It is so easy to live in a place passively — for months, years, or even generations. I spent the first 17 years of my life in a small town in northern Massachusetts comprised of woods, whitetail deer, farms, and wetlands. At the time, my friends and I would often remark, “What are we going to do this weekend?” or we would whine to our families, “Ugh, there’s nothing to do!” Sound familiar? How young and naive. It’s all part of growing up, I suppose.
I just took off on a walk from my apartment in Portland in search of thought inspiration for this blog post. I wouldn’t call this procrastination, but some may. My father definitely would. I walked past some of the city’s favorite restaurants and bars that are just starting to open or are racking their imaginations trying to dissect business plans to find a new, creative way forward amidst our first summer in COVID. Masks required? Masks encouraged? …we won’t get “political” here.
Anyway, I stop at one of my favorite places in Portland to sit and think. This location may seem weird to any local, as this place is far from distant from tourists: Long Wharf next to PoLoCo, where the Lucky Catch, the whale watches, and the Portland Harbor Tours depart from. I think I like this spot so much because it is the first snippet of water I see as I walk down the hill from the West End toward East Beach for a swim, which is a common occurrence throughout my days. I peer through the late Love Lock fence at the oil-slicked incoming tide and think, “I can’t wait to get on one of those Harbor Cruises again.” Sea kayaking is one of my favorite modes of transportation, but, yes, I do love me a harbor cruise…
I have friends that I grew up with who remain in or have returned to our hometown. The adventures they find themselves on with new appreciation and adult eyes are absolutely baffling to me. How on earth did I miss those running trails, that island escape, those swimming holes, the story of the Crane Estate growing up? The answer is easy: I don’t think I cared. With a move to Maine in 2016, I vowed never to live passively in my home again.
A good place I like to start is to learn the history of the land, the city, the town. This is not only enjoyable but also gives me a broad idea of why things are the way they are—culturally, architecturally, ergonomically, etc. My favorite way to do this is by putting on my tourist hat for a day or two, or forever, and hopping on the Portland Harbor Tours via water or bus, or by visiting sites like Greater Portland Landmarks, a quarantine favorite of mine. Maybe take the walking tour through the Eastern Cemetery. It’s OK if you don’t tell your friends that you took a bus tour, but I think you might find it more fun than you think. The second thing I find extremely helpful in getting to know a place is by tapping into our local nonprofits to see what information they have to offer.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine has been one of my go-to nonprofit organizations to follow as a pulse check on the great state of Maine. Not only do they work hard to get their followers the information we need to get outside to play, but they also keep us up-to-date on the local environmental and legislative happenings for those that want to dive a bit deeper. If you haven’t yet been able to explore the outdoor spaces that surround us, I think you’ll find you quickly fall in love. NRCM is here for you when that happens. Here to help all of us protect the places that become part of us.
—Dana Wilfahrt, NRCM Rising Leadership Team member