Although I’d already received a few proofs of my first book, it was still a big thrill to hold the final and finished copy in my hands. I was immediately struck by the enormity of the accomplishment, of how this apparently diminutive thing represents the culmination of several years of work that involved seeing, thinking, and feeling to the degree that would allow others in to the process. What I was holding in my hands wasn’t just a collection of bound pages with a pretty cover but a testament to perseverance and a need to share a part of myself in a more lasting way.
I’d be less than honest, though, with both myself and anyone who chooses to buy the book if I said that it didn’t allow me to prove something to myself. It did. Those who know me know that I don’t come from a privileged background but rather from people who worked in the mills and for whom putting food on the table was a big accomplishment and something to be proud of, which it certainly was. My parents had both gotten very little education due to reasons that will forever remain a mystery to me. But like most underprivileged parents of that time, they hoped for more for me. And despite the many detours I’ve taken along the journey of my own life, I never lost sight of that fact nor did I ever stop feeling the pull toward some sort of accomplishment that would have made them both so proud.
That’s what this book symbolizes to me. As I’ve gone through it, revisiting the times that inspired the words that line its pages, going back to where I was when inspiration washed over me, I realize that, aside from trying to perpetuate my great love of nature and bringing it to readers in a different form, it has a much simpler and more organic meaning for me: it’s the fulfillment of a life’s dream, one that grew from two people’s desire to see their child do better than they had. Somewhere along the way, along the timeline of a young girl who had been given no reason to believe that she could author her own life, words happened. Words…something she could work with, manipulate, order, get to do her bidding, and shape her life.
I remember walking home from the park with my mother one summer afternoon and coming upon a pile of rubbish that someone had deposited on the side of the street to be picked up by the trash collector. On top of heap sat a single book with dark blue binding and many pages. I was just 5 years old and not yet in school, but I picked the book up and riffled through it, wishing I could read the lines on those pages. That was 61 years ago, and I’ve held many other books since then that captured my imagination and took me to new places.
Now I hold in my hands a book that I wrote myself. My circle is complete.
From the Urban Wilderness: Life in the Southern Maine Woods