A Family Gathering at Maine Audubon

maine, nature, landscape, maine

The Maine Audubon houses its offices on a beautiful piece of property in southern Maine: Gilsland Farm. Thin trails snake through golden fields and eventually to the edge of the Presumpscot River, where it widens before emptying into Casco Bay and then the Atlantic Ocean. A visitor center hosts event space, offices, a gift shop, plus a children’s area, and is popular for weddings.

On a windy afternoon a few days after Christmas, my family gathered.

My sister and grandmother arrived first. For years we would have had to drag my sister to any short walks or excursions, but now she had a newfound affinity for the natural world and it was she who suggested we all meet at Maine Audubon for a walk. In fact, she visits Gilsland Farm all the time.

Next up: my Aunt Gwenne and cousin Nina. My parents, my husband Brian, and I rounded out the party, and as a big group we headed down the trails towards the water.

maine, nature, landscape, maine

The cold weather we had experienced around Christmas itself had changed to relative warmth. Sunshine and temperatures in the forties melted much of the snow that had given us our storied “white Christmas.”

Unfortunately, most of the snow and ice lingered on the very trails themselves, packed down by visitors and now taking longer to thaw. It literally looked like we were walking on ice roads, descending to the edge of the river below. If I fell it was no big deal, but we all had a phobia of Grandma Kathy taking a tumble, so Brian held her arm as we walked (which was of course adorable).

A stiff wind blew our hair this way and that, but didn’t keep us from chatting and catching up. We watched a flock of Canada Geese rest on a field’s grasses. Gulls bleated to each other in the sky and floated on the water, mixing with groups of Buffleheads and Red-crested Mergansers as the birds bobbed on the waves. I liked the feeling of the breeze in my face, and touched the bright white trunks of paper birch trees as the path threaded the needle between their bright trunks. It might have taken us an hour to walk merely a mile, but we didn’t care. We were having fun.

For a group of eight people, many other social activities might be difficult or expensive. Think how much a lunch or dinner out would have tallied on the final bill, or a trip to the bowling alley or movies. By contrast, our expedition to Maine Audubon left plenty of space for all of us to move in and out of conversations, to enjoy being outside, and get exercise. While we may disagree on what we like to do for hobbies in general, all could agree on the joy of a simple walk outside, regardless of athletic ability levels. Though relatively small, Maine Audubon’s lands were exactly what we needed.

Erika Zambello

About Erika Zambello

Erika Zambello is a writer, birder, and photographer, born and raised in Maine. She has a bachelor’s degree in Government and Anthropology from Cornell University, and a master’s degree in Environmental Management from Duke University, specializing in ecosystem science and conservation. Her love of the outdoors was inspired by her childhood in Maine, and she returned for her National Geographic Young Explorer grant in 2015-2016.