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Thursday June 27, 2013 | 01:20 PM
Posted by Mike Tetreault

Nature is me. And yes, nature is you too.

How do I know this to be true? Because your photo and recipe entries for the Nature is ME contest prove it each and every day. From images of snowy landscapes, spiders and summits, to recipes for delicious sandwiches and pies, you show how nature is simply a part of who we are in Maine. We are all connected to nature in so many different ways.

But what about conservationists? How are these people who devote their lives to protecting nature itself – connected to nature? I turned to my friends and colleagues to find out. This week, I chatted with Barbara Vickery, director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy in Maine:


 

MT: What pulls you outside into nature?

 

BV: Two things: At this time of year, whether morning or evening, any time of day, I love listening to bird song. Even taking the dog for a walk lets me hear the bird song. And the water. I love being on the water – whether canoeing or kayaking. Whenever I see a body of water I imagine what it would be like to be on it – the sounds, the smells, the feeling.

 

MT: When was the last time you ventured into nature to seek the thrills of adventure? And what did you do?

BV: Last Saturday evening I went canoeing on Lake Messalonskee with my husband. There were lots of thrills. We saw about two dozen black terns, they were  nesting there.  We saw muskrat, deer, and one of the biggest snapping turtles I’ve ever seen. A bittern flew right in front of our canoe. A family of pie-billed grebes was making a racket nearby

 

MT: How do you get outdoors and enjoy Maine's winter wonderland during the snowy months?

BV: I like to go snowshoeing and cross country skiing. I like to look at the tracks in the snow and look for birds. I also like to ski on frozen streams. This past winter I had the most amazing experience. I was staying at a cabin in Baxter State Park with some colleagues and there was a full moon over Mount Katahdin. The snow was sparkling under the moonlight. It was so devoid of life -- no animals, no sounds at all. It was unearthly, like nothing else I had ever experienced.

 

MT: What is your favorite smell, taste, or sound from nature?

BV: What first comes to mind is the sound of hermit thrush

– that is my favorite sound. I also love the smell of hay-scented fern on a really hot summer day. 

 

MT: If you had one day to spend on an ultimate outdoor adventure, what would it consist of?

BV: It would include some water and some hiking. I would go to Donnell Pond in Hancock County

and paddle to the campsites on the natural shores, then hike the mountain through a variety of forest habitats. Then you can walk across open rock for quite a ways on the mountain with some of the best views in Maine. And when you get back you can cool off in the lake.

 

MT: Beach or mountain: which do you prefer and why?

BV: I love hiking in the Rockies and mountain areas and I love alpine flowers. But after being offered  opportunities to leave Maine in the past, I realized that I can’t be far from the ocean for too long. The coast is where my heart is. It is the place where I first made my connection to nature – it’s my heart place.

 

MT: What is the best outdoor experience you've had beyond Maine's borders?

BV: In 2001 my family and I spent four months in Argentina. We hired a guide with a rugged jeep to take us across the Andes. We traveled from the East, in northern Argentina, across the Andes into the Atacama Desert in Chile, and then back by a different route where we drove for 12 hours without seeing a single human habitation. The Atacama Desert is a salt flat and one of the driest places on Earth, but full of flamingoes. The landscape was so stark, it wasn’t aesthetically beautiful, but it was awe-inspiring. I was amazed by how little rain and vegetation there was, but there were still guanacos and birds.

 

MT: If you could thank nature for one thing what would it be?

BV: For being there for us all the time. For being so enduring. For being able to recover from all the thoughtless things we do it sometimes.

About this Blog

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Mike Tetreault leads The Nature Conservancy in Maine, where he works with partners in conservation, government and community development to identify solutions which ensure that Maine's natural resources are available for people and for nature.

He holds a degree in environmental studies from Brown and a MS from the field naturalist program at the University of Vermont, and has studied resource management in Kenya, Mexico and throughout New England.

Tetreault started his career teaching wilderness leadership and environmental education, and has worked for The Nature Conservancy since 1998. He lives in Bath with his wife, their daughter and a menagerie of pets.


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