What's in a name?" wonders love-smitten Juliet. "That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet."
Well, maybe — there are roses and roses. Some smell better than others, and lots of modern hybrids have next to no smell at all. But Juliet was just a kid; let's leave horticultural disputes to grown-ups with time on their hands.
It's odd, the effect a little snowfall has on even the most seasoned Maine drivers. Something clicks in our brains — or perhaps fails to click — and we dash out onto the public roadways and proceed to do strange and irrational things.
Add to this the well-attested affects of holiday spirit — I'm not just talking about the kind of spirit that comes in bottles — and it's probably safe to anticipate that we're embarking upon a silly season during which the median level of driver sanity will plummet to its annual low.
"I miss Saturday-morning cartoons," pronounced my son's friend Miles, sprawled on a battered sofa in the basement lair. "Now we've got Saturday-morning depressing environmental documentaries."
My son Tristan, hunched over his computer, muttered in quasi-verbal agreement.
You want heartwarming, we've got heartwarming. My daughter and I have agreed to get matching tattoos.
I should say at the outset that I am not a tattoo person. I am a fairly staid middle-aged lapsed Episcopalian novelist and high-school English teacher. So much for Maine eccentricity. My daughter Callie is nineteen and, until the day before Thanksgiving, innocent of skin embellishment.
Anyone rooting about for signs and portents this week will have had an easy go of it. Two Maine firefighters, in separate incidents, are arrested for arson. Sarah Palin launches a "book" tour. A mysterious snake-like creature is sighted on a Pennsylvania road. The President bows to an Asian emperor.
My young friend Alex — in my mind's eye, still a grinning, freckled 10-year-old — is off to join the army. Not the U.S. Army — the Finnish Army, known over there as the Maavoimat. Alex enjoys dual citizenship, having been born to a sparkling and artistic Finnish mom and a soft-spoken Yankee boatbuilder with the soul of a poet. Even by the standards of coastal Maine, where you meet interesting characters all the time, this family has always struck me as particularly wonderful.
My student Emily, a bright, hyperkinetic junior at Watershed School, was hopping mad on Wednesday. She'd spent countless hours of precious teenage time volunteering for the No On 1 campaign, only to see marriage equality in Maine smacked down by a resounding 30,000-vote margin the night before.