Find out more about Islandport Magazine

A Life Lived Outdoors

Reflections of a Maine Sportsman

Softcover, 216 pages, Nonfiction, Outdoors

ISBN: 978-1-934031-59-9

Availability: In stock

$16.95

Available as an e-book in these formats:

Amazon Kindle

Barnes & Noble Nook

Apple iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch

About this Book:

From laugh-out-loud funny to deeply poignant, A Life Lived Outdoors 
presents a collection of hand-picked essays by George Smith, one of Maine’s favorite outdoor writers, 
exploring the way life should be, could be, and sometimes is in the great state of Maine. He set aside 
the political columns for those about home and camp, family and friends, life in rural Maine, hunting and 
fishing, and other outdoor fun. There’s something for everyone in this collection that celebrates 
approaching life with humility and humor, as well as a passion for 
adventure.

Reviews
News

“If the best that is Maine runs deep within you be sure not to miss 'A Life Lived Outdoors' by George Smith.”
—V. Paul Reynolds, Sun Journal

“….a celebration of the state we choose to call home.”
—John Holyoke, Bangor Daily News

"In every selection, Smith's crisp language is devoid of frills, making for a simple-but-elegant exploration of both state and self. 'No one should doubt the richness of Maine life,' Smith writes. This collection affirms it many times over." 
—Caroline Praderio, Down East Magazine 

"From hunting and fishing to watching nature, this pairs philosophical with sports and outdoors insights; all packaged in a lively read accessible to any outdoors sports enthusiast ..."
—Midwest Book Review 

"Whether you're hiking or tracking, hunting for game or good outdoor dining, Smith's book has a spot for you to explore this summer."
Timothy Gillis, Dispatch Magazine

ALS Inspires Reflection

ALS Inspires Reflection

By George Smith

The Essay: ALS Inspires Reflection first appeared in Islandport Magazine, Spring 2018.

When neurologist Dr. Stephanie Lash first diagnosed me with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, more than a year ago, she started me on a mental journey that has taken me both forward and backward through my life. 

On the ride home from Rockport the day she told me, I decided the diagnosis would not define the end years of my life—realizing that I have been blessed with a wonderful life, with a wonderful wife and family, great friends, and interesting and rewarding work. Sure, I would have loved more healthy years, but that was not to be. I will increasingly need help doing everyday things.

ALS, sometimes known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a specific disease which causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles, causing muscles to weaken and making it progressively difficult  to control those muscles to accomplish even basic actions such as speaking, swallowing, and breathing. There is no known cure for ALS or medicine to halt its progression.

Even as I research ALS issues, and diligently plan for whatever lies ahead, I am taking a rewarding trip back through life’s memories.

I had a terrific childhood. Growing up in the small Maine town of Winthrop, with wonderful parents, siblings, and friends, was a blessing. We had a real downtown with many stores featuring the owners’ names on them and those owners were in the stores—including Wilson’s Dollar Store where my dad worked. You could find everything you needed, right there in Winthrop.

I was just four years old when I started walking the mile to school, with friends, right through a busy intersection, across active railroad tracks, and through the downtown. We were very safe—everyone knew us. On weekends my friends and I rode our bikes, often with fishing rods in hand, or hiked in the woods. No one worried about us as long as we made it home for supper.

By the age of twelve, I worked three jobs—mowing lawns, selling my 4-H vegetables, and working at Wilson’s, where my favorite job was roasting the peanuts and cashews. I’m not sure the owner ever realized I was eating all the profits!

After graduating from the University of Maine in Orono, I worked for two years at a Maine bank before diving into politics. My first job was as Bill Cohen’s driver and aide during his first congressional campaign.

After Bill’s campaign ended, I sold real estate in Winthrop for two years, and in the second year, also managed Dave Emery’s first congressional campaign. We astonished everyone, including me, by upsetting the incumbent congressman. I worked for Dave for the next eight years, traveling back and forth between Maine and Washington, D.C.

I loved my job, but in 1982 Dave decided to run for Senate and lost to George Mitchell. That loss was another turning point for me, as I immediately incorporated my own business, Mainely Marketing Inc. We took on interesting projects, from helping rural Maine towns create comprehensive plans to working on referendums and candidate campaigns. I developed an expertise in raising money, something I still enjoy doing today.

I also served in many public offices, from county commissioner to town councilor to selectman to planning board member. I still love local government.

Having served on the board of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM), including a stint as president in the 1980s, I contracted with SAM to help pull it out of a challenging time in 1991. I enjoyed that work so much that eventually I agreed to serve as the organization’s executive director and lobbyist, although I was never a SAM employee.
I signed annual contracts specifying the services I’d provide.

Throughout the eighteen years I worked for SAM, I occasionally took on other tasks. And I always worked from home, where I was most productive.

With my own business, I could structure work to spend time with my wife, Linda, a teacher, and our children, particularly in the summer when we traveled the country and spent time at our north woods camp. And, of course, I took every opportunity to hunt and fish, enjoying amazing fishing adventures in Quebec, Montana, and Alaska.

Seven years ago, I left SAM to write full time, another wonderful experience that included two books with Islandport Press. 

The most fun was writing a weekly travel column in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Traveling the state, finding and telling readers about our excellent inns, restaurants, and events, was a real privilege. 

We also wrote about our trips out of state, including to our favorite place, Greve, Italy, where we stayed in one of two apartments in a small family winery, Il Santa. We’ve now sent more than fifty people from Maine to stay there, and all have loved it. 

