Garden of Eden

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(HOST) Commentator Willem Lange often feels he’s living in the Garden of Eden. But then he remembers what happened there.

(LANGE) It’s a habit I picked up as a young man. I step outside just before bedtime to see if the planets are visible and roughly where they ought to be.

People from the city find the silence of our woods ominous: none of the background hum of millions of people. They’re often deaf to the romantic serenades of our non-human neighbors. The pond is alive with peepers. One of the garden pools harbors a green frog, ugly as a troll, who utters an occasional, loud “Gung!” The woods vibrate with the trills of invisible toads. And down in the swamp, two owls ask each other, “Who cooks for you?”

Next morning, the birds are at it – robins and blue jays, a quarrel- some set of neighbors. A hermit thrush, too, an ovenbird and our perennial phoebes.

I talked recently to a state forester, who said New England’s woods, in spite of acid rain and toxic metals, are in good shape. I was delighted to hear it because I worry a lot about my trees. Why did that white birch die over the winter? Does that red oak look peaked? What’ll happen if the woolly adelgid gets into our hemlocks?

Far above the trees, we have more raptors and scavengers every year. When the sun warms the morning air, hawks and turkey vultures hang up there, looking for goundhogs and road kill. Last week, an eagle soared over the shopping center at the junction of the interstates. Great updrafts there from the hot asphalt, but pretty slim pickings in the carrion department.

Wild turkeys are roaming the woods again. Right now, in the mating season, they’re a little disorienteded and likely to fly across the hood of your car when you least expect it. The fiddle- heads are gone by and leafing out. There’s a bumper crop of Indian poke carpeting the swamp bottom and, a little higher up, a great patch of wild leeks. Raw leeks make you unfit for human company; poke are toxic.

There’s so much going on here! Fish jumping; partridge drumming; deer nursing their fawns. It’s hard to believe that, if you turn on the news channel, you’ll find the rest of the world on the verge of cat- astrophe. It’s hard not to wonder why. But I have an idea.

An old friend used to cite the sugar maple as the perfect creation and the ideal citizen. It takes from the earth only what it needs and provides us sweetness, shade and lumber. It shelters its children and makes them stretch tall and strong toward the light. Dying, it gives its body to feed the next generation.

Our human folly, since the Garden of Eden, has been to want more than that, and to give less. It’s at once our genius and our ultimate confusion.

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

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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