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Snow on the ground, five planets in the dark

We got our holiday snow, along with another (another!) power outage. Even without electricity, it sure was pretty and we ended up with quiet time to watch winged Searsmonters flocking to the feeders. Was that a pine siskin? Nope, it was a common redpoll, the first we’ve seen since a large flock 10 years ago. Neither the squirrels nor the blue jays have figured out the library’s bird station. Yet. During the longest nights of the year, the one of us who follows these things is getting very excited. This week Searsmonters can see Jupiter and Saturn low in the western sky just after sunset. They are visibly closer in the night sky than they have been in 800 years. Take a look, because it will be 60 years before they’re that close again. Red Mars is overhead most of the night, and Venus rises a few hours before dawn. The fifth planet? You’re standing on it.

Town Office and Town Library

For the third time recently, Searsmont’s selectmen cancelled their biweekly Tuesday meeting, this time for “lack of an agenda.” So we attended the Dec. 8 Planning Board meeting instead, and were impressed. Members attended in person or by Zoom with board clerk Nancy Weser and Code Enforcement Officer Frank Therio. The agenda included a Threshers “change of use” application (from brewery to include food service) and revision of residential, subdivision and site review permit fees.

One unusual item showed the board’s local nature, humanity and knowledge. Searsmont’s Charles Martz is caught between town requirements for restoring a 15-year-ago stone removal project — which he has done — and the state’s requiring an after-the-fact mining permit and reclamation plan. According to the board, Mr. Martz has been nothing but cooperative for years and has done a great reclamation job. But regulations are regulations. Instead of walking away from this, the board will see how best to serve a town resident and the town. Nice work, Planning Board. The Town Office has meeting dates, agendas and Zoom log-in information.

The library will be closed from Wed., Dec. 23, through Fri., Jan. 1, for year-end holidays. It will be open for extended hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tues., Dec. 22.

Bits and pieces

A venison correction: Arlo Redman IV tagged the 200-pound buck we mentioned two weeks ago, not our esteemed Selectman. Sorry for the error (and glad someone is reading this column).

Three cheers to Jim and Jenness Robbins, who just provided 40 acres of managed forest and trails on boat-accessible-only Quigg Island in Liberty’s Stevens Pond to Georges River Land Trust. The land is one of the first properties the Robbins brothers bought way back when.

Belfast’s UU church is holding another “Dinner Anywhere in the World” raffle (airfare, hotel and dinner for two; 1,000 tickets available at $20 each). Tickets are available through Dec. 27 from Anna Wood-Cox by leaving a message at 930-9399, or buy one from The Green Store, 71 Main St., Belfast. Where would you go — when any of us can travel? Paris? India? San Francisco? Tuscany?

Happy holidays

It feels like many Searsmonters who aren’t able to share time with their loved ones this year are partially making up for it with holiday lights. We’ll be cooking for just two again, maybe a roast duck (certainly not another turkey!). So whether you celebrated Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights), or will celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa or the winter solstice, we wish you hope and light and happiness.