Where Nature is Still Literally Within Reach
- By: Paul Doiron
My first job was working as a paperboy in Scarborough. Writing that sentence makes me feel like a walking, talking anachronism. Even worse for my ego, the paper I delivered was the Evening Express: the long deceased sibling of the Portland Press Herald.
I’m saddened that tossing newspapers from bikes is something kids no longer have the opportunity or inclination to experience. It was a cool job. One house I used to visit, for instance, had a resident porcupine. The spiny rodent just sat on the lawn all afternoon eating weeds. The highlight of many stressful days was observing him or her peaceably grazing. I collected quills I later found in the grass.
In fact, I consider my years devoted to poking around the Maine woods time very well spent. Recently, a co-worker rushed into the building to report that a large brown snake was coiled beneath his car. “Oh, it’s probably just a northern water snake,” I said (which it was). “I’ve been bitten by a lot of them.” (On the aggression scale, northern water snakes fall just short of fourteen-year-old boys.) I offered to remove it, but my co-worker decided to wait for the serpent to finish sunbathing before running his errand.
My favorite pastime as a kid — and I will admit it now that the statute of limitations has expired on this misdemeanor — was backyard live trapping. I used to bait a Havahart box trap with peanut butter and bacon to see what I could snare. My most surprising catch was, of all things, a blue jay: which I released, unharmed but irate, back into the wild.
I am not advocating for the harassment of God’s creatures, but I do believe that my experiences in the Maine outdoors inspired curiosity and taught me that the natural world is a transcendent place that only answers questions with more questions. Lately, I’ve been reading Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, and I recommend it highly. Every summer I seem to have the experience of watching an urban child spot a first whale [page 74] or catch a first toad, and the sight always affects me with a feeling of gratitude. How lucky I am to live in a place where nature is still literally within reach.
People ask me where the Real Maine is, and I say, “Over there in that alder swamp, the one with the water snake and the scolding blue jay.”
Editor in Chief
- By: Paul Doiron