CONVERSATIONS WITH MAINE

Creative naturalist leads eclectic life

Posted April 21, 2011, at 10:40 p.m.

Even her name evokes an image of nature in action: Holly Twining.

It wasn’t until about seven years ago that life led Holly from New York City to Maine. Then this urban artiste opened her doors to fields and fresh air, and it felt like the most natural thing in the world.

Holly is a program naturalist at Fields Pond Audubon Center in Holden. She has described it as her “dream job,” but that may be due less to the job and more to what Holly brings to it. She has been a dancer, an actress, a traveler, a writer, an artistic director, a yoga instructor, an antiques dealer, a photographer and a master gardener. She also is mother to two young boys: August, 2, and Zane, 5. Her creative bent shows in all corners of her life.

Holly’s home is a beautiful chaos of free expression — an apt outer manifestation for her inner artistic ebullience. A designated coloring wall displays Zane and Auggie’s personalities in crayon. Walls and ceilings are draped in creative works by all four humans in the household. Also in residence during my visit were Daisy the dog, Lulu the cat, and a woolly bear caterpillar in a jar.

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Holly’s enthusiasm for learning and teaching about the natural world is contagious. Her gardens, still dormant under the last dregs of snow, blossom into a rich variety of native plants, bird boxes, and creative landscaping that was nothing but grass when her family first moved in. It is safe to say that no grass grows under her feet — literally or figuratively.

Holly’s father was an amateur ornithologist, so bird watching and the outdoors go way back in her life. Her education, however, led her into the arts. As an undergraduate, she pursued a degree in theater, then got an interdisciplinary master’s degree in humanities and social thought.

While doing a play in New York, Holly met her future husband, writer Travis Baker. It was the summer of 2001, just before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

“I was in a building when the first plane hit. I ran out for the second, then I ran to where Travis was and watched the rest …We said I love you for the first time that day.”

They realized how fast things can go by in this world. Just two months later, on opening night of their show, Travis proposed. They were married a month later.

Holly was looking for a doctorate program in environmental ethics when Travis was accepted into the Master of Arts program in English at the University of Maine, and they made the decision to move. Holly’s Ph.D. plans went on hold, but she hit the ground running. She did some substitute teaching, had a booth at the antiques co-op, began studying photography, joined a tennis team, sat on the board of the Orono Land Trust, joined the Audubon center as a volunteer, had two baby boys, wrote a nature column, and completed a course to become a master gardener.

When a position opened up at Fields Pond Audubon Center, she jumped at the opportunity and was offered the job.

Holly brings an artsy/literary bent to her programs at the nature center. She offers writing, theater and poetry programs for all ages that combine explorations of external nature and internal creativity. She also edits their newsletter and teaches yoga in conjunction with nature walks.

Innovations abound outside of work as well.

In November, Holly wrote a 50,000-word novel in a month through NaNoWriMo (nanowrimo.org). She has a photo exhibit at Fields Pond through the end of May. She is in the midst of a yoga teacher-training course at Namaste Institute in Rockland. She and Zane soon will begin sprucing up their plots — Native Eclectic and Zane’s Wild Garden — at UMaine’s Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at Rogers Farm.

“I love projects,” she says.

Central Maine attracts creativity and independence, and Holly Twining is a case in point.

Robin Clifford Wood welcomes feedback and suggestions. You can reach her at robin.everyday@gmail.com.

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