32 Degrees

Today we had the first frost—when we left our house early this morning for the dog walk the thermometer said 32 degrees (F). 

The first thing that popped to my mind was the zinnias in the garden, always the first thing to go with a frost. But miraculously the zinnias survived this time. In a small pocket of warmth from the driveway.
I dug my down jacket out of the back of the closet. It smelled musty but I put it on anyway (thinking to myself, I need to wash this later today). Last week as I was looking for something else, I found an old pair of stretchy gloves and an ear warmer, so those I washed. I found them this morning on top of the washer.

We begrudgingly turned on the heat—partly as a test that it will still work. The old furnace boiler gurgled and grumbled but came on. (Note to self: we really need to call the furnace guy.)

It seems too early for this. That’s what I thought to myself, that’s what I said to MEH (My Engineer Husband) as we got in the car, the windshield frozen.

At the dog park, frost covered the grass, but the ground was still spongy and muddy from all the rain we’ve had recently. I was relieved, but I know that soon the ground will be frozen solid. The old dog is invigorated by the cold and frost. She frolics and digs her nose deep in the frosty grass, snorting. We shuffle along, and I wish I’d brought my scarf too. My neck and ears are cold, I tell MEH. It won’t get colder than this, will it? Time to toughen up.

We take winter seriously in Maine. We have to. Maine winters are a serious matter. The snow won’t start until November or December if we’re lucky. But when it does, it doesn’t stay on the ground for a few days and then melt like some places. It stays the whole winter long. And layer upon layer of snowstorm like a sedimentary rock ledge will line the streets. Sometimes so high that it’s impossible to safely get out of our driveway—the piles hide oncoming cars.

So cold that when a sunny day starts to melt some of the snow, it refreezes that night, causing treacherous conditions for driving and walking too. How many times have I fallen or heard of friends breaking bones when falling? Too many to count.

When we get home from the dog walk, we come into our warm house. I am thankful that we have heat, oil in our tank. I pour MEH and myself a cup of hot coffee, and I remember the better side of winter. Sitting and reading by the glow of a tableside lamp, huddling over tea, making savory stews and soups and apple pies.

Even better: our son and daughter and their friends home for the holidays, a feast in the dining room, sleeping under one roof, snow falling all around. The outside noises quiet and muffled, we are insulated in our own world.

Do you have winters (or other seasonal change) in your part of the world? How do you feel about yet another impending change in the weather?



  1. JM Merchant says:

    The weather’s literally just changed here in London. Last week was ridiculously hot, totally weird for this time of year. At the theatre we had to dig out the coolers we’d already put into storage as the venue was getting so uncomfortably warm.
    But yesterday we put them away again. Now we’re having to put plastic covers over everything in the storage rooms because of heavy rain coming through the dubiously repaired roof.
    The shorts and t-shirts have been replaced with jeans and sweaters in the space of two days.

    Not sure if I’m looking forward to winter or not…

  2. Alex George says:

    Thanks for this, Julia. Winters in Missouri are nowhere near as severe as in Maine, but we do get our share of awful weather – ice and freezing rain in particular, which can be treacherous. In contrast, our summers are stupidly hot, with murderous humidity. There are times when I long for England and its milder weather!

    I’m looking forward to reading more about your winter as the season progresses – my new novel is set in Maine and I need to learn more about just how long and hard the winter months are.

  3. Jo, Sounds like a wonderful change in the weather for you — but then I love the rain (maybe not coming into the storage rooms, but still…)… isn’t it amazing how quickly it changes!? I’ve loved the times I’ve spent in London, a week here or there, but never in the middle of winter. Is it snowy?

