The winter blues is nothing to scoff at. Known by mental health professionals as seasonal affective disorder, this form of depression is way too common this time of year, impacting an estimated 10 million Americans. Most people experience some mild form of it at some point in their lives — if we’re being honest, you’re probably one of them! Seasonal depression is primarily worsened by a lack of sunlight, but also from a lack of physical activity, community with other humans, and falling into repetitive routines. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, 3-5 percent of the general population experience it, and 20-25 percent of those with another depressive disorder do. (Remember that’s “general population,” the majority of which didn’t get hit with three feet of snow last week).
But Mainers are a hardy bunch, and many of them are already doing rad things to exorcise the noonday demon. Here are some tips we learned from them that won’t just help you survive these slushy months, but thrive in them!
SURVIVAL TIP #1: Try to be social
Is This Your GOAT?
Listen. The Pats are going to the Super Bowl to take on the L.A. Rams, which means even if you’re not a football person, chances are you’ll be around them on February 3. Nothing beats a well-hosted Super Bowl party at home, but if you’re keen on going out and observing the — dare we say — cult-like devotion to Tom Brady in this part of the world, these downtown bars have big-ass TVs and tasty eats: Binga’s Stadium, The BAR (a mix between a cocktail and a sports bar which newly opened last year on Exchange St.), Rivalries, Foreplay, Salvage BBQ and Little Tap House. We’ll probably be partying at the Thirsty Pig, where they’ll be giving out free sausages every time the Pats score a touchdown.
The ice-bar is here to stay —whether we like it or not
Not sure we can completely explain the appeal of the ice-bar — where patrons mingle in freezing weather and everything except the booze is made out of ice — but it’s one of the few trends that emerged from the ‘90s to stuck around. Hey, humans are weird! In any case, several ice-bars will be crystallizing in the area. The ones in Portland are mostly confined to a couple of high-end hotels the majority of us have no business being in, but we found one down in Biddeford. The “every-man's ice-bar” is made by Temporal Structures and will be chilling at the Run of the Mill Public House during their Winter Carnival party on February 2. At the very least, take a pic in front of one for Instagram before sucking down the rest of your drink inside.
Novices are welcome
Learning how to take dope winter photos is easier when you’re surrounded by people who know what they’re doing. Consider the First Light Camera Club out of Brunswick, a group of passionate photographers on the lookout for new members to join their light-chasing adventures. Christina Macchi, a photographer from Brunswick, says she’s been with the club for about 10 years now and considers it an amazing learning experience that has taught her everything from macro photography, lighting, framing, location scouting, and how to ensure your fingers don’t fall off while waiting outside for the perfect sea smoke shot. This 80-strong member group meets every Thursday at 6:30 pm at the Brunswick Naval Museum, and you can check out some of their shots at the “Visions of Light Exhibit” opening at Frontier in Brunswick on February 12.
Shopping with a buzz
Even if you don’t buy a single piece of locally made art or food, the upcoming Maker’s Market at the Point is still a good time. The staggering variety of vendors and the quaint hipsterness of the Brick South space makes for a nice sensory reprieve from the cold winter nothingness. Where else can you shop for handmade everything while sipping bloody marys and mimosas? Your two opportunities to indulge in consumption fall on February 17 and March 3.
Act like a kid again
The annual Winter Carnival in Old Orchard Beach kicks off on February 22. Expect roaring bonfires, toasted marshmallows, pony rides through the snow, chubby red cheeks — that sort of thing. The big draw here though is the fest’s sledding party which seems to be the closest activity to Portland that resembles tubing (in lieu of driving up to one of Maine’s mountains, of course). The event is put on by OOB365, a non-profit collective of local businesses who attempt to promote that Old Orchard Beach is a decent hang year round and not just in the summer. Alternatively for students, the tickets for tubing at Seacoast Adventures in Windham are just $10 from now until March 7.
Don’t tell your friends about this
For the first time ever, Portland is participating in a series of nationwide stand-up comedy shows that are kept completely under wraps until the day of the show, which in this case falls on February 2. We know who is coming and we have an inkling as to where they’ll be performing, but no we’re not gonna ruin the surprise! You’ll have to find out yourself by signing up at DontTellComedy.com and joining the super (not-so) secret email list. Shhhhhh!
SURVIVAL TIP #2: Find your wild side
Stay Dry Or Die
Winter camping can be fucking miserable if not done the right way. Trust this. But once you’ve secured the essentials — which we recommend reading up on with this list of tips from the Sierra Club — and are psychologically ready to brave the elements, winter camping is a way to banish the blues. Easy day trips to some beautiful nature spots which allow year round overnight camping include Bradbury Mountain State Park (25 minutes from Portland), Hidden Valley Nature Center in Jefferson (70 minutes from Portland), and the Blackwoods site in Acadia National Park (170 minutes from Portland).
