Longtime columnist George Smith, whose work filled this space every Wednesday for three decades, died Feb. 12. In his honor, we are reprinting some of George’s best columns. Here’s one from Dec. 28, 2011.

It’s time for us Mainers to feel good about our state and ourselves. The year 2011 may be one to delete from the memory bank, but as it comes to a close, we have much to be thankful for.

Today we’ll inventory those blessings and make a few resolutions for the new year.

In his Notes From The Farm column on Dec. 23, Denis Thoet tore apart the Forbes survey of the best states for business that listed Maine dead last, noting the states with the lowest business costs were North and South Dakota, Wyoming and North Carolina. “You couldn’t pay me to live in any of those states,” he said.

He was right. No matter how down and out we are, few Mainers would leave this state willingly for anywhere else on the planet. Those are beautiful and prosperous states, but we wouldn’t want to live there.

So let’s chalk that up as one of our blessings. We really do love living here, enjoy our lives here, can’t imagine living anywhere else but here. Many Mainers who do leave spend the rest of their lives trying to return.


As I write this column, I’m gazing out the window at the newly fallen snow, it’s white blanket pulled over the trees, Hopkins Stream moving lazily along, a gaggle of chickadees and goldfinches at the bird feeders.

My snowshoes are ready to go as I eagerly anticipate several months of vigorous exercise tramping through our woodlot, stopping only to check out the tracks of the wild creatures that live there. Those creatures are another blessing: the bobcats, foxes, raccoons, fisher, ermine, rabbits, beaver, muskrats, deer and moose.

Sometime today, a bald eagle will sweep past the window, perhaps landing in one of our tall pine trees. I love interrupting a phone call by saying, “Oh, wait a minute, a bald eagle is flying by my window.”

There aren’t a lot of states where you can say that! Every day!

I recently completed two months of wandering the hills and valleys that surround me, in pursuit of deer, the smells and sights of the forest a constant reminder of my state’s spectacular environment. Maine’s hunting and fishing heritage remains strong, and the tradition of free unfettered access to private land is unique and wonderful.

For the six months that precede the fall deer season, Linda and I wandered those same hills and valleys in pursuit of fiddleheads and mushrooms — it was a very good year for both. Oh, how delicious are those black trumpets! Lin dried most of the 12 pounds we harvested, and we’ll be feasting on them all winter long.


After our first year of travel writing, the number of quality restaurants and inns, events and activities, all over Maine, astonishes me. We didn’t have a single bad experience all year. From Stone Mountain’s music to Lubec’s stunning coast, Mainers live in a true “vacationland” all year long. Others pay big money to visit here for a week or two.

But yes, we do struggle. As we count our blessings, we remain aware of those around us who are struggling, and we reach out to help them. Mainers are generous, giving of their time, talent and money in so many ways.

I have many great neighbors in Mount Vernon — indeed, the entire town seems like one neighborhood.

In many neighborhoods in this country, people are entirely unacquainted, living separate lives cheek by jowl. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? Our strong communities are a major blessing.

So let’s pick up our heads, set aside the bitterness and conflicts that defined 2011, and resolve to do better in 2012.

Let’s end the callous, negative, divisive language and actions that define politics in our nation and state, and pull together in a collaborative effort to lift all of us to a better place.


Let’s celebrate the fact that most Mainers have jobs and health insurance and homes, and do a pretty good job of spreading those good things to the rest of our state’s residents.

Let’s share more of our blessings with those less fortunate, our time, talent and money. There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get from helping others.

Let’s support our institutions, from our schools to hospitals, recognizing their quality and importance to us. Let’s treat every kid as if he or she is our own.

And let’s get outside, where the very best of Maine awaits. Stop to check out the animal tracks, to smell the balsam firs, to watch the eagles soar, to hear melting snow dripping quietly from the roof.

This is Maine, the way life should be, and is!

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