    Alex, No question the heat and humidity is worse in the midwest (although we get a fair share here, too). On the coast there is often a seabreeze to combat it. Luckily we’re far enough north to escape the worst of the heat (most of the time). As for winter, you may get the awful ice and freezing rain, which we sometimes get as well, but I am so tired of the endless snow and ice on the ground that we have here in Maine! If you don’t clear your driveway for the FIRST snowfall, likely it will be iced over for the entire season. Incredible. Don’t worry, you’ll hear about it on my blog, and just ask me if you have questions for your novel! 😀

  4. JM Merchant says:

    We’ve been getting more snow over the last few years, nothing even tickling as much as you get, but we pray that it doesn’t happen because the country hasn’t got a clue how to handle it and the transport infrastructure becomes useless for a couple of days. It makes my sister howl with laughter, she’s spent the last 5 years living in Iceland, so of course snow is nothing to them.

  5. This reminded me so much of our life in NH, Julia. Thank you.
    Here in AZ yesterday was our first full day without the A/C. It was partly overcast and cooler. I had to wear a light sweater for my walk with Zeus. But i took it off halfway and tied it around my hips. Today is even cooler. I’m loving it. This is hiking weather here, so we’ll be taking some planned daylong hiking trips.
    This winter I’ll be thinking of you, in your toasty kitchen, writing your novel. This post gave me the perfect image of it. 🙂

  6. What a wonderful post… made me all warm and happy inside. But it is a big reminder of the Pennsylvania winters that drove me to Arizona when I was 27. I can’t count the number of times I had to enter a car through the BACK door because the front doors were frozen solid (this is not easy to do when wearing a dress and heels.. but I HAVE done it).

    I DO miss what you describe – that beautiful glow, and warmth of coming into a toasty home, settling down, warm foods, holidays. Christmas in the desert was a strange one to get used to — i.e. eating DINNER outside, no snow, warmth. But I’ve definitely gotten used to it! (And if its any consolation we are s supposed to get down to 40 tonight! Storms rolling in. Again.)

  7. Frost!! I do love winters but I don’t know if I’m actually cut out for a real one. Yesterday we had a full day of rain and I had my first cup of hot tea for the season. It was epic. I am actually moving back up to Northern California soon (close to Tahoe) where there will be MUCH more of real winter. So I better prepare and focus on the important things in life: loved ones and warm beverages 🙂

  8. Omigosh, I feel for you. Frost already? Ai yi yi. I’m so glad you’ve got those cosy family scenes to look forward to. (And tickled that your dog gets invigorated by the cold weather.)

    I *thought* winter was descending early here. After a week of total cloud cover and chilly/rainy/drizzly weather, I was already having that horrible amnesia (Remind me again what a sunny day is like?!). But then yesterday the clouds completely disappeared – I’m talking GLORIOUS CLOUDLESS SKIES – and today is the same. Sunshine galore!

    Today was even warm enough to do my walk in the park wearing capri pants and a T-shirt. And now I’m wearing Springtime-type jammies to work at my desk – and with the window open. I am so loving this reprieve.

    I’ll wish for a reprieve for you, too:

    Indian Summer, please spread yourself over Julia’s neck of the woods. :~)

  9. When I moved to Austin from Miami I was excited to get “real” seasons, especially a winter! Turns out most ppl in the US don’t consider Texas winters to be real winters. But when you’re a Miamian who has actually gone to the beach and swam in the ocean on New Year’s day, you’ll take any cold weather you can get.

    So yes, I was very excited about winter until it lasted more than 14 days. I got over it real fast. I love, love, love the warm, fuzzy aspects of it that you mention, but I just can’t walk my dog in less than 40 degrees without wanting to cry! So I guess I’m not exactly destined for winters 🙁

  10. Jo, That is frustrating when the snow cripples the functioning of the city — and it can be so dangerous too! Still, like your sister, Mainers are amused by people who complain about a few inches… it’s all in what you’re used to!

    Cynthia, Glad to give you a glimpse of your old life 🙂 That must be wonderful to not need AC and to wear a sweater! I can well imagine the perfect hiking weather, having lived in Colorado — beautiful fall days ahead for you on the trails! Yes, you got the right picture: sitting at the kitchen table, tea in hand, working on my novel. You got the image! 🙂

    Melissa, Yes, these winters will drive people all kinds of places: Florida, Arizona, California, and crazy. YIKES about the getting in the car through the back seat doors — never had to do that here! Wow! Really? You’ll be in the 40s? That makes me feel better. I love the southwest during this season: those cold cold nights and warm days. Nothing more beautiful! Dinner outside for the holidays actually sounds beautiful right now, especially because you don’t have bugs… oh, except for the tarantulas… YIKES!

