A natural equilibrium

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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange lives between a swamp and the edge of the woods, and knows that whatever he does, someone is always watching.

(Lange) I knew better, but I forgot. Without thinking, I dropped a long two-by-eight on the deck at the front of the house. It made a very satisfactory boom. Seconds later, they came zooming through the cracks in the deck: the guardians of a papier-mache nest attached to a joist just below. One of them found me, and stitched a row of fire on my inner arm. I couldn’t get at them down there beneath the deck; so I worked gently for the rest of the day.

Just before noon, as I was hanging my apron in the garage door, I felt eyes upon me. I looked up, and three comically ugly heads of baby phoebes peeked over the edge of the nest in the boat shed. Her second batch this summer!

Working by myself out here in the swamp, I often feel alone…even a little lonesome sometimes. I needn’t. I am constantly surrounded and watched by dozens of other creatures who share this space with me, Mother, and the dog.

When we built this place, the native denizens — even the trees — seemed startled and shocked at the violent rupture in their previously unbroken state. The animals retreated before us and never appeared. You’d have thought the woods were barren.

While I was building, I left an opening where the front door would be. No sense ruining a door by banging into it with sheets of plywood. But in early fall, as Mother and I sat on sawhorses in the dining room, the first of the natives came back. A raccoon loped into the kitchen, grabbed a loaf of bread, and dragged it down the front hall. The door went in that afternoon.

That was seventeen years ago. Now the natives are returning. Where the sky was opened, infant oaks have sprung up. The hemlocks spread drooping arms where the winter birds hide. Out of nowhere a lovely black locust appeared beside our driveway. Deer move ghostlike through the edge of the woods.

Our house is under surveillance. The natives are learning our routines. The deer know the dog and I go down to get the newspaper at dawn. A doe is raising two fawns in the swamp. She knows the point of equilibrium between her and the dog: twenty feet beyond the flowers. She’s divined our nature and operations, and lives confidently just beyond our orbits.

A red fox steals over the dam and laps at the pond. Red squirrels chatter in the hemlocks. Hummingbirds like great dragonflies zoom through Mother’s flower garden. A pair of winter wrens is nesting in a yew tree at the corner of the house.

The sense of sharing this beautiful place is very strong. I know it can’t last, but for now it’s nearly perfect. If only the cursed moles hadn’t discovered my lawn!

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta get back to work.

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