Since my ALS diagnosis, I’ve enjoyed writing columns about my life and the state I’m proud to call home. I’ve reached out to share this life-altering experience as it unfolds. The response to those columns has been amazing and inspiring, with people from Alaska to Italy sending messages.  

In addition to tackling obvious items of concern, from finances to medical care and insurance, I’ve refocused my life on the people and activities I value most—family and friends, especially. I suggested to readers if there is a lesson from that column it is this: Many of us clutter our lives with things that are not all that important. I sure did. And you are welcome to join me in assessing how to better spend your time, and perhaps focusing on the most important things in your life.

Many readers have told me they’d taken my advice, which pleases me.

I also connected with others experiencing ALS or similar illnesses, resulting in lots of helpful information and guidance. My brother and sister, my three kids, and many friends have stepped up to help with all kinds of things, from shoveling snow to taking me fishing (I can no longer tie on a fly or release a fish, having lost strength in my fingers). I also feel lucky to have a terrific medical team right here in Maine. 

I feel especially blessed to have grown up in a family of faith, where my mom, our church organist and choir director, centered our lives in the church. At this point in my life, that is a real strength. I still sing in the choir, thanks to Mom, who started me on that path when I was six years old.

There have been many things to do at home, from making it wheelchair-accessible, when I reach the point where I must use one, to getting rid of stuff. Of course, on day one of that project, Linda asked me, “Do you really need fourteen fly rods?”

Well, yes! Yes I do!

George A. Smith, a lifelong sportsman, is a former newspaper columnist, and author of several books, including A Life Lived Outdoors and Take it from ME. See his work at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

Author photo by Kevin Bennett.

Former Maine sportsmen's lobbyist Smith shows a gentler side

Former Maine sportsmen's lobbyist Smith shows a gentler side

George Smith's essay collection celebrates his heritage.

By Deirdre Fleming
Staff Writer

MOUNT VERNON — The small successes in a family yard sale, the fate of a rabbit seeking shelter in a woodpile and the fond familiarity of a broken window at a lake camp are some of the images in George Smith’s first book, “A Life Lived Outdoors.”It’s a book about what it means to make do in Maine, what a make-do kind of place looks like and how nature colors such a world. It’s about why we all need to spend time in a cabin, a tent or campground in some wild, quiet place to improve “our quality of life and mental health.”

Those who know George Smith’s public image as a long-time lobbyist for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine are probably wondering if this author is some other George Smith. But it’s not. Many in Maine’s outdoor community, certainly former veterans of the Maine Legislature, know Smith as the relentless, dogged lobbyist who fought for sportsmen through his 18 years as SAM’s executive director.

Smith is best known as the leader in the fight against the 2004 bear-hunting referendum, the ringleader behind the effort to open up Sunday hunting and for some former state fisheries biologists, the guy who criticized their work ad nauseam. When this newspaper did a profile on Smith in 2001 at the height of that career, he was depicted in an illustration as a legislative cowboy wearing a holster and spurs while riding one more big fish he had hooked. Smith loved the illustration by Portland Press Herald artist Michael Fisher so much, he had it framed and it has hung on his home office wall ever since. But today George, as he is known to many, is a birder. It’s true.

On trips now to Costa Rica and Texas with his wife, Linda, Smith is as much of a naturalist and conservationist as your National Audubon Society leader. But then he says he always was. “Sportsmen are environmentalists,” he said during breakfast in his favorite hometown cafe beside Minnehonk Lake. With his 13-year-old outdoor TV show, “Wildfire,” now sponsored by Maine Audubon, and a travel blog that brings to life the offbeat, amusing and down-home small-townness of Maine, Smith has shown his softer side in recent years.

When he retired from SAM three years ago, he started his travel blog and online outdoor journal, www.georgesmithmaine.com – and seemingly never looked back. Sure, he still speaks as a member of the public at legislative hearings concerning Maine’s natural resources. But much of Smith’s time now is focused on enjoying and celebrating those natural resources. And Maine’s traditions and heritage are at the heart of what is most important to Smith today.

With a mother who came from Lubec and a father raised on a farm in Wayne, Smith is as Maine as they come. He hunts on his own woodlot and extended that lot to 150 acres just to live on open land. He has hunted deer with his dad for 53 years and counting. Now Smith says that at 65 he understands even more clearly what it means to be from Maine. This book is his way of explaining that.

It is a collection of Smith’s columns culled from a 23-year career as a columnist for the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel. But this collection of essays left the political commentaries out and went with what Smith’s daughter, Hilary, calls his best-read work. Smith agreed. “I hate partisan politics,” he said. “It’s all about winning. I get it. I know how it works. But I wanted this to be about family, the outdoors, those parts of my life.”

Sen. Angus King, in the forward of Smith’s book, best described this collection of personal essays. “What struck me was the image implicit throughout the book of Maine as teacher – teacher of skills and useful knowledge, of character and patience, of life principles, but mostly, as teacher of values. ... “In the end, what the book made me realize is how much Maine has worked its way into each of us, defining who we are, how we see the world, and, most importantly, what we value.”

This article first appeared in the Portland Press Herald, February 23 2014

George Smith

About this Author

George A. Smith, author of A Life Lived Outdoors, is an outdoor writer, award-winning newspaper columnist, and television show host. The former executive director of the Sport

...

MORE

You May Like