Back in early spring, when we were still coming out of the stark weather we’re now entering again, two things came into my life that didn’t seem, at a glance, to amount to a confluence:
1. Our little family brought home a puppy, a longhair dachshund we decided to call Fretless. The name, it turns out, is ironic. This pup, sweetheart though he is, is nothing but Fretful. But that’s another column.
2. A doctor told me it was time to start moving around a little more.
Now, Fretless is not my first dachshund, and my doctor is not the first to tell me my slothful tendencies must be curbed. But his general advice was something new to me: “Make Maine your playground.” Drilled down further, the advice came out this way: “Dodge Point. It’s right there on the road you live on. Take that dog.”
It’s been the perfect prescription, in ways the doctor intended and in ways that have surprised and delighted me. Every morning that the weather even sort of cooperates with us, Fretless and I head out, first by car, then by foot, exploring these wonderful spaces that have been preserved for us — the universal us, those on this peninsula, resident and visitor alike. My boy, now 10 months old, is a trail-runner nonpareil, anxious as we enter the parking lot and overjoyed once all six of our feet are on terra firma. We’ve made a thorough exploration of Dodge Point several times over (he likes the Ravine Trail; I prefer the Shoreline route). We’ve branched out to Cross River Preserve, maintained by the Boothbay Region Land Trust, which is actually a lot closer to the house, and to Porter Preserve as well, with many others yet to come. We huff up ridgelines — in fairness, Fretless just goes; the huffing is all on this side of the leash — and onto straightaways, over crumbling rock walls and deadfall. Fretless, properly exercised, sleeps peacefully through the evening and my late night work hours; I, also properly exercised, have started to reverse some of the trends that so concerned my doctor.
These public lands have transformed my relationship with Maine, a state new to me, and my relationship with my pup. I’m no longer just the guy who controls the food and who says no. We’re partners, he and I, on our morning sojourns, each reliant on the other.
These land trusts and preserves are a treasure, an ongoing gift to the quality of life here and to the people who call this place home. I still feel like a bit of an interloper, having moved here from Montana in mid-2018, but I’m trying to honor the place. The state I came from has its own story with public lands, one that’s largely been successful for the people but one that also requires constant vigilance and stewardship. Here, Fretless and I will do our part. If you see us on the trail, please say hello.