Dear Maine:

It has only been three years, but I’ve known you forever. You are wild. You are free. A manifestation of what lives inside my soul.

When I hike your mountains and swim in your cold ocean, my body is alive, my spirit awakened.

I moved here not knowing what to expect. Other than snow.

I knew about that.

What I found was home.

Home is the comfortable glow spilling from porches all winter as families gather around meals of warm stew and a crackling fire.

It’s spending a day kneeling in the dirt and letting it fall through my fingers as I pick organic spinach alongside a weathered but smiling farmer.

Some days, home is showing off your rugged coastline to friends hoping they see what I see — beauty in the untamed.

A few times, Maine felt painfully small yet simultaneously vast. Like when I really wanted a cinnamon crunch bagel from Panera Bread but was unwilling to drive the 80 miles from Bangor to Augusta to buy one. Or how the word of my pregnancy spread faster than wildfire just days after telling only our closest friends.

But Maine was everything I needed, all I ever wanted. It took time, but I made friends. I had family again. Sure, they weren’t blood relatives, but what is family but people who accept and love you without abandon.

To my dear friends who’ve walked with me on this crazy journey called motherhood, thank you. Thank you for your shoulders to lean on when I thought my toddler would be the end of me. Thank you for your boxed wine, your advice, your snacks when I forgot to pack ours.

The lessons I learned here — to shovel snow like the best of them, to stretch a dollar and to properly use the word “wicked” — these are things that will never leave me.

Neither will my love for the men, women and children who opened their lives, their homes and their memories with me. Thank you for sharing your stories. It has been an honor to tell them.

Maine, you are my muse.

I will miss you dearly. I will miss your white winters and summer thunderstorms that roll in and out within an hour. I’ll miss the crisp fall mornings that melt into warm afternoons. And I’ll miss the crocuses that peek through the dead grass and still-frozen ground each spring, bringing with them the promise of warm days to come.

It’s humbling to know I’ve only scratched the surface of Maine. So many acres, miles of coastline, mountains and beaches still to explore.

If there’s one universal truth about life, it’s this: There’s never enough time.

By the time this farewell column publishes, I will be on my way West. But, friends and readers, know I do not run from this place. Instead, I cling to my memories here and look forward to the day of my return.

Maine is wild. Maine is bold. Maine is forever in my heart.

Natalie Feulner

Natalie Feulner is a journalist and “semi-crunchy” cloth diapering momma to a rambunctious toddler named after a county in California. She drinks too much tea and loves to climb rocks but not at the...