The Star-Herald

Wonders of the woods

I love being in the woods. This is something I have just recently discovered, by the way. 

As a child, exploring the wooded area surrounding my grandmother’s home, I took every tree, wildflower, and small forest creature for granted.

As I grew older, I allowed life’s other fascinations to monopolize my time.  I did not fathom ever eating foods cooked in a cast iron pan over an open flame, nor did I imagine what it would be like to drink boiling hot, Hercules-strong coffee from a tin cup.  I had never heard the symphony of absolute silence or inhaled the intense and sweet air that glides through the trees, tickling my breath and my soul.

On this particular day, we headed to Fish River Falls, an area deep in the northern Maine woods. There were five of us — my love, his two brothers, his sister-in-law and me. I adore these people and I could not have been in better company. Our goal was to find a specific and most beloved fishing spot the three brothers recalled from childhood, as well as a campsite to grill burgers and partake of the various goodies we had packed neatly into Coleman coolers and insulated totes. We gathered up a bounty of photographs while on this journey, as the foliage itself was a treasure trove.

After being quite unsuccessful in locating the desired area, we headed to a picnic spot we were familiar with and unpacked our food, cooking utensils, chairs, wood for our campfire, drinks and tablecloth. I was in need of using the outdoor facilities, so I excused myself, assuring everyone I would be right back.  The scarlet forest floor beneath my feet was a “red carpet” of sorts as I made my grand entrance onto the well worn path; heading toward the tiny building that housed the bathroom.  After removing the rather large rock holding the entrance door closed, I stepped inside.

She did not see me at first, and for some reason, I did not immediately recognize just what it was there before me; hanging upside down.  Tiny pink feet clung to the back wall of the facility and her snowy white belly was only partly visible and in sharp contrast to her dove gray coloring. I, of course, did what is expected: I screamed.  Mini versions of Momma Mouse appeared everywhere as shredded bits of tissue paper scattered all around me — remnants of little nests that were no doubt very meticulously constructed for Momma Mouse’s curious babies.  I backed out slowly, realizing the structure and its contents no longer belonged to picnickers or overnight campers. No, this was clearly now the property of a doting mother and her little ones.

I returned to my companions, anxious to share my adventure with them. Our laughter wove through the trees, wrapping itself around the bronze and magenta leaves that swayed above us.

This collection of essays I call Northern Yarns is in fact a narration of my life as I see it; a life brimming with lessons I have learned: everything from a cancer diagnosis to the discovery of a mother mouse seeking refuge for her young. I firmly believe in taking a big bite out of life, be it sweet or sour, and it is my honor to share these moments with you. I hope my words bring a smile, a nod of agreement, a tear, or the recurrence of a cherished memory. 

Let us all remember to be kind to ourselves and to each other.

Belinda Ouellette lives in Caribou with her Goldendoodle, Barney.  You may email her at

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