Explore the Maine woods — stealthily
Snowshoeing has mostly felt like a luxury activity for us — mostly ‘cause the damn things start selling at around $100 a pair — but there are ways to enjoy this winter sport on the cheap. At the Winter Carnival at the Maine Audubon in Falmouth on February 16, L.L.Bean’s Outdoor Discovery Class will be hosting a snowshoeing trek for nine bucks a head. Dress appropriately because you’ll be out there trekking for a bit.
Bring a shovel to this one
The super wealthy have multi-millionaire dollar apocalypse bunkers stocked to the ceiling with supplies and we have ... igloos, I guess? A group of industrious Portlanders are planning on finding their inner survivalist on February 23, during Rewild Maine’s free Winter Shelter Building Class. Will learning how to build an igloo and start a fire on the fly come in handy once civilization inevitably collapses? Probably. Discuss with kind strangers and cross “build a snow fort with on the Eastern Prom” off your bucket list.
Meet the chillest animal on this planet
Sloths may be the derpiest and laziest animals on the planet — and that’s exactly why we love them. Get this. They move so slowly that sometimes they mistake their own arm for a tree branch and end up falling to their death, which, sorry sloths, is kind of hilarious in a grimly existential way. On February 23, at Little Ray’s Wildlife Festival on Thompson’s Point, you can meet one of these clumsy creatures (along with skunks, porcupines, snakes, tarantulas, armadillos, and tortoises) in real life. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
Oh, we’re not done with animal content
Meet Josh Sparks, a remarkable Mainer who operates an animal rehabilitation sanctuary up in New Gloucester where he nurses several species of wildlife back to health. Separately, he also takes care of unwanted or illegally kept exotic animals like boa constrictors, fennec foxes, sugar gliders, owls, hedgehogs, and bearded dragons, some of which he’ll be bringing to Pineland Farms on February 18 for an educational program called Spark’s Ark. “I try to incorporate a mix of education about the natural history and care of these animals and talk about why many of them do not make good pets unless you are well versed in their care and prepared,” says Sparks. “I also stress the importance of not handling or ‘helping’ wildlife until you know if it really needs it. I hope people learn they shouldn’t just bring an animal home because it’s cute.”
SURVIVAL TIP #3: Move your body!
Hijabs and Hip-Hop
Amirah Sackett is not here for your stereotypes. An internationally lauded Chicago-based dancer and choreographer, Sackett achieved viral fame a couple years ago after forming her three-person dance crew known as “We’re Muslim, Don’t Panic.” She’s coming to the Bates Dance Festival for a solo show on February 5, for a misconception-busting performance that blends hip-hop music and Islamic culture. “What I saw was that a lot of people didn’t understand how my religion works, and didn’t understand the difference between the Taliban and the normal Muslim experience,” Sackett told the Martha’s Vineyard Times earlier this year. “So this started me on this path of being a bridge, being both American and a Muslim woman. And sharing my love of hip-hop.”
A Solid Start
The City of Portland teamed up with arts agency Creative Portland for a rather difficult task — come up with a concert line-up that accurately reflects the diversity of genres and people present in this city’s robust music scene. No one lineup can do this of course but we’d say they did a pretty good job. The inaugural “Hear, Here!” concert arrives on February 17 and features local gems JanaeSound, Weakened Friends, dancer Riley Watts, Sarah Violette, Renée Coolbrith, Batimbo United, Palaver Strings, James Kennerley and Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ, Just Plain Jones, and the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Tickets are $25 for adults and $12 for students/children. Why would you miss this?
Don’t hibernate — skate instead!
If you’re looking to strap on some skates and glide around on some ice — which we hear is a thing people do in the dark months — you’ve got options. Assuming you’ve got your own pair of ice skates, head down to Deering Oaks Park in Portland or Mill Creek Park in South Portland. Both have sizable frozen ponds. Otherwise, for access to skate rentals, hot drinks, and maybe a little instruction, head to the the Rink on Thompson’s Point or the Family Ice Center in Falmouth. (Side note: bring your kids to WinterKids Day at the Family Ice Center for free skating tickets on February 17).
Good groovy fun
These times are grim and cold, but whenever local jazz sensation VIVA performs we forget all about it. It’s sort of impossible to feel gloomy when VIVA starts crooning and swinging her hips behind the mic to some romantic Latin, jazz, and funk tunes. Warm up your soul and see her perform every third Thursday (next one coming up on February 21) at the TIQA lounge on Commercial St.
