When spring comes I watch the people around me unfurl like ferns, arching their necks for the warmth of the sun on their faces. Eyes and expressions that have grown listless over a long winter take on life again. When winter shows signs of giving way to spring – when the ice retreats from the lake’s edge, when sap collection lines weave through the woods like a game of cat’s cradle and buckets hug tree trunks, waiting for the delivery of sweet spring – then the sharp icicle point of people’s edges round off.
Weathering Maine is challenging for humans and wildlife alike. Some of us take to the trial’s presented by each season more readily than others – we are built sturdier, perhaps. Others prefer only winter, or summer – and few can truly claim to enjoy mud/bug season (or spring, as it is more commonly known). Autumn may be the one season that has near state-wide approval, although those who struggle with the winter blues experience autumn not as a riot of beauty but a precursor to dark days.
As I child growing up in Central Maine, I thought little of the changing seasons, beyond their immediate impact on my daily existence. In college the weather was a backdrop to long hours of hard work, nothing more. Twelve years into a career and marriage, a homeowner and dog mom for ten years, my life has shifted in a way that has allowed me to develop a more intimate relationship with nature. In February 2014, my husband and I were blessed with the opportunity to become lakefront owners.
I saw the house before my husband did. It was a Thursday morning in late December. I nearly turned around one curve short of finding the private road – to think how different our lives would be today. I climbed onto the front porch, read the foreclosure notice, cupped my hands over my eyes and peered into a massive living room. The deep maroon rug competed with the cathedral ceiling for my attention, but when I lifted my gaze I saw that the kitchen and dining room windows looked onto the lake. I was a goner.
Climbing off the porch and circling around the back of the house, I crunched through deep snow in my work clogs to look at the waterfront. I do not remember the details of the climb down the wooded slope to the lake, though knowing the geography as I do now, I wonder how I didn’t fall or turn an ankle. Perhaps determination and focus kept me upright. Or luck.
What I do recall with great clarity is the feeling of expansion and wonder in my heart when I gazed on the shorefront and woods that could, by some fine miracle, become mine. The prospect of becoming a steward for one small section of a lake seemed deeply compelling to me. Eight hours later, we had put in a bid on the house. The decision to make an offer to buy was a leap of faith and an act of hope. Would we regret the move? Miss our first home? Hate the new neighbors?
But how could we possibly pass on the chance to live a quarter of a mile in on a private road, on a six acre parcel with four hundred feet of lake frontage? We couldn’t. For ten days, we negotiated deal terms and held our breath. In the end, we were the successful bidders. We sold our home and moved across town to a foreclosure that ad been vacant for over three years.
And this is where the story of my abiding love affair with nature begins in earnest. Several decades of camping trips, mountain hikes and countless forest walks did not prepare me for the intimacy one develops with nature when given the daily opportunity to attune one’s senses to the same half dozen acres of land. I share hayfield, old pine forest and a marshy inlet to a 1400 acre lake with more wildlife than I will ever realize. What I can capture with zoom lens and observe with minimal intrusion, I will share here.