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(I DIDN'T KNOW I WAS) RAISED IN THE WOODS

I was raised in the State of Maine in the USA, surrounded by a forest my entire childhood. Anytime I was outdoors, there were trees. I just couldn't see them yet.


Of course, I knew there were forests, and I could see the trees, but I was blind to the value they provide. It wasn't until I was a student at the University of Maine, studying biology when I found the power of plants. Specifically, I learned how essential forests are for our climate. I have since learned forests are places that absorb and store carbon and release oxygen for us to breathe, filter drinking water, and provide habitat for wildlife. They also offer many products we use in our day to day lives from lumber for our houses to paper in our tissues. Most importantly, forests are a place to relax, rest, and let go.


This blog was originally published as a contribution to woodwidewebstories.com


This is a Google Earth image of the area surrounding the house I grew up in and currently live in today. In the picture, you can see some woods and scattered trees, but fields and cranberry bogs are what is primarily surrounding the house.

Once I could see the forest, I was obsessed. There was and still is so much to learn about it. The soil, on its own, is a complex ecosystem. There are so many species of fungi, lichen, annual plants, shrubs, and overstory trees that make up the forest canopy. Wildlife is abundant, signs can be found almost anywhere you look.


I became so entrenched, I decided to pursue a career in protecting it. I started by completing an internship with a Land Trust, an organization that owns or has agreements with landowners to conserve land. This experience gave me so many opportunities to entrench myself in the forest for hours at a time. I would maintain trails and campsites, lead walks and educational programs, and did plenty of off-trail tasks such as installing trail cameras and assisting foresters. It was the alone time that was most meaningful. Being alone in the woods is one of the most natural yet uneasy feelings I have ever experienced.


Learning to see the bigger picture, when you zoom out and look at the area surrounding my home, there is vast forestland. This view is still narrow. Maine is 90% forested. Aside from the larger cities, woodlands encompass the entire state. In this image, you can see many lakes that I frequent. St. Croix Island is the little island above the "e" on the word house. The island was the first French settlement in North America, lead by Samuel de Champlain. de Champlain went on to become the first Governor of the Canadian province of Quebec (I'll share more of that story in another blog post). To the right of the yellow line is New Brunswick, Canada.

Following these first experiences, I went on to become a service volunteer for a land trust in Massachusetts. I did much of the same work and gained valuable experience in organizing communities around conservation projects. I then decided to continue to learn about the forest and returned to the University of Maine for a Master's of Forestry degree.


Today, I am a forester, but I don't spend as much time in the woods as I used to. Instead, I work with several groups of people dedicated to promoting the value of the forests around Maine.


This image is from one of the first places I truly felt alone and immersed in the forest. I took this picture while I was performing upkeep on two campsites in the Fourth Machias Lake Ecological Reserve. These campsites are only accessible by nonmotorized boats such as canoes and kayaks. An ecological reserve is an area where motorized human activities are not permitted. While traveling alone to the campsites in a kayak, I saw a golden eagle gliding along the lakeshore. I lost sight of it, then turned around to see it watching me from behind. The eagle flew off for a bit, but then landed in a large pine tree that sits above the campsites. I could feel it watching me. This was an incredible experience as golden eagle sightings are rare in the area. I have a strong feeling the bird was there, because of the ecological reserve. Once my tasks were completed at the site, I took a few minutes to appreciate the area surrounding me. It was a moving experience. One that I have held on to.

I have many projects as a forest conservationist and not-for-profit consultant. One job I have is coordinating a statewide program geared toward recognizing family woodland owners. For another organization, I am developing citizen science and outreach programs. I also assist a third organization with projects associated with addressing forest climate change issues.


One of the most important things I have learned throughout my experiences has been the value of storytelling. Sharing stories and personal anecdotes are the best way to express how essential forests are for our wellbeing. I have more stories than I can share in this blog post, but over time I will share as many as I can. As I reflect more, I will share more.

A picture of me hanging out over the Kennebec River in Waterville, Maine, in a silver maple. I lived in an old mill converted to apartments here for a few months in Waterville, and this trail was right out the front door. I was very fortunate to have this place to go unwind.



This blog was originally published as a contribution to woodwidewebstories.com

Thank you at MS WOODS for the opportunity to contribute!

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