Anyone walking town or city streets has grown used to it. You look up, and some yards in front of you, a figure appears, walking your way. Your paths look set to intersect. A simple adjustment will avoid collision; you realize also that you will have to be the one to make that shift.

You’ve not made eye contact, so how do you know that it’s up to you? Easy. It’s the other walker’s posture. Arms in front with hands up, head tilted forward, neck bent, eyes looking down — one of our most familiar species: the bent-necked screen-watcher. You realize also in that instant that you and the other walker are not of the same worlds.

There’s ample time for you to edge aside, and briefly you give thanks that your encounter has not been with the bent-necked screen-watcher-cyclist, or with the much more lethal bent-necked screen-watcher-driver.

Many of us who go out for daily walks on public lands leave our screens behind, or bury them deep in pockets or packs, there for emergencies, but silenced for the usual. But this column is not intent on the easy target of screen-distraction and over-reliance. My aim is to offer praise for two recent screen-experiences that have deepened my pleasure and appreciation for the lands I walk often and work to conserve.

Offering that praise begins with praising someone. Here, it is Brunswick’s GIS Professional, Jessica Hanscom, and I will explain a little why my praise is both heartfelt and hopeful.

During the past 6six months, Jessica has created two maps that offer residents a chance to deepen their understanding of where they live and wander in the nearby. The first was a lidar-based map of Brunswick’s watersheds, and, on first examination, it asks a common, implicit question: where, on this map, are you? And so — perhaps with a street map as companion, but perhaps not if you are map-friendly already — the hunt begins. A friend recently found himself, “about at the ‘s’ in Richard’s Pond in the Upper Mare Brook watershed.”


I’ve done similar sleuthing, pinning myself into the same shed a third of a mile downstream. My friend and I are stream-neighbors, even as we live at some distance as measured by roads; we hold this water in common. That’s part of this map’s promise: it shows how related we and our lands are via their waters. We all flow together. So different from relations, or their absence, by street.

Take a look at the map and find yourself in your watershed; consider making that your address. (Link to Brunswick’s Conservation Commission site and its documents section:

The second map is a layered wonder, aka a story-map, and, of course, your question is, What’s the story? Here’s short answer, with the suggestion that you go to the site and read for yourself. Link:

In 2019, the town received a gift from Maine Gravel Services. Contiguous to the nascent Captain Fitzgerald Park in East Brunswick, these sand- and water-rich acres brought the town-owned total there to 231 acres. Charged by the Town Council, the town’s Parks and Rec Department convened a planning committee to consider how best to use these varied and beautiful acres, serving both Brunswick’s recreation and conservation goals.

As part of better understanding the gifts of these lands and explaining them to the public, Parks and Rec and the committee turned to Jessica Hanscom. Help us see and understand better this land, its history and its promise, they said. Jessica set out to meet that ask.

The story map she created won’t fit into this small space, nor do words do it justice. It is image and map rich; it stretches back and forth over time; it responds to clicks and offers close-ups and overviews. In short, this story-map admits the viewer/reader to a long-lived landscape of many possibilities. The site’s message concentrates to a simple invitation: “Come see me, come learn my story,” says this land.

We are, of course, present on many maps, but the maps described in this column offer the possibility and promise of our becoming located more deeply in our local lands. Through them we may know ourselves in relation to those lands at a depth that simple street addresses don’t offer. We can, if we spend time with these maps, visit their lands and begin the slow, redemptive journey of becoming kin to those lands. Such maps and their creators are the best kinds of guides.

Sandy Stott is a Brunswick resident, chairperson of the town’s Conservation Commission, and a member of Brunswick Topsham Land Trust’s Board of Directors. He writes for a variety of publications. He may be reached at

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