Chase that runners high
For eight years in a row, Portlanders ranging in age from 7 to 77 have celebrated the birthday of this city’s most famous poet — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow — by hitting the icy streets and running a race through the heart of the city. Organizers have aptly dubbed it the Longfellow Frostbite Race. It’s the country’s only U.S.A. Track and Field-certified 2.5k road race and it starts February 17. Runners meet at the Portland High School gym at 9 am. Do it for Henry.
A goat hike (Because Maine)
Every month the resourceful peeps over at Ten Apple Farm host a two-mile hike through their moderately steep trail system. It’s a casual, yet consistently popular hiking trip that sells out $10 tickets almost every time. But how are they generating buzz? Here’s how. They throw a dozen alpine goats into the equation. Could you ask for a better trail buddy? After the hike, guests will head back to the farm to milk the goats they’ve just befriended and sample the milk with some cookies.
Ascend the gorge
Another great winter activity that’s typically inaccessible to a lot of people due to the expensive start-up cost of equipment and instruction is ice-climbing. But if you’ve always wanted to try it, take advantage of the Ice Climbing Fest happening at Franconia Notch Falls in New Hampshire from February 15 to 26. The Rock Spot Climbing Co. is hosting this week long event with special discounts on all their rentals. Heads up though, we’re talking about a two-hour drive for this one.
SURVIVAL TIP #4: Break habits and try something new
Mushy gushy Broadway tunes
It will be hard not to feel warm and fuzzy inside during the programming Portland Symphony Orchestra has planned for February. Across two shows on February 9 and 10 at the Merrill Auditorium, the POPs! Team of classically trained musicians, led by guest conductor Ted Sperling, will perform dozens of romantic Broadway hits, including “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story and “I Got Lost In His Arms” from Annie Get Your Gun. Bring your honey to this.
Fairy tales from Eastern Europe
Czechoslovak puppeteer Vít Hořejš thinks puppets can sometimes be better actors than people. Once you see the life this master storyteller can imbue in his hand-carved marionettes that he found and dusted off in an old New York City church, you might be inclined to believe him. Hořejš will transform his puppets into multilingual kings, village maidens, spirits and witches during his slated one-man show called Tales With Strings at — the best venue in town for this sort of magic — Mayo Street Arts on February 15 and 16.
These women kick axe
The Axe Women Loggers of Maine are a group of 12 badass women from throughout the state that compete in timbersports competitions across the country. Oh, and they win! They’ll be doing a smaller version of their show at the Scarborough Winterfest on February 2, complete with axe throwing, chopping demos, and something called the “hot saw.” The combination of reimagining a back-breaking male-dominated industry into a celebration of raw feminine power will make this event cathartic for some and quite compelling for everyone else. “It’s the Olympics of the woods — a heritage sport that evolved from actual jobs that have been around for hundreds of years,” says Alissa Wetherbee, an axe-thrower from Ellsworth. “Most people can look back through their family history and find that their grandfather, great grandfather, or great-great grandfather worked in the woods.”
Freezin’ for a reason
We’re not going to lie, participating in a polar dip is absolutely miserable, and yes we’re writing from experience. It’s not easy to plunge into 17-degree sea water in the middle of winter, but the bizarre sense of accomplishment achieved after doing so can’t be understated. It feels damn good. Join the mad-lads doing the Portland Polar Dip on February 2 on the East End Beach. The annual event benefits Camp Sunshine, the non-profit which operates a year-round retreat on Sebago Lake for children with life-threatening illnesses.
Train like a warrior
Have you ever felt the urge to chuck an axe across the room? The Axe Pit in Westbrook satisfies these Viking impulses in a safe and controlled manner. We’re telling ya, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard the satisfying thwump of an axe head burying its metal into a block of wood. Part of the Warrior Gym, the folks here have everything they need to teach you how to properly hold and throw a hatchet or tomahawk.
Billed as a great “mom and me” winter activity, the artists over at Wicked Illustrations Studio in Lewiston would like to teach you how to knit. They’re hosting a workshop where you’ll choose from a variety of yarn and leave with your very own handmade hat, or socks, or something. Tickets are $35.
Roll into this
Believe it or not, roller derby is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world and members of our local all-women leagues are itching to back on their eight little wheels. Maine Roller Derby has been kicking since 2006 and still boast strong attendance numbers of both competitors and spectators to their high-speed bouts. “Roller Derby can be a difficult sport to understand if you haven't seen it before, but once people get into it they tend to be fans for life,” says AJ Caron, the founder and co-captain of the Casco Bay League. “Everyone playing is a member of the community. You have mechanics, database administrators, IT technicians, nurses, hair stylist, grocery store management, dog walkers, school janitors, people from literally all walks of life.” Catch the season opener between the “Casco Bay” and “Maine” teams on February 2 at Happy Wheels Skate Center in Portland. Things should get pretty intense.