    Sara, First cup of tea sounds lovely especially in the rain…. love that! Northern California, Tahoe area, will be BEAUTIFUL!! Yes, you’ll get winter but at least the storms usually pass and the roads are generally clear in a few days. The leftover snow will be lovely to look at! Lots of warm beverages, especially coffee, *will* be necessary 🙂

  11. Milli, It was *quite* a shock to my system, I’m not gonna lie. The cozy scenes and dog entertainment is wonderful, but wow, I forgot what the cold really feels like. Your t-shirt walk sounds wonderful. I’m sitting in my house with long underwear and a fleece on! No more PJs for a while unless I get fleece-lined ones, and definitely no windows open with a lovely breeze. Indian Summers — yes please! 🙂

    Natalia, Oh dear, you’d be in real trouble here if you have trouble walking the dog under 40 degrees! What I didn’t mention in the post is that at least there was no windchill this morning! Some days it’s 10 below zero with windchill AND we walk the dog. UGH. Those days, MEH usually offers to let me stay home — he’s so sweet (and also has bigger boots than I do!). As for swimming on New Years Day? They do that here too — in fact my daughter always does — called the Polar Bear Dip!! 😀

  12. Wow, I can’t fathom 32 degrees just yet, I’m in southeast Texas. We get, like, 2 weeks of winter in January….if we’re lucky.

    Okay, I exaggerate a bit…but not much. Still warm in the 90’s here, but a nice respite from our summer’s recent 110 degree days. Whew!

  13. Congrats (?!) on the first frost, Julia! I grew up in Oklahoma, where we sometimes get very cold winters, but nothing like yours. But things you mentioned about the good parts of cold weather are why I’ve loved it, too … I just don’t like traveling within it. lol. In the Pacific NW, we get fairly temperate winters, which gives me the chill without the ice. But I do love colder weather. Lovely photo!

  14. Susan says:

    Since we didn’t really have winter in San Antonio, my first winter here in Virginia seemed pretty cold. But when we went to Boston last year to spend Christmas with the men (formerly known as boys), it was absolutely bitter. We even got snowed in. The funny thing about it is that when we returned to Virginia Beach, we found out they had had more snow while we were away than we did in Boston!

  15. Julia, your post made me feel all cozy and ready to light a fire. But it’s seems so soon to be so cold. Do you find that folks idealize Maine and don’t really appreciate the conditions? I know that I myself idealize it!

    After reading all of the comments, I remember living in CT. (power went off all of the time) and NY and the Midwest–you are right–such hot summers and dead-cold winters.
    Is it good weather to stay indoors and work on WIP? Or no…

  16. Long underwear??!! Now you’ve got my total and utter sympathy.

    P.S. I slipped and spelled cosy like an Aussie. Even after 14 years back in the States, I still get confused sometimes on the spelling differences between there and here. Didn’t even realize I’d done it till I saw you spell it ‘cozy.’ (MEH teases me by pronouncing it CO-SEE just to get me stirred up ;~)

  17. Honestly, down here in Texas, if we get any snow we freak out and get excited. Grab out the camera, it actually got cold enough for snow to form! When it actually sticks to the ground it’s an even bigger deal. But we do get ice more often than not. That is a pain, and I understand the slipping and breaking bones part. Hopefully that won’t happen to any of y’all this winter!

    Stay safe and bundle up. =)

  18. Ann says:

    Oh, Ack! You KNOW how I feel about the cold! It’s reaching down to the 50s here at night and in the 70s during the day and I’m wearing JEANS and 3/4 length sleeves…and a JACKET in the mornings!

    …and I’m already complaining! Just shoot me now! As beautiful as Maine is and as lovely as it sounds to have cozy times indoors, I’d have to decline…..

    I need warmth and sunshine! …and shorts and flip-flops!

