Winter (from Webster’s dictionary): “the season between autumn and spring comprising in the northern hemisphere usually the months of December, January, and February, or as reckoned astronomically extending from the December solstice to the March equinox.”

Winter in Maine (from my dictionary): the season between autumn and spring comprising usually the months of November, December, January, February and March, or as reckoned empirically on most occasions as extending from Halloween night to Tax Day in April.

Maybe it is an instance of successful self-hypnosis, or a necessary delusion I’ve propagated for myself (to ease a seasonally-induced cognitive dissonance), but a tangible sense of well-being came over me when I decided Dec. 21st could no longer be the first day of winter. Let’s face it. Halloween night in October is the last gasp of Maine’s truncated autumn (barely one and one half months long in reality). Nov. 1st might dawn innocuously enough, but the possibility equally exists it might attack with yellow eyes and slathering maw like a starving hound.

Take the year 2019 as an example. November was innocently no more out the screen door in bathrobe and slippers before it was barely 10 degrees and I was scraping an inch of ice from my car’s windows. Remember the previous year? In early November 2018 a mid-winter wind dialed itself up, and remained belching unabated through the New Year’s festivities. In November and December last year the number of days the temperature did not dip below freezing could be counted on two fingers, just a little “end of autumn cold snap,” we all were led to believe.

If only I had known earlier in my life that Nov. 1st is really Maine’s first day of winter I wouldn’t have experienced, year after year, the following six- to eight-week black hole of feeling duped and being depressed about being so easily conned. I could have instead spun far more satisfying personal narratives like “the first six weeks of winter haven’t been all that bad,” or “Jeepers, it’s Dec. 20th and we’re almost halfway through the winter; who was the idiot who said it doesn’t start until tomorrow?”

I expect to be psychologically “dashing through the snow” this coming third week of December and not in abject dread of Dec. 21st, when the solstice’s winter incubus is officially hatched and back on the loose.

At the very least I know one thing I am not going to do this winter. I’m not going to feel guilty because it’s officially just a few weeks into winter when my “cabin fever” hits in February. I’ll vehemently complain about the long winter all I like, as in reality it will have been prancing obscenely naked in my dooryard for well over three months by then.

I also expect to experience a newly acquired peace of mind throughout the winter holidays. Thanksgiving will fall almost a month into winter for me this year, which is as it should be in my view. Nobody will have to explain the obvious, just because their calendar says it’s still autumn, why they aren’t out harvesting their final garden tomatoes on the last Thursday of November. And my Christmas this year will not be fraught with the psychological tension of having not a precious moment to properly prepare for it. I’ll have had seven weeks of winter to become acclimated, not the ludicrous four days everybody else gets.

Mainers are basically a humble, deferential people, with a willingness to trudge through things as long as it makes good common sense to do so. They don’t confront the end of winter, instead they politely inquire, “How long – if you don’t mind me asking – do you think you’ll be staying?”

Mainers may be inclined to defer to winter its chosen length of stay as if it were their guest, but they should no longer have to excruciate over exactly when it actually pulled in. For this Mainer, adding a couple of months to winter is the long and the short of making it through another one.

Michael F. Ware lives in Lisbon Falls.

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