June 26 – July 2, 2020Vol. 22, No. 3

Settled in the Wild

by Martha F. Barkley

As we were doing the laundry in Thomaston, I had to escape the hot building for the breezes on Main Street to discover and enter The Personal Book Shop, "Where Art & Spirit Meet." Resident cat and owner welcomed me, and, of course, I bought a book, Settled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town, by Susan Hand Shetterly. This was way back in 2010. (Editor's Note: The Personal Book Shop has since closed.)

Much to my surprise, I found the very same title in our Belgrade Public Library in May 2019 and quickly checked it out. Rereading the author's immersion in the out of doors helped me to adjust to my summer home on the lake after a long winter away. It always seems so quiet here. Susan Hand Shetterly notes the same stillness around her coastal home near the mudflats and marshes in Prospect Harbor and Surry.

The cricket bites caught my attention upon first reading her book telling of experiences with her children. Yes, a finger was bleeding: first the child's and then the unbelieving parent's finger.

When I perused this little book a second time years later, I was caught up in her descriptions of birding and fishing:

Distracted by the song of a veery, my neighbor Hugh turned away to listen to the fullthroated music coming through the trees: a bar of downward-slanting, burry notes that ended down again. A rhapsody of musical hills and valleys, of rises and dips. The song stopped him in his tracks.

Exactly, that is what I hear in the evenings, birdsong from the deep woods and near the horses grazing. So often I have tried to describe the veery song and failed. Shetterly has finally done it for me!

Often when I am barely awake and making coffee in the kitchen, I hear the fishermen's low murmurs on their boat by our rocky shoreline. I look out the big, dining room window and there they are once again. Got to catch that big one in our deep water every summer, here!

Shetterly writes about alewives that used to grow over a foot long in a fast stream near her home:

Ospreys coast back and forth…One draws its wings in, tilts, and drops. It rakes its talons into the water with a quick punch. Then the bird lifts, hovering as it adjusts the thrashing slick body of a fish…

Birding and fishing like here at the lake. This writer helps me to attune myself once more to the beauty surrounding our summer home in the Belgrades.

I agree with Lynne Cox's blurb on the back cover:

What a beautiful little book. It reads like you're listening to water flowing over stones. Shetterly writes with great detail and understanding, and you feel immersed in her world.

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