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Something to think about during the holidays: What I’m grateful for in Maine

Posted Dec. 21, 2013, at 5:44 p.m.
The 10 high school students of the 2013 Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program hike along the bog bridges of Katahdin Lake Trail in Baxter State Park on their way to Katahdin Lake on Aug. 10, 2013.
BDN photo by Aislinn Sarnacki
The 10 high school students of the 2013 Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program hike along the bog bridges of Katahdin Lake Trail in Baxter State Park on their way to Katahdin Lake on Aug. 10, 2013. Buy Photo

During the week before Thanksgiving, my granddaughter, age 5, entered a Christmas-decked mall store, stopped still and said, “I guess they forgot about the pilgrims.”

We have devolved into a 5-week season encompassing Thanksgiving, the winter solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s that can extend to Jan. 6. Indeed, Happy Holidays. The only common element to blanket the commercialization is gratitude.

Since I’ve just read the paper, I’m grateful for Aislinn Sarnacki’s 1-minute hikes, Matthew Stone’s research, George Danby’s art, spectacular photographs and a solid attempt to incorporate diverse viewpoints.

I’m grateful for Belfast Senior College’s variety of courses and inspired students. The instructors volunteer and inform us. Opthamologist Richard Smith of The Jackson Laboratory, for example, discussed making contact lenses for mice.

I’m grateful for the University of Maine’s classes, its composite center and offshore wind projects. I’m buoyed by last season’s baseball team and this fall’s football team. I cheer on the reforming of the women’s basketball team. I enjoy photos and stories that showcase Maine’s diversity. I’m grateful for all the Maine colleges that provide museums at small or no fees, to the Maine State Museum, the Maine Wildlife Park and the spectacular Botanical Garden.

I’m grateful that neighbors press through the snow to reach my house for dinner and that I can get to their homes. I’m grateful for the friend who walks for miles with me each morning and for my book club. Thanks to the libraries and a system that pulls books from across the state.

I’ve been fortunate to live in other countries and states, including a dozen years in New York City. Yet I’m continually amazed at the outstanding talent of our two full orchestras, Portland Stage, and Penobscot Theater. Bay Chamber and Waterfront concerts bring in outside talent, but there’s nothing like realizing your neighbors are the performers. I was stunned at the professionalism of Spamalot at the Waterville Opera House. We have fiddle concerts and rock-a-thons, more accessible talent than I’ve seen anywhere else.

From the Orono Bog Boardwalk to skiing in Presque Isle to camping on Moosehead, Maine offers surprises I’ve learned about through my BDN. I’m teased about the lengths I’ll follow my Delorme maps to hidden gems like the Chandler River Lodge in Jonesboro. I have trails on my property, so I know to support the Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance and Georges River Land Trust, whose hikes are free. Thanks to the founders of such groups and the myriad volunteers in Maine doing the jobs we need and that I don’t want to do.

This I know: Once the freezer’s full and the wood is in, winter has a miniscule chore list. Maine is the un-Florida. Beauty visits elsewhere, but she lives in Maine. If people knew how much this state offers, they’d be rushing to live here. Simply multiply what I’ve listed by 100.

As we race into January and fret, let’s skip the resolutions and each make a list of what we’re grateful for. We’ll learn more about each other and ourselves and how lucky we are. Then write to the BDN and share one more special place.

Leslie Woods is a painter who lives in Montville.

 

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