The beautiful Bethel Community Forest
The beautiful Bethel Community Forest

Forming Connections, at a Distance

When I found out I was accepted into an internship involving land stewardship in one of Maine’s most beautiful regions, I was elated! I remember when Mahoosuc Pathways Executive Director Gabriel Perkins called to offer me the job… “Hana? Are you there?” “Y-YES I ACCEPT! Sorry, I’m just in shock!”

Flash forward a few months and imagine that same shocked Hana, but now she’s also worried. With COVID-19 suddenly everything was on the table again – what was this summer going to look like for me?

Thankfully everyone at Mahoosuc Pathways and Mahoosuc Land Trust were committed to ensuring a safe and productive environment for me to work in for the summer. Although the work agenda shifted (from a people-oriented job to a more socially distanced one), they were all still willing to work with me and focus on providing me with a worthwhile internship experience, which I am incredibly grateful for.

My first two weeks of quarantine in Rumford, Maine were a breeze. As it turns out, the digital world is an ever-evolving and increasingly necessary means of connecting with others in our communities – especially today. I was able to easily work from home, spending time as a social media guru, a grant researcher, an ArcGIS StoryMap maker, and a pro nap-taker (staring at a screen all day is exhausting!). Luckily my host family left me with their gentle dog and cuddly cat for company.

But when my quarantine ended you’d better believe I was put straight to work! At Mahoosuc Land Trust I was paired with the incredibly intelligent, driven, and imaginative development director, Barbara Murphy, assisting with the Pollinator Garden at Valentine Farm Conservation Center in Bethel, Maine.

I have never felt more inspired than I have been working with Barbara, her husband Mike, and the dedicated volunteers I’ve met at the garden. Even though I came in with zero gardening experience, they welcomed me with open arms (6 feet apart) and a trowel! I think I’ve upped my rank from novice to mediocre plant transplanter! I’ve already learned so much about pollinators in just a short amount of time. I invite everyone to join my journey of learning by following the Valentine Farm Conservation Center Facebook page

A pollinator garden where Hana has been putting in some time

The other half of my time is spent outside building trails with Mahoosuc Pathways. Let me tell you: I will never look at a trail the same way again! The amount of effort, sweat, and aching muscles that go into these trails is incalculable, and so are the laughs, memories, and conversations had with my coworkers Sarah, Zac, and previous MCHT intern Jake. Working outdoors in a forest surrounded by seemingly endless mountains is a gift of its own, but being able to work alongside great people makes any job brighter. Not to mention the views!

Being able to call the Mahoosuc region my home for the summer has been rewarding in itself, but this internship has taught me more than I could ever hope for. During a period of struggle for many, it can be easy to feel discouraged and lonely, but this experience has shown me that there are endless ways to get involved and keep your head up, even from a distance. It is nature that I know I can always turn to for moments of solace, even in troublesome times.

Hana enjoying the view from Rumford Whitecap Mountain

Open your front door, take a step outside, close your eyes, and breathe. Listen to the birds sing in the morning, and the frogs and crickets chirping at night. Life, even in its tiniest teeniest forms, is all around us. We must all depend on each other to keep the world in balance, so why not get to know each other a bit better? Rather than meeting up with friends, visit a quiet garden and look closely. There’s an entire ecosystem right under your nose!

Hana Palazzo was one of nine 2020 Maine Coast Heritage Trust Conservation Interns. Hana worked for Mahoosuc Pathways and Mahoosuc Land Trust.

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