Saturday, January 20, 2018


So the ice and snow have melted, and temperatures have climbed to Louisiana “normal” in the 50’s and 60’s — even Limestone, Maine, which I wrote about in the first “Winter” blog a few weeks ago, will experience temps above freezing for an entire day before dropping to 3 degrees tonight. I wrote about the most severe winter of my life when I lived in Limestone, Maine during the 1950’s, and last week I experienced a deja vu when temps here dipped to 17 degrees. We in Teche country anticipate spring in March; however, Mainers won’t see fair weather until May or June.

Today, rain is on the horizon. With the poet Shelley, we sigh and say, “O wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?” The inclement weather changes have caused an acceleration in cases of humans experiencing that phenomenon called “winter sadness,” and with respect to Maine lore, I’m wondering whatever happened to the machines Wilhelm Reich, a Maine crackpot? genius? invented to control the weather. When I was doing research for my novel, The Maine Event, (which I mentioned in Winter I.) I came upon an entry about this eccentric psychologist who studied for a while under Sigmund Freud. Reich migrated to Rangeley, Maine in 1948 and began carrying out experiments to prove his theory that “orgone” controlled the energy in the universe. He constructed these machines for harnessing the power of orgone, including a destructive cloudburst machine that he claimed could cause storms. He started selling his machines throughout the U.S., but the Interstate Commerce arrested and convicted him of fraud, and he died in a federal penitentiary.

I didn’t get to visit Orgonon, the estate where Reich is buried, but it’s a tourist spot in Rangeley, Maine, and a museum there features Reich’s machines that supposedly created and controlled the weather. As I said earlier, he was either a crackpot or a genius, and he had access to fertile winter landscapes in the State as far north as Madawaska, not far from Limestone where I sojourned for nine months. 

Although there’s no permanent connection between Maine weather and Louisiana weather, I’ve mentioned in previous blogs the connection between Acadians who settled in the St. John Valley of Maine -- near where I lived the harshest winter of my life -- and Acadians here in southwest Louisiana. The Valley still has the highest concentration of French people in the U.S. and also has the highest percentage of French spoken in their homes. In the 18th and 19th centuries, these small homes once held extended families, sometimes as many as 30 people under one roof! 

Interestingly, those early Acadians in the St. John Valley settlements seldom saw a priest but they devotedly practiced the Catholic religion. A White Mass was often said by an elder,(sorta’ like a deacon) with the exception of the Eucharist. When priests began to enter the Valley to convert Indians, the Acadians benefited from their mission. In 1792, Catholics who were members of the Acadian colony actually traveled 100 miles to receive Communion from a priest on Easter Sunday. The churches they built were barn-like and were scattered throughout northern Maine. During my sojourn in Limestone, I remember that, rather than attend services at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Presque Isle, I attended Mass on Easter Sunday in a huge, drafty Roman Catholic church near Limestone. 

For those readers who wish to read more about the history and culture of the north woods of Maine, a book in America the Beautiful Series entitled Maine is an excellent reference and good winter reading. 

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