Settled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town
Susan Hand Shetterly
In writing about a displaced garter snake, witnessing the paving of a beloved dirt road, trapping a cricket with her young son, rescuing a fledgling raven, or the town's joy at the return of the alewife migration, Shetterly issues warnings even as she pays tribute to the resilience that abounds.
Like the works of Annie Dillard and Aldo Leopold, Settled in the Wild takes a magnifying glass to the wildness that surrounds us. With keen perception and wit, Shetterly offers us an education in nature, one that should inspire us to preserve it.
the better for it. Not only you and me, but others. I am thinking of the body of a young hen turkey lying up the hill on the snow on my land. She was killed two nights ago, taken, perhaps, by an owl or a fisher while she was roosting in a spruce by the road. Her head and neck are gone. The yellow corn she ate at my feeder spills from her torn gizzard—gold on the snow. Her breast is flensed and red, and her feathers lie in a dark wreath around her. She is food in the hungriest time of year.
we listened to the felling of trees, the blasting of bedrock, the trucking in and trucking out, the building up and smoothing down. And the paving over. Every day, except on weekends, we could hear just what part of the road we were losing. When it was done, it was smooth, with perfectly even shoulders and ditches and culverts to carry away rainwater. The selectman saved the tree that Hugh had hugged. There it stood in all its shaggy out-of-place majesty, leaning over the brand-new surface. He
likely not been killed by this hawk but had died of other causes. It lay on its breast. The hawk had pierced the left shoulder and was picking its way to the heart and lungs. I walked over to the bird, looked at it, and walked back to report. “It seems okay,” I said. “It’s hungry. Young hawks sometimes have trouble finding enough food.” “I think its wing is injured,” the woman with the child said. “When I walked over this morning one of its wings hung down.” “I think it’s mantling,” I told
island with a razorback line of trees that is empty of people. A destination to dream about. The island is an untamed renegade. We count on it to remind us of the same in ourselves. On ledges just beyond the island, seals loll at the end of summer, their huge eyes taking in the comings and goings around the harbor of East Blue Hill. They lie on the rough rocks with their rear flippers raised, their heads raised, a gathering of disembodied smiles. This past summer on one of the island’s little
But my mother was slipping away, all of that particular and dramatic brightness gone. Instead, she was soft and loving to this child who loved her back fiercely. She was the same to my daughter, who was born when she was even sicker, and on whom she doted, as if this girl would carry into the future something of the person she had been and the person she had wanted to become. Once, when she was visiting and much weaker than before, I came back from weeding the garden and found her emerging with