Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tommclaughlin@fairpoint.net

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Going Inward

Take down the screens. Bring in the firewood. There’s snow on Mount Washington and it’s time to go inward. People who don’t like this are packing up to go south if they haven’t left already. As Tom Rush put it, they got the urge for goin’. Although it can get tiresome in March, I like being inside during late fall and early winter. I feel different outside too. Wearing flannel-lined pants, a quilted shirt and wool socks, I’m protected against the elements inside my clothing even if a chill wind reddens my cheeks. A whiff of woodsmoke from someone’s chimney turns my thoughts to home and if I smell something cooking as I go back inside it feels even better.

New Englanders are accustomed to changing seasons, having four distinct ones every year. Though we see more transformation, each season unfolds in customary ways with familiar sights, sounds and smells bringing memories of seasons past. Autumn chills make us grateful for warm, dry homes and hot food. It’s no wonder Thanksgiving originated here. If we should forget what’s really important, we’re reminded more often than people in many other regions. Changing seasons put us through familiar cycles and, I think, help us to accept the cycles of life more graciously than we otherwise might.

We go to bed hours after it’s dark in these latitudes and a lot of us wake up before it gets light. There’s something about seeing stars still in the sky as the eastern horizon is just starting to become visible. I feel I have time to get ready for the day, that I’ll be able to deal with it as it unfolds. By the time it’s light enough to see, I’m showered, dressed, and drinking coffee.

Daylight is more precious as it diminishes quickly in November. We savor the dim glow before sunrise, the twilight after dusk and evening’s bright starlight. The Milky Way on a cold, clear autumn night will mesmerize whoever turns his eyes upward. Unlike some city folk who seldom if ever see stars, we who live in the woods of northern New England know that they really do twinkle. Usually I’m out in the yard at such times and I can look back at the house and see into the lighted windows. Use to be it was full of children. Now they’re grown and out in the world somewhere, but under the same stars.

Inside, we contemplate things at fireside. Deeper thoughts and feelings come while watching flames turn to embers. Conversation is subtle, personal. Going out into the cold for another armload of wood and returning to fireside renews contentment. We don’t forget the tumult of the wider world, but it’s way out there beyond the town. There are layers between us and it. We can keep it out there and be safe for a time. Then sleep will come and take us to a new day.

Inside, we read. We write letters because writing is personal. It’s still a conversation but we don’t loose trains of thought because the words are right there. We take time to write because the reader will focus as much as the writer. And if he wants, he can go over the words again or share them with others.

This morning, even Baldface is white. Early wet snows like yesterday’s will soak through my workboots if I don’t treat them with mink oil. An old toothbrush works to apply the stuff and it needs to absorb overnight next to the fire or over a furnace vent. With a good pair of merino wool socks, treated workboots will do for autumn. I have 50-below Sorels for deep winter, but they stayed in the closet last season because deep cold and snow never came. Might need them this year though. Winter’s coming, but I’m ready. Going inward for a while is a good thing.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having come from a tropical country, I have often found the winters in New England depressing -- not enough sunlight for me.I remember spending December in and around Worcester and Framingham, few years back. I loved the hills of Worcester but I just could not come to terms with being cooped up inside, the whole day long.

I much prefer the Atlanta area. We may not have seasons that are as 'distinct' as one may find in New York or New England, but I'll tell you what, the weather in this area is so much more moderate (just like its people..he he he)

Sriraj

10/25/06, 10:12 AM  
Anonymous diMartino said...

Sic vis pacem, para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war

10/29/06, 3:22 PM  

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