I remember the first time I realized I had been taking Maine’s natural beauty for granted. I had brought my college girlfriend home to Maine for the first time. She was from Austin, Texas — a great city, by the way, but one prone to the smogginess and light pollution and the weird orange-y night sky that all cities deal with. We got home well into the night, and when she stepped out of the car and looked up — well, I’ve never forgotten what her face looked like.

Buxton is no Acadia National Park, but the air was clear enough that you could tell the stars from the airplanes and you could see them carpeting the whole sky.

All of Maine is so beautiful it makes me want to yell sometimes. We’ve got everything!

Beaches? You want them rocky or sandy? Mountains? Plenty! Lakes, rivers, brooks, streams, and ponds? All present and accounted for!

We even have a desert! (Sort of.) (It’s in Freeport.) My mother refers to Maine as “The Saudi Arabia of fresh water” (so if you’re wondering where my knack for words comes from, there’s your answer). Even driving along the highway — which in most states is the most boring part of travel — the scenery is gorgeous, particularly in the fall, when leaf-peepers start getting their money’s worth as soon as they cross the Piscataqua River Bridge. Even on my fairly boring daily work commute, which takes me through Gorham, Buxton, Saco and Biddeford, I drive over at least one river and past a field of horses. Sometimes they are frolicking.

Despite growing up in Maine, an outdoor-economy state, on three acres of land and with the mighty Saco River right across the street, I am not an outdoorsy person. And Lord knows my parents tried to make me one. They took us on plenty of camping trips in an attempt to instill within us a love of the great outdoors. It sort of worked, I guess. I do love the great outdoors, and I think that the best way for me to express that love is to stay the heck out of the great outdoors. Every Saturday, my dad would press-gang us kids into doing yard work on one of his never-ending gardening/landscaping/beautification projects, which made me a passionate advocate of natural, wild lawns — which, as a bonus, are good for the environment! (When I complained, Dad still made me mow the lawn. He just bought us a lawn mower without an engine, to save on carbon emissions. I still hate the smell of freshly mowed grass.)

Sometimes being surrounded by such beauty can make you complacent about it; I always forget what a blessing it is to not have billboards until I leave Maine and go through another state. (If you ask me, a ban on billboards should be written into the state constitution itself.) Watching the news about the Amazon forest burning in Brazil makes me — and everyone else, I’m sure — nervous. Forests are the world’s lungs. Trees literally give us oxygen (and sequester away carbon dioxide — in fact, trees are the easiest, cheapest, all-natural remedy available to fight climate change).

I’d like to think that such devastation couldn’t happen here, but it could. It wouldn’t take much — a dry summer, a windy day, a dropped cigarette or improperly extinguished campfire.

Maine is the most heavily forested state in the Union. Eighty-nine percent of our land is forest. I bet we could get it up to 90 percent pretty quickly, especially if we reforest a couple of golf courses and some of the larger lawns.

Maine isn’t big enough to be the lungs of the planet. But with a little work and focusing of resources, maybe we could be the inhaler — we could help staunch the flow of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and give everyone a little breathing room with the oxygen of our pines.

You know the old joke about the fish asking the other fish “what is water?” Because they are fish, and constantly surrounded by water, so they cannot recognize it? Living in Maine, constantly surrounded by natural beauty — beauty made much easier to see with our clean air — it can be easy to start to take it for granted.

And I, for one, will not be taking it for granted any longer — starting with the stars. I try to look up at them every night now.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial


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