Spring is a time of beauty, renewal and reflection. As a resident of Maine, I am fortunate to witness the signs of spring all around me – the return of birds, the growth of plants and the trees bursting with new leaves. For many of us, this season is a much-needed respite from the cold and snow. However, as someone who has lived in three different countries, I am also aware of the changes taking place due to climate change, which makes me appreciate the joy of spring all the more.

At a recent climate conference in Egypt, my native country Somalia was identified as one of three countries, along with Syria and Chad, that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. More than 8 million people, or about two-thirds of the population, in Somalia are seeing the immediate impact. I am reminded of this fact when I talk with my mother, who still lives there. We reminisce about the places, plants and animals that we used to see. Mogadishu bats, for example, no longer appear in the skies by the thousands, creating thick dark clouds that were a symbol of joy despite wars and famine.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth and can be contacted at noriftin@gmail.com.

As a child in Somalia, I was privileged to witness a vibrant ecosystem thriving even during the dry seasons. Termite mounds dotted the landscape, papaya and coconut trees grew side by side, and lizards scurried everywhere. During the heavy rains of April and May, all kinds of life appeared. I remember the scarab beetles crawling everywhere. Sadly, these wonders are now largely gone. The Calotropis procera plant, whose milk sap I used to use to mend torn money, is now a rarity, as are cactus, aloe and lantana camara trees.

My mother tells me that the neem trees remain without birds nesting in them, and the doves, pigeons and common bulbuls are no longer as abundant as they once were. Despite my limited knowledge of the birds that frequent Maine, observing their annual return from their migratory journeys serves as a poignant reminder of the uncertain fate of the Somali avian species. I often wonder about the whereabouts of the black-headed common bulbuls and the white-tailed swallows that we saw everywhere, and while I may not have the answers, I hold onto the hope that they will one day reappear.

I cherish the springtime beauty of Maine and celebrate it. I have lived here enough to see birds leave Maine but return once again to the same bird feeder we have in our front yards. Even though Maine does not have the trees I grew up with or the Mogadishu bats, I also celebrate spring with walks and often runs in Portland, Yarmouth and Freeport. The ponds that were a skating rink just a few months ago are now home to nesting Canadian geese. I savor these moments and try to appreciate the sights and sounds of nature.

Revisiting my memories of Somalia’s natural wonders instills in me a deep appreciation for the environment. It is imperative that we take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the Maine spring and the creatures that coexist with us. As my mother often emphasizes, we must cherish and not take anything for granted, understanding that everything we have is temporary.

Let us marvel at the natural wonders around us, acknowledging that their presence is a privilege. In doing so, we honor the creatures that we share this planet with, while recognizing the importance of conservation and preservation for future generations.

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