Nothing happens here

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(Host) Ask commentator Willem Lange what’s happening, and he’ll reply, “Nothin’! That’s why I live here.”

(Lange) The afternoon seems hot – carrying lumber from the truck to the job brings out blotches of sweat on a green t-shirt. But it lacks that oppressive, sauna-like humidity of July. As the sun drops toward the trees, the ambient air reveals itself in a slight chill at the wet spots on the t-shirt.

It’s quiet! The summer folks are gone. The kids are in school; you can hear them hollering on distant playing fields. Out here, only the squirrels and crows seem really busy. The rest of us are sort of hypoed down, enjoying the ideal temperatures, no mosquitoes, and the prospect of the autumn rains.

An excited television reporter, floating weightless in the hyperbole unique to his medium, warns us of a violent hurricane far out to sea. Not a sheet of plywood or a flashlight battery anywhere from Miami to Savannah, he says. I look out at the gently tossing maples, consider the large, high-pressure system to our west, and reflect that so often in northern New England everything seems to be happening somewhere else.

I can remember two earthquakes. Both times I thought there was something wrong with either the furnace or my digestive tract. Floods, tornadoes, droughts, heat waves, and cold snaps – we’ve had ’em all. But nature here seems muted, like the leaves of a red oak in fall.

On the other hand, New England residential habits and zoning laws embody at least a modicum of common sense. When I see pictures of Miami Beach, my skin crawls – all those high-rise, glass-fronted hotels and condominiums built on sand and porous limestone just a few yards from the ocean! And the expensive homes built in the brushy hills of California; interstate overpasses crossing active fault zones; and huge subdivisions, with their water and sewage systems, built a few feet above a rising sea level. Nothing like that here.

But being ready has a lot to do with it, too. On the rare occasions when a big storm does approach, we fill the bathtub. That lasts us a couple of days. I sharpen the chain saw. We fill the gas tanks of the vehicles. There’s a plastic tarp in the garage for covering a hole in the roof. There are candles, lamps, a Coleman lantern, and several cords of wood in the cellar. There’s a grudging resolve to get along without toaster, electric range, microwave, and computer for the duration.

But most of all, there’s a peaceful acceptance of the fact that, if we can’t get out, nobody will expect us to. Some of our happiest days are when we we’re snowbound: a gift of time free of obligations. We dig out the candles and sleeping bags, the roof rake and snow shovel, the cell phone and Primus stove; and enjoy life at a simpler level – reflecting that the exciting stuff always seems to happen someplace else.

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.

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