A Walk in the Rain in Baxter Woods

There are countless things that I love about Portland, Maine.  Someday I’ll list them all, but today I want to share one.  Portland Trails.  Portland Trails has worked to create a network of trails throughout the greater Portland area.  From my home, in a residential neighborhood in Portland, I can walk, run, bike, or ski to Evergreen Cemetery, Fore River Sanctuary, Back Cove, and Baxter Woods.  These places are gorgeous and are featured in many of the photos I’ve shared with you since January on my 365 journey to get outdoors.

On Sunday I went for a walk in Baxter Woods in a gentle rain.  The sound of the rain in the woods takes my breath away.  I could try and describe the sound but words can’t describe the gentle peace it brings to my soul.

On Sunday’s walk I took time to look up through the branches of the hemlock trees,

walk across this lovely little bridge that crosses a vernal stream,

to smile at strangers along the way,

and to let myself get quiet.

Baxter Woods is a favorite place for dog walkers.  In fact, non dog walkers are rare on this trail.  The trail is a short little walk so I often do three or more loops.  On Sunday I did two loops one way and then reversed directions.   This reversed experience always surprises me.  I simply walk the same path from the other direction and am amazed at how different everything looks.  I am a creature of habit.  I tend to love to walk or run from my home in a loop, and I almost always go the same way around the loop.  Reversing direction once in awhile is such a simple way of seeing the same place in a new light.

Thank you to Portland Trails for creating and preserving such lovely wild spaces so close to so many people.

Feels Like Spring

Spring has arrived early this year.  Last week we had a pair of days above 80 degrees. Everyone in Portland was outside and joyful.  On one of the warm days I packed up the kids and took them for a late afternoon trip to Kettle Cove.  I stood in the ocean up to my knees and watched my daughter submerge the majority of her body up to her neck and floated while she walked her hands along the bottom.  I watched a gaggle of teenagers run into the water and tease each other until everyone had fully gone under–the most amazing part (truly unbelievable to people who live in Maine) is that they stayed in the water after they went under.  I saw new and old friends, chased gigantic bubbles, read books to the kids, played in tide pools and then ate our picnic dinner near one.

Swings at the East End playground.

My father regularly measured spring’s arrival with the blooming of forsythia.   I’ve noted the emergence of the ground bees (they normally hoover above the ground on tax day)–this year they were out a month early.  Another sure sign of spring is the number of humans emerging from their homes–as soon as the temperature is above 45 degrees everyone comes out.

What are some of your favorite signs of spring?


I Forgot to go Outside

Last Friday I forgot to go outside.  It was a normal work day, followed by me joining my son at our friend’s house for dinner, and ended with me editing some work for a colleague.  The only thing that made it a sort of busy day was needing to pick up wine and dessert for dinner.  As far as days go–it was an easy one.  We’re all healthy and there was not one reason that I should have missed an opportunity to get outside.

The next morning, when I realized that I had forgotten to go outside, I told my husband.   He whispered, “You don’t have to tell them.”  He was talking about you, the people who read this blog and are following my journey of going outside every day for at least 30 minutes.  I told him I had to tell you.  You may remember the rules I set for myself on my first day of this journey.  I set aside 12 days for the whole year when I could stay inside. You can read about the rules here:

So far I’ve used two days.  One in February when I was sick with strep throat (fever 103) and the other on a perfectly lovely, non-stressful, full of health Friday…  What a waste!

Totally forgetting to go outside for a whole day isn’t a big deal, but I am serious about sticking through with my commitment.  First of all I feel great, I am nurturing my connection to the natural world, and I just really love my outdoor time–whether it be with my kids, friends, family, or alone.  I also know some of you have been motivated to get out more regularly because of this journey I’m undertaking–and I truly treasure that knowledge.  I know you’re going outside more regularly because you have told me (through Facebook, via text, in an email, in blog comments, and in person.)

Forgetting to go outside, or just not going outside, was common place for several years–two young kids, working full time, too cold, too icy, too rainy, easier to drive, driving to the gym to work out inside, cozy warm home–whatever the reason, I just accepted them and although I wanted to get outside more regularly, I really wasn’t getting out often.

I don’t want to go back to the days when I let myself skip going outside. It is too important to me to let myself forget.

(Photos: went for a walk in the woods with my son before dinner one day.  How wonderful to walk with one child.)

Maple Syrup

I have about 14 trees on my tiny piece of property in Portland, Maine.  And of those trees four were planted in the last few years and are still pretty tiny.  This year I’ve tapped three maple trees.  Yesterday I boiled sap all day.  Last night, a little before midnight, I finished boiling down my first batch of sap.  This morning, I wanted to make pancakes but was relieved to find Kashi Blueberry Waffles in the freezer.  We had them with our maple syrup.

My trips outdoors to check the sap are brief, but they sure do connect me to the natural world.  I love tramping through my small, muddy, and still a bit snowy yard to check my buckets.  I love watching the weather carefully to see if the evening temps will be below freezing and the day time temperatures above freezing to predict if the sap flow will be strong.  I love the humid air I create in my home while boiling down the sap–the humidity caused by liquid that was inside trees just a few days ago. I love knowing that I am able to create something for my family from scratch.

Today, after eating four Kashi blueberry waffles, my son picked up his plate and licked it clean.  Normally I wouldn’t approve of such behavior at the table, but knowing how much effort it took to make every drop of that syrup and how much energy went into creating it made me want to pick up my plate and lick it clean too.

What are you enjoying about this transition time of the year?  How do you embrace the mud?




We found four trolls this weekend.

Before I tell you about the trolls I need to back up a step.  Our friends invited us, and many other families, up to share a very fancy home in the Sunday River area for one night.  It was one of the fanciest homes I’ve ever been in–a movie theater (with a movie theater style popcorn maker), game room, 9 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms, and views of the mountains that take your breath away.  Check in time was 2:30 so we stopped at the Bethel Inn to cross country ski before going to the fancy house.

My husband and I have not braved down hill skiing with our kids yet… actually, the idea of taking young children downhill skiing, with all of our equipment AND their equipment, waiting in lines, dealing with lifts, paying a fortune to get in a few runs, sounds a bit like hell.  I have friends who do it and I never believe them when they say they actually enjoy it.  Maybe I just don’t love downhill skiing enough to deal with all the crap to make it happen.  But cross country is a different story–no lines, only little hills, and a better workout.

I bought my kids used skies last year but we never really got to use them and this year, well, they don’t fit anymore.  So going to the Bethel Inn was perfect because of the groomed trials and the ski rental.  Groomed trails are really nice when you’re learning to love cross country skiing.  One of the lovely men working there gave us some good tips for going down hill–sit on your knees (with your knees on the skis) or sit back on your bum–then, if you need to stop, you just roll to the side.  Now that is freaking amazing advice–snow plowing is not easy when you’re five.  I was able to try the sit on my knees–and it was really fun and felt very safe.  I highly recommend it.

The kids were given The Official Troll Trolling Card and the mission to ski the trails to find the five hidden trolls.  Each troll has a unique cardpunch and if they collected all five punches the kids would earn a reward.

Yesterday we didn’t find any.  Today we found four.  It was awesome!  The kids skied about 7 km today which was simply amazing.  A few more photos:

On Saturday I split up from the family.  They skied back to the ski shack while I got a bit of a workout and skied at my pace.  Those who know me, may be surprised to hear me say that skiing with my family was so much more enjoyable–even as we moved along like snails.  I was kind of surprised myself.