‘What’s with all the orange posts lining the neighbors’ driveways?” I asked my husband a year ago last November, not long after we moved to Cape Elizabeth from Baltimore. “Um…maybe to guide the snowplows?” he guessed. So off we went to the hardware store to buy our own orange markers. We soon renamed them “plow targets,” since the first pass of the plow turned our markers into orange splinters. We have learned a lot since retiring and starting over in Maine.

We learned from friendly hikers on Burnt Meadow Mountain, for example, to always wear orange vests during hunting season.

I learned from my new hair stylist that “hat hair” is okay in Maine during the winter months, and I now own an assortment of warm wool hats and accept the fact that I will have flat hair until April.

We found out that you are never too old to go sledding or build a snowman. A long-time Baltimore Ravens fan, my husband dressed our snowman in a purple Ravens jersey and sun glasses and nicknamed him “Sno Flacco.”

We learned that flashing lights and loud clanging noises on a winter night does not signal a gas explosion or some other disaster. It means that the plows are coming through and that the roads will be clear by morning.

We now know to get outside regardless of the cold weather. We discovered that taking the party ferry around Casco Bay in February is not as crazy as it sounds. In fact it was a good way to shake off the winter doldrums and to meet new people. We learned that the winter sunsets from Kettle Cove are worth stopping for.

I found out about black flies from the naturalist leading a spring wildflower walk in Robinson Woods. I always assumed that black flies were like flies – big and easy to swat. I quickly discovered that black flies were, in fact, quite small, and not only that, were impossible to see, much less swat. On the same hike I learned that tucking your pants leg into your socks to deter ticks is not dorky, it is the smart thing to do.

We slowly figured out our way around the Maine Mall and no longer end up at the airport while searching for Home Depot. We found that on a clear day you can see Mount Washington from Highland Avenue in South Portland.

We learned that when the street cleaners come through to vacuum up the winter grit from the roadside, that spring is not far behind.

Remember what the first day at a new job is like? Or at new school? It can be lonely, exhausting, and bewildering. But gradually the unfamiliar becomes familiar. You make new friends. You learn your way around. And then one day you realize that you are home.

filed under: