Following a long, cold and snowy second half to winter here in Maine, there probably aren’t many people singing the praises of winter. Even I, an avowed winter lover, am ready for spring’s greenery and flowing waters. Still, and in retrospect, I feel compelled to share an appreciation for one element of winter often overlooked. While winter is a prolific Maine artist with remarkable aesthetic prowess, its musicianship can be overlooked.
If winter is a symphony, it has subdued albeit haunting musicians. It lacks spring’s verbose and jubilant birds waking the dawn. It can’t claim summer’s pounding rhythm of downpour and rolling thunder. Further, it doesn’t have the soft grace of fall songs underlain with rustling leaves. No, winter plays a repertoire of sounds imbued with frozen melancholy and eerie beauty. This winter I’ve been reminded of some of these songs.
One might imagine that lake ice might form completely devoid of sound. While true at times, other times ice grows thicker with deep bellows and undulating groans rippling beneath the frozen sheet. It is a sound reminiscent of humpback whale songs, though shorter and less melodic. It is occasionally punctuated by sharp cracks as tectonic-like pressures work across the lake. Together, these ice accompaniments add a strange yet beautiful contextual layer to winter’s song.
Cold- not cold wind but rather still air dozens of degrees below zero- is mute. It does, however coerce the trees to sing a tortured chorus made of pops and cracks caused by the extreme cold. When the breeze blows in these temperatures, naked limbs rattle and creak like forgotten skeletons left to swing decades upon the gallows. Finally, blizzard winds roar through these same forests and build like sonic locomotives thrashing trees into a wild mosh pit of trunks and limbs.
Winter even plays tunes with instruments not native to the woods and fields. Just as winds play the strings of rigging, I’ve found the cold gale blows mournfully in the hollows of my trekking poles. These poles, tipped with a basket design, are great snowshoeing aids and end up serving as twin woodwinds for the open winter wind to breathe life into.
Winter in Maine is the long track on the seasonal album (think Stairway to Heaven). It often surpasses the calendar with snow and ice lasting beyond the astronomical arrival of spring. So, while I have once again been moved by the song, I’m excited for the needle to get in a new groove full of spring peepers and songbirds. Such is the beauty of Maine; there is always a new song waiting.