Amy Melissa Niemczura was born, raised, and probably will be buried in the state of Maine (though she does not have any control over that!). She spent the first eleven years of her life in central Maine, in an old farm house on eighty acres of land. The property included prize-winning blackberries, a sledding hill, a beaver pond, and a porcupine tree. Then her family moved to the coast, “Downeast” as it is called. She spent her adolescence partially immersed in school, reading every book and writing every essay ever assigned to her and befriending other girls who shared her ambition, and partially immersed in her older sister’s friends, who would convince her to go fiddlehead picking without telling her parents or hang out at their apartments or otherwise be a part of their lives a little wilder than her own. After she graduated from high school, she planned to spend the rest of her life anywhere but rural Maine.
She escaped to college on the West coast of New England in Burlington, Vermont. Expecting to major in English, she started taking outdoorsy classes with labs in the forest, fields, and streams of Vermont. She abandoned the humanities for natural resources, then natural resources for farming (at nineteen, very fickle). Thanks to a friend from botany class, she discovered the student-run vegetable farm. She fell in love with eating melons in the field, smelling tomato leaves on her hands, and leaving apples outside dorm rooms with a note that said “love, the apple fairy”. She cooked apple sauce in the dorm kitchen, and the smell would waft through the building. She drank raw milk out of gallon glass bottles. She decided to be the goddess of abundance a couple years in a row for Halloween.
Upon graduating, she delved into farm-based education. She led raspberry-picking expeditions and chicken-holding lessons. Under her guidance, the children tried pesto, kale smoothies, kohl rabi, and other exotic things grown within driving distance of home. At one job, she worked with wealthy suburban kids who claimed they did not have trees to climb in their backyard. That world felt like a very strange version of the universe indeed.
As much as she enjoyed farm-based education, she found it sporadically-funded and seasonal. She ached for maine, and she wanted to move back. First, she fulfilled her lifelong goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail, southbound, alone. As lonely and hard as her thru-hike felt at the time, now she saw her thru-hike as the easy part. She could follow a map with an elevation profile that told her which parts would be long steep climbs and which parts would be flat where she could make decent time. She only wished that she had that much guidance for the rest of her life!
After her thru-hike, she accepted a job that provided benefits and a wage considered high-paying. Yet she could not see herself there for the long-term. She left that job, and returned to the AT. She planned to hike the AT in Connecticut and Massachusetts again, and then complete the Long Trail in Vermont. However, hiking northbound on the AT, she discovered the social northbound experience that she had only glimpsed from a distance.
The northbound thru-hikers accepted her as one of their own. They would sometimes hear of her before she met them: that girl in an orange hunting hat, with a laugh so loud and intense that she backs up. They knew her long enough to use her trail name, “Whoopie Pie”. No one had really known her that long the previous year. They would talk over campfires, and laugh, and discuss their previous lives as if they were talking more of dear friends than themselves. At the junction of the Long Trail and the AT, she decided to stay on the AT and hike home to Maine, the land of swimming in ponds and the ocean, of backyard gardens and kayaks on every truck. In Maine, everything she loves exists in one place.
When she is not working, she is fiddling in the dirt, or climbing something that she has climbed hundreds of times or something she has never climbed before, or she is sprawled on a beach or a dock, or yes, she is staring at a computer screen or notepad trying to figure out how to say something, or how to say something a little bit better than the first time.