  19. Wow, your seasons certainly change quickly! This week we finally got our first fall chill in the air. It rained yesterday (not a lot, but still rain). I love being able to feel the weather change with the seasons.

  20. I am doggedly refusing to embrace the mid-spring weather we’re feeling. We got to a roaring top temperature of 23°C/73°F this week, and I was already thinking about the old air conditioner. I don’t look forward to summer terribly much (which spends all too much time between 35°C/95°F and 40°C/104°F), but I admit, the sunshine in the morning is certainly nice to sit in. 🙂 We don’t get anything resembling snow in this part of the world, but the husband is from Ohio and knows plenty about deep winters. Stay warm and rugged up!


  21. Texas Playwright Chick, Wow, I cannot fathom that heat, either! Isn’t it interesting how we become acclimated to the weather we have? I’ve heard about the summer you Texans have had — and I’m glad you finally have a respite in the 90s. 60 degrees warmer than our temps, amazing! Maybe we can split the difference?!

    Mahesh, Yes, congrats are in order, haha… but wait until spring to see how we survive! I completely agree that traveling in it is THE WORST. We’ve driven back from Pennsylvania in driving snowstorms–two feet of snow falling behind us. Scary. Flying nightmares. So you understand! I love the more temperate Pacific NW, and MEH would move their in a heartbeat (lived in southern Alaska for 4 years)…but what would I do without the winters? LOL

    Susan, I always think about that transition: warmer to colder winter… then even colder (in Boston). Boston has had terrible snows lately, worse than here, but I guess Virginia Beach must beat us all! So interesting how weather shifts and flows, depending on the jetstreams!

    Reeling, I’m glad to give you the cozy warm vision — but I agree, too soon! (In reality it will probably warm up again before real winter but our days are numbered!) Yes, we lose our power FREQUENTLY and yes people idealize the Maine experience …. or they think it’s hicksville… maybe a little of both!? The best part, as you say, NO QUESTION that the winter is a perfect time to work on the WIP!

    Milli, Yes, long underwear (we keep the heat as low as possible to save fuel costs, of course). I picked up on cosy right away, not to worry, LOVE the regional spelling diffs!

    Elisa, Of course you would get excited by snow! I grew up in Southern California, and I remember that thrill as a kid. I agree that ice is the biggest pain, and really dangerous. Stay tuned and I’ll no doubt write about the treachery of the ice…. unavoidable in Maine. But broken bones, EEEKS, hope not! Nice to see you; thanks for your comment and visit to my blog!

  22. Ann, Indeed, “ACK!” 70s sounds lovely, and we’ll probably see that this weekend! I guarantee kids will be at the beach, too — and it won’t be jeans and 3/4 length sleeves, LOL. Yes, you would not be happy here in the winter, but I’m thinking summers in Maine, winters in Florida sound beautiful…. you’d be surprised how many people we know do that after their kids fly the nest! As for the flip flops? My son spent his ENTIRE senior year of high school, regardless of the season, in his flip flops. HAHA!

    Leah, Yes, we have quick season changes, but at the beginning of one we slip back and forth, and we’ll definitely have more warmth and less frost before we descend a final time into winter. And I’m with you, I love the seasonal changes — San Diego in the rain and fall chill sounds LOVELY!

    Ashlee, I know we’ve talked about this before — I’ll enjoy hearing about your summer while you enjoy about my winter! (I’m not a fan of the heat either, but LOVE morning sunshine like you do). Ahhh, yes, being from Ohio your husband would know the cold deep winters — my mother grew up there and I love to see the old photos of her in the snow! Isn’t it fun to hear the stories?

  23. My husband said he read this post yesterday (the link from my blog) and he tried to leave a comment but was clueless. I’m sure this brought back lots of memories for him living for many years in Minnesota. It is beautiful — but I can’t imagine dealing with cold for six months. He said people there are used to it. I would not do well with lots of cold. I can never get my hands warm. But I’m sure the dog would love walks in it.

