One cold, quiet morning last autumn, I went out to the woods behind my family’s house in rural New Hampshire for solitude and fresh air.

It was an intense and emotional week. I’d retuned home to to be with my father and sister to help take care of my mother, who was in hospice and near the end of her life. It was time to say goodbye.

These were woods I knew intimately from my childhood – dark old hemlocks, towering white pines, and a dense forested wetland. Since my childhood this forest had been, and was still, owned by Mr. Bakie, who was well known in our liberal family as a very conservative Republican, and a slightly gruff but mostly friendly neighbor.

Mr. Bakie had done some timber harvesting, but the forest was otherwise the same as it had been for decades. After 20 years working in conservation, the make-up of a forest was something I could appreciate.

As I walked that familiar trail and rock-hopped that familiar brook, I realized that this was the place where my love of nature and the outdoors first planted its roots in my soul. I suddenly felt a deep sense of gratitude for Mr. Bakie’s longtime stewardship of the forest, and for allowing others to enjoy it. I crossed the stream and promised myself I would knock on Mr. Bakie’s door on my way home to thank him.

As I made this quiet vow, I was startled to hear footsteps ahead on the trail and looked up to see Mr. Bakie himself walking purposefully toward me with an old ski pole for a hiking stick. Though I hadn’t seen him in 20 years he still knew who I was when I introduced myself and asked about my mother. Clad in worn jeans, a flannel shirt, down vest, and leather gloves, he projected a serious demeanor, which quickly softened. He was out on his regular morning walk. I said that I had just been thinking about having grown up tramping in these woods, and thanked him for taking such good care of them and allowing others to enjoy his land.

That began a long conversation about our mutual love for the outdoors, forestry, the Maine woods, and hunting. He told me about his hunting camp in interior eastern Maine that has once been extremely remote, but timber harvesting had made it too accessible by trucks and four-wheelers. He loved to hunt there every fall but had sold it after it wasn’t the same. I knew how he felt and what he had experienced. We shared a deep love for the remote corners of New England and for dark, old forests.

In the stillness of the forest our conversation ebbed. He removed a glove, we shook hands, and parted ways in opposite directions. I walked away contemplating my own footsteps and our love of the woods that brought us together in that moment, and realized later that we never spoke of politics, nor did it cross my mind.

Meetinghouse is a community storytelling project hosted by the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Read more stories from Maine at www.centralmaine.com/meetinghouse

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