As I was driving back from a trip into town the other day, there was something missing. I could not put my finger on it at first, but as I drove down the road toward our house, there was a definite absence from the roadside. Then it finally dawned on me, what was missing from the blacktop landscape were mailboxes.
Driving down the twisting two-lane road pockmarked with gaping holes left by snowplows and covered with tons of salt, I noticed twisted fragments of what used to be receptacles for mail. Here in Maine the boxes come in many shapes and sizes, and are placed, poled and hung in various ways along the roadside. Their shapes, now having multiplied into bits and pieces, appeared here and there like fingers reaching up and out of snow banks. They seemed to be exclaiming, “Here I am!” in hopes of being found by an exhausted postal employee driving his or her truck around potholes and over frost heaves.
There they sit in heaps of battered wood and crumpled metal, on their sides, upside down, numbers and red flags marking the path and direction from where they once stood. How is the mail delivered in these times of utter devastation? Maybe it is placed alongside the carnage in a quiet act of remembrance and memorial, a shrine to what was, before the storms of winter arrived. Maybe the mail is held at the post office then doled out to weary and determined towns people who make their way out of their homes, over and through the myriad of snow banks and winter obstacles finally arriving at the post office only to retrieve sales circulars and the junk mail they so desperately need at times like these.
This winter has been typical for this area of Maine. Some of the locals believe it has been a mild one so far. With the exception of two major snowfalls back in February it is a far cry from the brutal and trying winter of 2015 that surprised everyone, even hardened Downeasters. Yet, the mailboxes took the brunt of the storms again this winter, and with another potential storm arriving early part of next week, this carnage may continue just a little bit longer. But, as sure as there will be a spring, the mailboxes too, will return and once again serve their intended purpose.
As I sit here today, looking out the window towards the water, it is March, and the daily temp seems confused as to which direction it should be heading. I keep vigil for those first signs of spring to appear, when flowers will push out their glorious colors, temperatures will rise and settle to a seasonal norm and the migrating birds will begin to arrive from their winter’s respite.
The red-breasted robin seems to be the harbinger of spring, even here in Maine. I look forward to the day of their return and believe when they do, something else will have quietly made the way back to the roadsides of Downeast Maine.
On that day, I will take my daily walk down to the road and will once again see them tall and proud, like soldiers returning from battle; the mailboxes of friends and neighbors standing tall and proud in the warmth of the sun, in a resilient salute to the return of spring.