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  • Shari Goddard Shambaugh

A Little Bit of Wild

This pond is within a few minutes from my home. In the spring peepers fill the air with their song. In fall its surface mirrors the fiery brilliance of surrounding trees. Winter forms a perfect little skating rink. And in summer the lily pads and frogs fill it with beauty and life. The pond is part of a legacy gift from former Governor Baxter of Maine. He named it Mayor Baxter Woods in honor of his father, who was the mayor of Portland at one time.

We have loved this park since moving to the neighborhood 15 years ago. Until her death, we walked our beloved dog on its trails every day. In the winter we explore its quiet beauty on snowshoes or skis, and have had more than one awesome snowball fight under its boughs. The moment I step into this wooded block, my shoulders relax and I am calmer and happier. The trees muffle the sound of traffic, and it is big enough to imagine it is even bigger than it is. That is a little harder with a massive housing complex going up on its previously quiet north side, but it is still an oasis in the middle of urban noise. There are trees well over 100 years old within its 29 acres, and I have a favorite massive old oak that I admire every time I pass it. The park adds immense joy to our lives even when I do not go over to walk in it, since I can see its trees from my home.

Recent studies are proving what many of us have always known - time in the woods can renew us, make us calmer and more grounded. The Japanese call it "forest bathing," and treat it with respect and reverence. I am grateful for the foresight and generosity of Governor Baxter, who also gifted the massive parcel of land that became Baxter State Park in northern Maine. He understood that land needed to be set aside in order to preserve some wildness in the midst of us. This little plot of land is a gift that keeps on giving, and which we can unwrap every time we walk through these beautiful woods.

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