  24. Barb Riley says:

    Ahem. Let me be the token commenter who embraces winter—sedimentary rock ledges of snow and all! I have always loved the cold, and look forward to it every year. I laughed out loud when I read, “time to toughen up” because, yes, that’s pretty much the only way to deal with it when it lasts for several months in Chicago (and Maine). Especially ice. That can be treacherous. But snow always makes me feel young again. Somehow I forget about any aches and pains and hop on the snow tubes with my kids! But alas… once they’re all grown up and I am an empty nester, who’s to say I won’t long for somewhere warm?

    Btw, isn’t it funny how dogs seem to embrace the colder weather as well? The way you described your dog feeling invigorated is exactly how my dog has always reacted too!

  25. Darian Wilk says:

    Hey hun,

    Highjacking your comments for a minute to let you know I nominated you for the Liebster Award! http://crazyladywithapen.blogspot.com/2011/10/liebster-award.html

  26. SouthMaineMuse, So glad to hear your husband read my post! Yesterday my husband read a post (that he also had to vote on, at my (strong) suggestion). And it was SO funny watching him try to figure out the whole process: he was bewildered and I was laughing then we were both laughing. I honestly will be writing a post about it. That’s all to say, I think I know exactly how your husband felt! I lived in Minnesota myself for a year, and that cold is BRUTAL so he must know of what I speak. And in Maine it really is six months. And, as you say, it’s hard to keep the hands warm!

    Barb, YAY!! A solitary winter lover! So glad! I know others like you (not who commented here but IRL). Here in Maine we need to be tough for 6 months or so. NOT FUN but “it is what it is,” so “deal with it.” (Those are two popular Maine-isms about the weather and lots more, too.) I never have enjoyed sledding very much but I do miss the fun with the kids in the snow. Once my daughter and I made a huge Clifford dog and dyed him red. It was SO MUCH FUN. She is a winter lover like you and once went winter camping at 20 below. WOW. I was IMPRESSED! Happy winter my friend!

    Darien, THANK YOU!! Heading over to your site to figure out my Liebster Award. So sweet of you! 🙂

  27. Emma Pass says:

    Yes, we have winters, and the last one was a shocker! We had 4 ft of snow (a lot for this part of the UK in recent years) and had to dig a path up the garden so the Hound could go out. I have to say, I’m not a fan – although sunny, frosty mornings are beautiful.

  28. Emma, 4 feet (in one storm?!) is EPIC even by Maine standards! Your poor hound must’ve been so confused! I always feel sorry for ours when the snow piles up, she has no idea what to do with herself! I’m not a fan of the bitter of winter, either, but as you say, the frosty mornings are beautiful!

  29. Lisa Ahn says:

    The first snow always makes me so happy. I grew up in Upstate New York — lake effect snow. Winters are serious there too, and I still love them (I’m in MA now). I have many of the same associations with winter that you mention here — warm, cozy afternoons with coffee and a good book. Love it!

  30. Pet says:

    My God, i’m right now in London and it’s still sort of summer time here! Spare us winter still a little bit!

  31. Lisa, The first snow is such a fun event (especially if it’s not too much!). I’ve heard of lake effect snow but never experienced it — intense, I know! As for MA, I think you guys have had more snowfall in recent years than we have! I’ll know at least you will understand my cozy associations with winter — as well as perhaps some of the late winter frustrations!

    Pet, Haha, too funny! You’ll be glad to hear we’re back to summer today: over 80 degreesF! Hope you have a lovely (holiday?) in London! I’m jealous!

  32. I’ve always been in awe of how people from Maine triumph through the winter. Here in Brooklyn, we usually get 2-3 big storms a season, sometimes 15-20 inches of snow each. But the big difference is that I take the subway to work and I live in an apartment building so I don’t have to shovel a long driveway. Those things go a long way to helping me enjoy the winter.

  33. Jackie, I know what you mean about people triumphing over Maine winters — not so much nowadays with all the heavy equipment used to clear roads, but the stories of the “old days” sound brutal and make me feel like a true wimp complaining about the frost! 🙂 As for snow in NYC, that’s true you don’t have to shovel a long driveway, but you’ve had some pretty epic storms in recent years!