Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Maine, New Year's 2009: The Agonies and the Ecstasies

The Agonies:
  • Discovering that Port in a Storm, one of my favorite independent bookstores, is closing. They just can't afford to pay the rent anymore, due to the fact that so many people on Mt. Desert Island now buy their books online. The only good thing about this is that, due to their closing sale, I got 3 hardcover books cheap. (For those of you who are curious: Mark Bittman's Food Matters, Mary Roach's Bonk, and Michael Cox's The Glass of Time.)
  • The snow storm that in the old days, when I lived in Connecticut, would have evaded my home and headed straight up to Maine, but that, since I was in Maine, hit Connecticut and managed to get blown out to sea before reaching Mt. Desert Island. I'm famous for bringing what others consider "bad" weather (blizzards and torrential thunderstorms) only when everyone has the need to be out and about in it (like when my company is having all the editors in from around the country for a 3-day editorial summit). When no one needs to go anywhere (e.g. New Year's Day), even when the forecast is a "100% chance of snow," my presence seems to keep it from coming. No matter what the weather forecaster says, if I happen to be anywhere within your vicinity, you might as well go ahead and plan a New Year's Day picnic.
  • Forgetting that it starts getting dark in these parts before 4:00 p.m. this time of year and setting out a tad late for a little walk in the woods, which would have been fine if we hadn't followed the wrong trail markers on our way back. I was envisioning news reports of those idiots from Pennsylvania who froze to death a mere 200 yards from the highway. Meanwhile, Bob was getting furious with me for not trusting him when he said we had no need to worry (turns out he was right. He really did know what he was doing. I, on the other hand, with my terrible sense of direction, would have made headline news had I been alone).
The Ecstasies:
  • The fifteen-inch snowstorm that had come through the week before we arrived, guaranteeing snow on the ground that was beautiful during our entire visit.
  • A howling wind storm and freezing temperatures that brought the windchill factor down to 20 below 0 (that's Fahrenheit). This may sound like an agony to many but not when you're on vacation, have no reason to go out (except for little "getting lost in the woods around sundown adventures"), can spend your days doing nothing more than sitting by a crackling fire while looking out at white caps on the half-frozen bay, and you have plenty of tea and hot chocolate to keep you warm (or rum and red wine, if for some reason, the tea and hot chocolate don't seem to be working). Then, it's quite heavenly, reminiscent of snow days when you got to stay home from school.
  • Discovering that fulfilling a dream of ours of buying property in Maine to a. be a place where we can bring disadvantaged city kids camping and b. retire one day, is feasible (so in 2009, you'll probably hear a lot about our going back and forth to Maine as we pursue this path, I think).
  • The company. Besides Bob, I had Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens (h.i.l.a.r.i.o.u.s. Not so much roll-on-the-floor in convulsions funny, but h.i.l.a.r.i.o.u.s. nonetheless -- and wonderfully irreverent in a good way), Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel (fascinating, even with plenty of faults, and yet another one that made me think, "This ought to be required reading for all high school students," and Jeffrey Lent's In the Fall (beautiful. A contemporary classic that, unfortunately, won't become so, because publishers spend all their time promoting the likes of Tom Clancy and Danielle Steele). I also had the winter issue of Slightly Foxed (saved specifically for this vacation) and The Economist (more on that to come in another post).
  • No Internet access. Do you know how wonderfully freeing it is to spend a week in a house that is "unplugged?" For a telecommuter, it meant truly getting away for 7 days, because I couldn't "just quickly check my work email" only to discover two hours later that I was "still quickly checking" it. I did spend about 15 minutes at the library one day to read and publish comments, but that was it.
I think I'll have to do this again next New Year's.


Charlotte said...

Sounds like a great week away. I think having time unplugged is very, very healthy.

Happy 2009, Emily!

Anonymous said...

Oh this sounds wonderful! My poor son is longing, absolutely longing for snow, and although temperatures here have plummeted to minus eight (extremely unusual for the UK) we've hardly had a flake. I'm very glad to know you made it out of the woods, and I must remember the name of Jeffrey Lent.

Happy, happy new year, Emily!

Anonymous said...

Sounds perfect. I love Terry Pratchett and had fun reading Good Omens. Great snowstorm-by-the-fire lit.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like bliss! I did enjoy the chuckle about getting lost in the woods at sundown. If I went on that walk with you we'd both make the news. My internal compass is not only broken but non-existent. I'm like a tourist in my own hometown!

ZoesMom said...

I would have been hopelessly lost in the woods along with you, but I'm glad you had Bob with you so it didn't turn out that way. Sounds like a blissful week -- except that unplugged bit -- not sure I could make it. ;-)

Happy New Year!

Eva said...

I'm glad you had such a wonderful trip! :)

Rebecca H. said...

I love getting away from the internet when I can -- it's such a relief, really. I'm glad you had a good trip! Sorry about the bookstore though -- that must be sad. Any chance you'll allow advantaged suburban adults visit your place in Maine as well as the disadvantaged urban kids??

knitseashore said...

I'm sorry to hear about your bookstore, but it sounds like you had a great trip otherwise!

I left the laptop home for a week last August when we went on vacation, and it was the best thing I ever did. Glad you enjoyed the break from technology too!

Good luck with Maine in 2009! (and if you see Patrick Dempsey running around, please give him my regards).

Emily Barton said...

Charlotte, very healthy, indeed, and Happy 2009 to you, too!

Ms. HPH, that's the first Terry Pratchett I've read, but I will most definitely be reading more.

ZM, so maybe we ought to plan a walk in the woods sometime in CT, and you can finally meet Bob (since we obviously will need him to join us)?

Eva, thanks!

Dorr, most definitely. My ultimate dream is to have some sort of place with a small house and lots of acreage for campers that will be packed with interesting people visiting us all the time for long conversations, good food, and hikes (most especially those whom I've nicknamed after mountains in Maine).

Ms. Knits, if I see Patrick Dempsey (once I've picked my jaw up off the ground), I will definitely tell him you send your best!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wonderful time! I am looking forward to hearing about your Maine property search. You should try and get something near Stephen King, I'm sure he would love exchanging ghost stories with you :)