Enough of Dying

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(HOST) In recent years, commentator Willem Lange has come to regard the month of November with a mixture of joy and regret.

(LANGE) The dog and I cast four shadows this morning as we headed out for the paper – two from the barn light behind us and two more from the last quarter of the moon. There was a bit of frost on the ferns. Fall has caught me once again with too much left to do in the time left to do it.

Do people living in Manhattan or Atlanta respond to the changes of daylight and temperature as intensely as we do here? Are their lives divided, like ours, into seasons of gardening, fishing, woodcutting, hunting, and snow-shoveling? Do they feel as strongly the effects of changes induced by the amount of daylight? They must; and yet the thousands of fans at football games and stock car races don’t seem at all troubled by the specters of unsplit wood and weedy gardens.

Some of our friends have retired to communities for the elderly, and seem to be quite happy. I must admit it might be nice not to mow the lawn every twelve hours during June, or get up the firewood before Memorial Day, or rake the roof after every snowfall. But it wouldn’t seem natural, after all these years. A friend of mine agrees with me. “Look at the way they lay out those places!” she says. “You start up at the top of the hill in independent living. Then you move down the hill, to assisted living. Then the infirmary, and when you’re done, they roll you into the river.”

There’s a certain logic to that. We use gravity out here in the bushes too, to move firewood, boulders, snow, and maple sap. I’ll keep at as long as I can.

I’ll be tooling across Vermont this week to hunting camp in the Adirondacks. I love the trip over the Green Mountains, the slow churn up the camp road in four-wheel drive; the first glint of the lights of camp through the bare trees; the familiar voices and faces. It’ll be a sad day when I’m no longer able to make that trip.

But I can feel a change coming on. I’m getting to where I don’t want to experience again that combination of triumph and regret that comes with killing for sport. My hunting partners would cheerfully point out that I haven’t experienced that in quite some time. This is just the first time I’ve dug it out of half-consciousness to consider frankly.

Still, in a few hours I’ll be taking my usual drive across Vermont with my rifle, and wool clothes. But I’ll take a couple of books and magazines, too, and if the weather at camp gives me the slightest excuse, I’ll read them. And it’s occurred to me that in a few months or years – years, I hope – there’ll be just one set of shadows going out for the paper before dawn. I wonder if the news will be any different by then. I doubt it.

I don’t know how you feel, but for me there’s been enough of dying.

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

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