SURVIVAL TIP #5: Stimulate your mind
Plz Send (Artsy) Nudes
One good way to spice up the winter doldrums is looking at a bunch of naked humans. Worth the drive up to Boothbay Harbor is the 3rd annual “What’s Nude?” exhibition, opening Valentine's’ Day weekend, where the human form will be on full display in paintings, paper work, fiber, sculpture, and photography. Exhibitors say this show was challenging to put on because of the traditionally conservative community in Midcoast Maine. Time to see what got the prudes all hot and bothered.
Get your buzz on early
The Portland Museum of Art will stoke the Oscars buzz early by screening all 15 Oscar-nominated shorts in animation, live action, and documentary. Predict the winners two-weeks ahead of the ceremony and enjoy these critically acclaimed films across three days on February 8, 9, and 10.
See this on the biggest screen
If there’s one piece of media that might inspire you to get your ass off the couch and stoke the flames of adventure this winter, it’s the showcase of high-octane films at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. These 16 short documentaries take viewers up and down the world’s most intimidating peaks following the bold men and women who conquer them on skis, snowboards, mountain bikes, or simply their own two feet. Exhiliaring, visually epic, and not to be missed, this two-day fest take place on February 12 and 13 at the State Theatre.
Don’t trust an atom, they make up everything
Can’t say it’s likely you’d be bored contemplating the wonders of science one minute and clutching your sides from laughter the next. That’s the sort of thing you can expect from a night with Shane Mauss, a comedian and science podcast host who’s bringing his award-winning Stand Up Science show to One Longfellow Square on February 26. “Stand-up comedy and science have a lot in common,” says Mauss. “They both reveal truth, change our perceptions, and challenge the status quo. So why are they so underappreciated? Admittedly, comedy sometimes underestimates the intelligence of their audience, catering to the lowest common denominator. And science has the stigma of being overly complicated, unrelatable or boring. Until now.”
SURVIVAL TIP #6: Eat whatever the hell you want
Chinese New Year done right
A surprisingly popular winter activity in this town is making dumplings. The folks over at the Fork Food Lab have already hosted two workshops crafting these doughy delights, with a couple more down the pipe. The next one is scheduled for February 7 at 5:30 pm, and may be sold out by the time you finish this sentence. Tickets are going for $25.
Need Some Sugar?
We’re cooking up a special issue about Valentine’s Day and how best to navigate the messy world of love, sex, and relationships in 2019, but for now, here’s a inch of space dedicated to reminding you that being single isn’t so bad either! Sure, Valentine’s Day can worsen feelings of insecurity and loneliness, but that may be something high intakes of sugar can ameliorate. Screw your feelings and eat your heart out at two great tasting events at Rising Tide Brewing and Allagash Brewing Company on February 14. There, Portland dessert vendors Sugar Supply Co., Crepe Elizabeth, Suga Suga Portland, and others will be pairing their delectable cupcakes, macaroons, and crepes with the finest craft beers. Proceeds for the Rising Tide event will go to benefit the local nonprofit Adoptive & Foster Families of Maine, and proceeds for the Allagash event will benefit the American Heart Association.
Eat veggies forever
You could take our theme of winter survival quite literally and learn how to fend for yourself with the educators over at the Resilience Hub. They’ll teach you about permaculture, a personal set of design principles that are centered around the resilience of ecosystems in nature. That can mean a lot of different things (like decolonization practices, for example), but on February 20, it’s going to mean pickling and canning yummy and super healthy things. On that day, the Resilience Hub is hosting its first Fermentation Fair, where demos and workshops on all the different methods of fermentation will be offered. Come with nothing, and leave with your own handmade kombucha, wine, veggie ferments, sourdough, yogurt, and tempeh!
Portland’s biggest bake sale has us drooling
Dozens of local vendors will puff up their pastries and show off their sweets in an attempt to honey the judges and be crowned Maine’s Best Baker during the 2nd annual competition on March 23. But it doesn’t really matter who gets the prize, does it? The real winner will undoubtedly be you, because you paid just $5 for nearly unlimited mouthfuls of the city’s best cookies, doughnuts, pies, and cakes. Come hungry to the Public Works studio and events space.
Sticky, sweet, and necessary
We’re going to mark March 24 as the unofficial end of winter, but most Mainers recognize that day as Maine Maple Sunday, a time-honored tradition. Celebrate the exit from the dark months and take your pick at one of the dozens of sugar houses peppered throughout the state. (We’re gonna shout out Dunn Family Maple Farm in Standish because they’re awesome.) But nearly all of them will be offering free maple syrup samples and demonstrations on how the delectable sap is extracted.