Maine Woods National ParkMaine Woods National Park Photo-Documentation Project
Preserving Wildlife in Maine's Great North Woods

The Loon Calls

Throughout the night, I anxiously await the appearance of the Milky Way and hopefully, the Aurora Borealis as the crescent moon sets over the mountains to the west. The new morning in this glorious wilderness allows me to feel as though I am the only human on the planet, for the peace and serenity is surreal and welcoming. This land and water are strikingly beautiful and I am incredibly lucky and humbled to experience it in all its singular glory and solitude.

There is a muted simplicity to the forest, river, and heavens, but I would be foolish not to recognize their complexity that is beyond man’s wisdom. I dare not attempt to interpret nature for fear of embarrassing myself. Unlike man’s cities, this ecological system appears to work in unison with the universe. I can only wish to be part of it for eternity.

Last night was cold with temperatures dipping to near 20 degrees Fahrenheit as I slept near the shoreline of Indian Pond. The night air was still with trillions of stars adorning the black velvet sky. Throughout the night I was serenaded by the chorus of black ducks, Canada geese, gulls and great horned owls. The highlight of the evening was the common loons whose vocalizations may be unmatched in Maine’s northern forest. They are the angels of the forest, singing free and aloud in their cathedral without inhibitions.

It has been an incredible 3-day journey into Maine’s dark and mysterious northern forest; an inspiring foray. I do not ever recall in my lifetime seeing such an abundance and array of wildlife in such a short period of time anywhere outside of Yellowstone National Park.  More than 28 species of wildlife including bear, weasel, owl, moose, loons, eagles, and spruce grouse, honored me with their presence; astounding! This three-day experience has strengthened my resolve to help preserve and protect this forest and its denizens forever.

On the third day I search for the black bear who has taunted me these past few days with its presence. I do not locate him. Although the wildlife is abundant, I am frustrated by the lack of photographic opportunities. The wild creatures are elusive. This further underscores the necessity to create the Maine Woods National Park. Animals that are protected in a national park do not flee for their lives upon encountering a human. They are much more relaxed because a national park provides them a peaceful world in which to live, thereby creating more opportunities for humans to observe, and appreciate them in their environment. I am filled with emotion with the thought that the bear I have been observing these past few days will most likely be dead in 6 months at the hands of man. Sadly, this circumstance has already become reality for me once during this project. In 2009 while I was observing a black bear, anxiously waiting to capture a photograph of it, a hunter, unbeknownst to me, was also observing it. Unfortunately he got his shot of the animal with his gun before I obtained a shot with my camera.

The observations I make of our natural world are not based on scientific data. I am a layman, simply observing nature and absorbing the sustenance it provides. As a free thinking non-thinker, I tend not to over-analyze what I do and why I do it. But I will say to you, the natural world puts me in touch with myself. For that I am indebted. My desire is that all mankind can witness nature’s gifts and the energy they provide the human spirit. 

This project provides me a unique opportunity to spend considerable time in this vast ecosystem. The experience reinforces to me that we cannot afford not to care for ourselves AND we cannot afford not to care for our earth. We deserve a healthy planet and mankind’s healthy future depends on it. We simply cannot afford not to preserve and protect our environment. We are all in this together. Remember that we, too, are a species. My hope is that through words and photographs you see and experience just how closely we live to wildlife; we really live along side of them. If they are suffering and we know they are from all the reports, statistics and studies that are done, then we are suffering too. So, we need to stop being so selfish……….please stop milking the earth. Please stop celebrating our earth annually on Earth Day and start celebrating our earth 365 days a year.

The photographs and words highlighted on this website and ultimately displayed in a traveling art exhibit, speaking tour, and book chronicle a time that could easily be altered and forgotten by future generations. Nature provides us the magnificence of life, which I am compelled to keep from being destroyed. The Maine Woods National Park Photo-Documentation Project is a pathway for preservation. My hope is that Maine’s north woods be conserved as a national park and never destroyed or altered again by the hands of man. I embrace this project with all of my desires. It is a calling for me to protect this ecosystem if ONLY for the purpose of providing a peaceful home for my neighbors---the exquisite wildlife.

Thomas Mark Szelog



Do you want to continue hearing the loon's call?

Reflecting on the passage above I am overwhelmed by the depth of Tom's conviction, especially with his belief that the best way to preserve Maine's north woods is through a national park. This comes from a man who, if you haven't determined already, thinks in an unconventional manner and has done so his entire life. As you read, he is a self proclaimed free-thinking, non-thinker. After living with him for over 22 years, I'm still trying to determine exactly what that means, but I do know two things; Tom has never had a high regard for politics and government and he is truly a visionary. Self-taught in many aspects of his life, his passion for reading, learning, growing and thinking independently has allowed him to realize that our lives are only as good as the contributions we make for the betterment of our earth. Tom recognizes the federal government through the National Park Service is best equipped with the resources and experience to preserve Maine's north woods.

To this end, The Maine Woods National Park Photo-Documentation Project is not about politics or government, and this is what makes the Project truly unique. Yes, the Project believes the National Park Service is the best equipped agency to undertake such endeavor, but what this project is really about…….what gets at the heart of this project and the betterment of our earth can be summarized in one word; LIFE. The proposed area of the Maine Woods National Park is a treasured ecosystem, with varied and abundant wildlife. We simply want to help maintain life in this ecosystem by educating and showcasing the area through our words and photographs to rally people to support the development of a national park. We want to continue to hear the loon's call; do you? Simply put, creating the Maine Woods National Park is about preserving life in Maine's great north woods. Can preserving life be bad for Maine, our country, our earth? As Tom mentions in The Loon Calls, we need to stop being so selfish……….please stop milking the earth. Please stop celebrating our earth annually on Earth Day and start celebrating our earth 365 days a year.

Lee Ann Szelog

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