We used to live on Blackstrap Road, on top of a hill. One day I was standing in the field behind our house and the thought came into my head: “I don’t really own this field. It’s just mine to take care of.”

Before me, the field belonged to somebody else who took care of it, and after me, it will belong to somebody else. I am just one in a long line of people entrusted with this land, this field, this house. And the trees, the beautiful tall oak trees that line both sides of the field.

I never “owned” such beautiful trees before. I don’t even know what to do with them, except admire them and rake back the leaves in the fall and pick up the sticks and branches in the spring.

We don’t “own” land for long. We take care of it, “tend the garden,” as Sallie McFague says, and pass it along to the next person.

Before us, the house and the field were owned by the Baileys, who were carriage makers. Our next door neighbor gave us a picture of them, father and son with handlebar moustaches, standing in front of their workshop wearing carpenter’s aprons, with a graceful winter sleigh between them.

When we bought the house, the field was uneven, with pits where outbuildings had been and rows where apple trees had grown. Our neighbor graded the field for us, and we planted grass seed and watered it and the grass grew.

After two years, wildflowers moved back, daisies and dandelions and buttercups and Indian paintbrushes, red and yellow and orange. We would mow around them, leave little islands of wildflowers, until the grass got too long and we would have to mow again.

I miss that field. We sold it, and the house, after a couple of hard winters. The driveway was long and steep and we ran out of energy to shovel it. We moved to someplace smaller and flatter, and somebody younger owns the field and tends the two acres on Blackstrap Road.

The state of Maine includes the great North Woods, the largest intact forest east of the Mississippi. The woods are “owned” by corporations, mostly, and some individuals.

The woods are a garden. Along the St. John River in May, trout lilies bloom, with their spotted leaves and yellow fluted bells. Purple violets come up, and papery fiddleheads uncurl. The beavers build pools and the moose dredge up lily pads and the mergansers swim with their ducklings.

So what does it mean to “own” a part of the great North Woods? To whom are we responsible for tending the garden? To no one? To ourselves? To God? To the woods themselves? To the state? To history? To Earth?

What does it mean to “own” a piece of land? The meaning of “ownership” is what the hearings in Augusta, about LURC, the Land Use Regulatory Commission, are about.

Legislators and citizens, people from the unorganized territories glad to drive school buses for a living and people from all over the state working without health insurance, apple farmers and woodlot owners and spokespersons for the Forest Products Industry, everyone was wrestling with what it means to “own” a piece of land.

To whom are we responsible, and for what? No wonder the hearing lasted from 1 p.m. to sunset, and still wasn’t finished.

Susan Gilpin is a resident of Falmouth.