Letter to a prospective migrant from Florida

By Marion Tucker-Honeycutt | Jan 10, 2020

A couple of Floridians posted on Facebook that they are contemplating leaving their home state and moving to Maine, up around the Rangely Region. They are tired of the blistering summers of running from air-conditioned cars to offices, house or other buildings. They made the mistake of asking for advice.

I’ve learned, over the decades that, as my dear aunt said: “Giving advice is a vice.” Advice is rarely appreciated and is, after all, mostly just opinion. And you know what they say about opinions. “Opinions are like — ah — noses. Everybody's got one.” Likewise, I’ve learned to stay silent when tempted to give advice unless first asked. But beware if you ask. So they got it per the below.

Maine is my home state but I have lived all over the country, including Florida and California. In California, months will go by without a drop of rain — and come Christmas, everything is burned brown — then greened-up in spring and burned brown by the end of May and even the trees are dry and dusty. Ten years there and I never got used to that.

In Florida, you're trapped, as you mention, inside with air conditioners all summer and having Christmas gatherings on the beach or under the palms just didn’t do it. I finally came back home where you expect it to be winter, in winter, and then summer in summer, where you can practically live outside. Indeed, I had a gazebo for some years and would use that as my summer bedroom and "Summer House” like the English are wont to do. I had a cot, a table with a flashlight and kerosene lamp, books, watercolors and art paper pads and pencils, binoculars — and my dog. No phones allowed.

Spring, summer and fall are glorious. How you "do winters" is up to you. And winters are a dite more winter up where you want to go, but it's real Maine. You can make lemonade out of winter by, No. 1, having a wood stove — a wood stove is a given — purring. It gives a friendly, even wrap-around-warm, not hot-chilly-hot like a furnace that comes off and on. A bonus is the soft smell of wood smoke. (A big pot of peanuts boiling on the wood stove will provide a bit of home for a migrant Floridian).

Snowshoeing is easy to master and nothing quite like snowshoeing off into the woods after a new snow. The soft silence the snow creates, along with the totally untracked world with you the first person to explore it, is magic-land. Skiing is not as enjoyable, as it takes too much energy and concentration, and snowmobiles shatter the silence and the fumes are nauseous. It’s like going to the pond and taking boomboxes and phones.

And speaking of ponds and lakes, you asked about the presence of nearby ponds and lakes. Maine has 3,000-plus, so there’s always going to be one or more nearby. Find one that doesn’t allow water skis or even motorboats, and doesn’t have cottages down to, or visible from, the shore that shatter the ambience of the natural world. Canoes will make you part of the pond-world with the locals, like loons, beavers, eagles and Canada geese. You can look out at a scene that can be indistinguishable from the present to centuries past. You almost wouldn’t be startled to see a Native American paddle around the bend, transporting you 400 years back in time. Maine is magic, if you let it be.

Winter's a great time to curl up with a good book by the stove, or knitting, or? Winter is a slow-down, catch-your-breath time. And there are more bonuses that you will discover by going with it and seeking the pluses.

Then there’s native Mainers. You may be startled at first when, wherever you go, people wave at you — even from cars when you’re walking down a road. Maine folk are a whole different animal; warm, friendly and real, especially upcountry where you plan to settle. But get some heavy 100% wool sweaters and genuine shearling lined boots and scarves for covering up over your nose when the wind gets t’howling. Also, no mittens or hats that aren’t 100% wool or shearling. If you get miserably cold, it’s mostly your fault.

And don’t forget, give it a couple of years for your blood to “thicken up” and your soul to reconnect.

P.S. BTW, you might want to learn some Maine-speak, like "wicked," which means something is more so, like "wicked good" means really good, and "some wicked good" means really, really good. A “dite” is a little, but sometimes means the opposite, like “It’s a dite blustery out today” means it’s wicked blustery, enough to blow you into the next county.

And you might want to practice saying "yes" in Maine-speak. While sucking in your breath, say "Ay-ah."

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.

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