The Hag of Winter

It's been a rough first winter here in Maine, I can't lie. 

No matter how prepared you think you are: mentally, physically, intellectually, spiritually...and financially...making a cross country move is a transformative and sometimes agonizing experience. 

Even though by all accounts this was a mild winter in southern/coastal Maine, it was entirely another world from the climate of Northern California. The snow was delightful, this we were prepared for, and our three huskies had a blast every time we had a new layer of snowfall. But moving to a rural location meant sacrificing certain comforts and securities in the middle of winter, namely power and water. 

The torrential rainstorm in our first 3 weeks demonstrated that our roof was in need of immediate replacement. The upstairs room (which was to be my studio and sacred space) ceiling leaked like a sieve, so much so I had to cover the entire floor and some walls with plastic tarps, drying them off after every storm with towels to prevent mold. Needless to say, I didn't move in to this room until the roof was fixed two months later. The shattering expense of this cost us everything we had left from the sale of our California house plus the bulk of our savings. So much for being prepared.

Power outages in Maine are very common with every major storm. Many people have generators as a matter of course in these conditions. We had included a generator in our transition plan, but with the cost of the roof looming, we couldn't get one in time for the first major storm and outage, which lasted (in our area alone) for 4 days the week before Christmas. The other casualty with these power outages is that our well stops pumping tooso no showers, dishes, laundry, or toilet flushing. Literally for days at a time.

We also has the misfortune of closing escrow on this house right as the deadline for ordering firewood closed (which no one thought to warn us about earlier). By the time we arrived and found the seller removed all the firewood that had been stacked on the property, there was literally no firewood left to purchase anywhere. It was a VERY COLD and dark holiday season.

I spent most of those first couple of months in the dark of winter by myself, without much of anything for comfort. Because of the roof situation, I couldn't unpack most of my library, art materials, altars, and important pieces of furniture. It was a deeply disorienting experience on top of living a world away from the west coast where I've lived my whole life.

Amidst these challenges, I decided I needed to do something about my health. I had gained at least 20 pounds since the pandemic, and that was on top of another 20 pounds of life-and-aging weight. So at the new year I committed to a keto diet for 3 months to jump start my health. The ongoing shock of the dietary restrictions just added insult to injury.

During this time, I was stripped of all my usual coping mechanisms. Food, shopping, nesting, creativity, nature. Even the internet was largely unreliable. 

I found myself battling despair on an intermittent loop. Every time we lost power (about every week or so) I had a breakdown. Even though we were very deliberate about the choice to move here and thought we'd planned every detail of preparation, there was just no way I could have anticipated the intensity of this immersion. It was like a painful, slow-burn Tower moment that lasted for months.

My husband likes to joke that "Maine is hazing us." It wasn't as hard a transition for him since he had been living and working here for 3 months before we bought our house. (I did not find it funny.)

Eventually the roof was finished and I was able to move into my space. I painted it a beautiful forest green, set up my desk, art supplies, bookshelves and altars, and I finally began to feel a little more at home. I've since been reworking my daily practice to adapt to our new environment, getting to know the land spirits, the elements, the sounds, and the quality of light that filters through our forest. We are becoming friends of a sort. I wouldn't exactly call it a rebirth, but perhaps...a reemergence with new eyes.

I've never really felt a connection to the goddesses of winter...until now. 

The Cailleach, Skadi, Marzanna. I see you.

Living in the Bay Area of Northern California I was accustomed to one long sunny-ish season, and one short rainy-ish season. Temperatures never dropped much below 40, let alone the single digits.

There is something deeply primal about true winter. Something that really does strip away all of your comforts, predispositions, and expectations. My body was at war with itself, struggling to adjust to the daylight hours, the isolation, the compulsion to be active and to produce something despite all the elements forcing me into stillness. I slept A LOT. I aged A LOT. I learned A LOT.

It was a harrowing initiation by the Hag of Winter. 

And yet, interspersed with all the trials of this harsh climate were moments of profound beauty, peace, and serenity. I don't think She's done with me yet, there is still so much to learn, so much to prepare for as the seasons roll around again. But I'm stronger, healthier, and decidedly more resilient.

And I'm gonna be ready.


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