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'Love letters to Maine' spell out fifth graders' devotion to Pine Tree State

Feb 12, 2021
Courtesy of: Kathleen Gass Fifth graders at Capt. Albert Stevens School, from left, front: Claralily Goguen, Kristina Humphry; rear: Miles Flemming, Lucy Engstrom, Gabriella Gardner, Silas Ociepka. Not pictured is Luciana Birocco. All are in Extended Learning Program teacher Kathleen Gass's literature and social studies study group.

Belfast — At the request of Kathleen Gass, who teaches fourth and fifth graders in the Regional School Unit 71 Extended Learning Program, we are publishing "Love Letters to Maine" written by some of Gass's fifth graders at Capt. Albert Stevens School.

The students are in the Extended Learning Program's literature and social studies study group. "In this independent project," Gass wrote to The Republican Journal, "students were asked to think about what they appreciate most about their home state and to write a love letter to Maine."

We present these love letters in honor of Valentine's Day.

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Dear Maine,

What I love about you is…

Your low population, giving less traffic and the less crowded public areas. I also love your nature and beauty and trails. My favorite trail is the Belfast Rail Trail i n Waldo County. This is a 2.3-mile trail starting at an old railroad and moves along the Penobscot Bay leading into town. I love nature, my favorite animal that lives here are goats.

I also love the open-mindedness of the people who live in you. There are a lot of opinions and tolerance. Probably, my favorite thing about you is your local attributes and stores that provide fresh and yummy produce.

Two of my best friends own farms!

— Silas Ociepka

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Dear Maine,

I love the way your beaches look in the summer, how the water chases the shoreline, and how the air smells, salty and fresh. It feels magical, like a fairy tale world in reality. I like how, no matter what season it is, whatever the weather, you can always feel otherworldly.

It can be a cloudy day, but the smell of the rain makes me feel curious. It can be a hot, muggy day, but the blue sky makes memories flood back to me. You can feel modern and rustic, mysterious and beautiful, hot and cold, a place of change, diversity and curiosity.

You have beaches and forests. Your forests echo with the sound of sweet bird songs and your beaches look like they came straight out of "One Morning in Maine" (they did!).

I wrote this letter to you because you can stand in one forest and feel gloomy, but stand in another and burst with happiness. You have many forests and beaches, but none are the same. Your environment nurtures the people and animals who live here, so all I want to say is thank you, for all the gifts you’ve given me.

— Kristina B. Humphry

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Dear Maine,

You are a splendid place to live because you have so many things to love. You offer four seasons, land, trees, fish, other animals, water, sunrises and islands are only a fraction of what you deliver to your population. If I could study anything, I would choose art, (sculpting with clay mostly) history, geography and animals. They all tie together in a way, especially when it comes to you. Your sights that inspire art. You have a history of people, species, civilization and so much more. You offer animals. You have so much, and are so much. Someday everything I do will be for you and the things you offer and give to everyone.

The thing I like most about you is that you are so wild, a tangle of trees, food webs and water everywhere. On your shining coast in summer the sand warms and your harbors are refreshing. Your lakes and ponds are abundant with fish, and there are so many species. One of my favorites is the shimmery white perch. They are so pretty, and they are native to you. They are small and live longer than many fish someone would have in a tropical fish tank.

Another thing that is nice about you is that in the town that I live in, Belfast, the people protest peacefully (usually), and do not cause violence when lacking something they want. The happy days you give are beautiful and full of purpose.

You are the most wonderful place I’ve ever been, even though I have been on some pretty great vacations. But, I like you more than Florida because you have snow. I like you more than Martha’s Vineyard because you are large, but small when I think about all of the people and their local businesses, and that makes you big again, because your people make big differences. And when your pine trees smell so nice, and the gladness of the rippling water echoes in my head, there are no better places in the world.

— Lucy B. Engstrom

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Dear Maine,

What I like about you is the "Land for Sale" sign that I see near the car (not foot) bridge for the Passie (Passagassawakeag). What I like about you is the elephant on top of the Colonial Theatre, and how, during these tough times, you managed to be funny, and give it a mask. Dear Maine, what I like about you is the fact that, no matter what, you will always be my home.

— Claralily Goguen

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Dear Maine,

I love living here because of the low population. Take Florida, for example. In 2019 they had 21 million people. But Maine only had 1 million. I love that I can just go walking on the beach with my family and my dog playing in the water alone. That makes me feel so free. The thing I love most is all of your beautiful nature and animals.

For example, you are known as the Pine Tree State for a reason. You have the record for most pine trees in one state. Your trails are exquisite. They are full of fun and adventure. Nothing can top that. You are home to a variety of animals, from the biggest whitetail deer to the littlest eastern gray squirrel, and everything in between.

But my favorite is the loon. I love the way they call each other. It sends shivers down my spine in a way that makes me wonder what it is saying and who it is to. Family, friends? And the way they dive deep into the water to get crawfish and fresh or saltwater fish. All that is possible because you do not have buildings and cities all over the place.

You are like a wide open plain full of endless possibilities. If I was hunting for a job I could find one here. Even though you are small you are mighty. Even though you are quiet you have a voice.

— Luciana Birocco

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Dear Maine,

Here is what I like about you, I like your beaches, your lakes and your ocean. I like jumping off the rock at Fernald’s Neck. I like the fact that most of the people that live in you have environmental awareness. I like that you have forests, trees and wildlife. I like that you contain friends and family. I like your snow and seasons.

I like that you have very few big box stores, good schools and small towns. I like the fact that your temperatures are not too hot, even in the summer, and that they aren't too cold even in the winter. I like that you aren't too wet and you aren't too dry. I like that your populations aren’t too big, but they aren’t too small. I like that you aren’t enormous, but you aren’t small. That's what I like about you, Maine.

— Miles Flemming

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Dear Maine,

I love your pine trees. They smell like a tight hug. In the spring, they’re as green as a frog. In the fall they’re orange with a hint of brown, like wood, And in the winter they’re white as paper; sometimes fluffy white, sometimes smooth white and sometimes bumpy white. Your trees can look so many different ways.

Your trees are so beloved that your state nickname is The Pine Tree State! There’s even a pine tree on our flag. Your flag. You’re on the top of the United States because you are number one! If you ever feel like you are just a tiny little state, remember that you are very, very, very important. Without you, there would be an empty space where you are. Imagine the shape of the United States without Maine! You are the finishing touch.

— Gabriella Gardner

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