Settled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town

Overview

Whether we live in cities, suburbs, or villages, we are encroaching on nature, and it in one way or another perseveres. Naturalist Susan Shetterly looks at how animals, humans, and plants share the land?observing her own neighborhood in rural Maine. She tells tales of the locals (humans, yes, but also snowshoe hares, raccoons, bobcats, turtles, salmon, ravens, hummingbirds, cormorants, sandpipers, and spring peepers). She expertly shows us how they all make their way in an ...

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Settled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town

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Overview

Whether we live in cities, suburbs, or villages, we are encroaching on nature, and it in one way or another perseveres. Naturalist Susan Shetterly looks at how animals, humans, and plants share the land—observing her own neighborhood in rural Maine. She tells tales of the locals (humans, yes, but also snowshoe hares, raccoons, bobcats, turtles, salmon, ravens, hummingbirds, cormorants, sandpipers, and spring peepers). She expertly shows us how they all make their way in an ever-changing habitat.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
"Voices like Susan Hand Shetterly's are soothing . . . Shetterly puts a hand on your forearm and says, come walk along the Maine coast. Let's consider other species, eels and hummingbirds." — Los Angeles Times
Dallas Morning News
"Voices like Susan Hand Shetterly's are soothing . . . Shetterly puts a hand on your forearm and says, come walk along the Maine coast. Let's consider other species, eels and hummingbirds." — Los Angeles Times
Boston Globe
"Shetterly shares her journey of hope, loss and discovery. Along the way, she is transformed by the calls of birds and the 'delicate pins-and-needles sounds' of ice crystals, by the aroma of rich soil, by the challenges and gifts of an unforgiving nature." —Dallas Morning News
Columbus Dispatch
"Shetterly provides a unique window into a world of wonder." —Boston Globe
From the Publisher
This is a delightful book about living in the woods, enjoying what's outside your window and finding pleasure in taking the time to notice the little things right in front of us." —Columbus Dispatch
Library Journal
In Settled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town Susan Hand Shetterly explores the various wilderness landscapes she has called home. After living for eight years in New York City, where she felt as if she always belonged somewhere else, her family moved a bit north, and Shetterly finally found her place—taking to the fields around her Connecticut home as if she had lived her whole life in Thoreau’s shadow. In Maine, newly married and with a young son, she lived an almost 19th-century life, with a subsistence garden, kerosene lamps, and an outhouse. Shetterly’s lyrical and meditative style seamlessly moves readers from one hushed state of observation to another. From the death of a buck to encounters with snakes, each essay is a small gem of nature writing.

(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly
“I live on land that has not surrendered the last of its wildness,” Shetterly (The New Year's Owl: Encounters with Animals, People and the Land They Share) writes of her home in rural Maine. “It keeps secrets, and those secrets prompt us to pay attention, to look for more.” In her first essay collection in more than 20 years, she beautifully renders some of what she's learned in the decades since she and her then husband moved into an unfinished cabin—“idealistic, dangerously unprepared, and, frankly, arrogant, she can see now.” Most of these essays, however, focus on life after she's settled in, when she's learned to listen for the sounds of the coming spring through her open bedroom window or impulsively stands down a bobcat that's chased a baby rabbit into the middle of the road. Shetterly's eye for poetic detail is exquisite, especially in longer essays such as the story of how she nursed an injured raven back to health, after which it set up home on her roof and became best friends with her terrier. But she writes about her neighbors (even those she admits she never really knew) with equal grace and empathy. Let's hope it's not another quarter-century before her next collection arrives. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
An intimate guided tour of the woods and waterways of rural Maine. After a brief early childhood in Manhattan, naturalist and children's-book author Shetterly (Shelterwood, 1999, etc.) and family moved to a large colonial house in Connecticut surrounded by natural beauty. In these open environs, the budding naturalist explored the wilderness and learned something of the isolating yet communal human experience available in wild spaces. In 1971, the author moved with her husband to a small cabin on a 60-acre lot in southeast Maine and started a family. The marriage didn't last, but what endured was Shetterly's passion for this rural area and its inhabitants: moose, hares, hummingbirds, snapping turtles, bobcats, turkeys, deer, loons, seals, cormorants, coyotes and a smattering of rugged humans. The author marks seasons by ice's halting progress across a wide lake or a flock of geese buzzing her open window on their way north on a cold April night. The aching tension between humankind's brief, greedy chronology and nature's timeless immediacy underlies much of Shetterly's experiences. She lives deeply in her rough, adopted home, digging into local history and lore, ultimately recognizing the best of her years as a bucolic lull between the area's agrarian past and its future as a population center. She notes the interplay of humanity and wilderness through fishing, forestry, conservation, preservation, hunting, trapping, development and wildlife rehabilitation, but also in quiet, personal appreciation. Shetterly is a less verbose Thoreau, allowing nature's wisdom to seep through her simple yet thorough observations. A soft wind stirring the leaves on trees marked for removal. Agent:David McCormick/McCormick & Williams
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565126183
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 1/26/2010
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Hand Shetterly, a former wild bird rehabilitator, has written about wildlife and wildlands for over twenty years. She is the author of the essay collection The New Year's Owl and several children's books. She was a contributing writer to the Maine Times and her pieces have appeared in Birder’s World, Audubon Magazine, Yankee, and Down East.

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Table of Contents

Contents

1. April Nights....................3
2. Going Back to the Land....................7
3. Walking at Dusk....................21
4. Sonny's Song....................25
5. Dangers....................31
6. The Inward Eye....................43
7. Elvers....................49
8. Eden....................53
9. Treasure....................55
10. Chac....................61
11. A Point of View....................81
12. The Gift....................95
13. Alewives....................101
14. The Alder Patch....................109
15. Country Road....................117
16. Letting Summer Go....................125
17. Knowing Things....................139
18. Tree....................157
19. Big Fish....................169
20. Ice....................179
21. Trapped....................183
22. Neighborhood Deer....................197
23. Jed Island....................207
24. Cormorants....................211
25. Rain....................225
26. The Fire and the Owl....................229
EPILOGUE....................237
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First Chapter

Settled in the Wild

Notes from the Edge of Town
By Susan Hand Shetterly

ALGONQUIN BOOKS OF CHAPEL HILL

Copyright © 2010 Susan Hand Shetterly
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-56512-618-3


Chapter One

April Nights

I leave a window open on April nights and put my pillow close to that cold slice of air because I want to hear spring come back to this small clearing. Sometimes it snows and I hear that soft muffled falling, or it sleets and I hear instead the sharp tick of ice against the glass. But mostly the sounds are new.

One night a flock of Canada geese flew north under the half-moon. I woke to their bugling from the south and listened as the birds crossed over the roof, close enough to catch the sound of their wings like a bow drawn back and forth across the bass strings of a cello. Maybe ten geese. Maybe fifteen. An uneasy silence followed as if the thrust of their heraldic flight had upset the air behind them, as if they had broken through the glaze of winter above my house and trailed spring's upheaval and promise.

After midnight, a porcupine climbed into the weeping willow by the frog pond and started to snip off the young branches, tender and crisp with new leaves and swelling buds. I heard one branch, then another, slip through the branches below them and land on the ground with an almost inaudible sigh. Lying under a pile of quilts, I counted the falling branches. When I got to five, I forced myself up in the dark, turned on the kitchen light, and stepped outside. The light sparkled on the frosted grass beneath the tree. I was barefoot, wearing an old T-shirt. Another branch dropped as I walked in the dark to the driveway, picked up a handful of stones, and pitched them in the direction of the tree. They bounced off the trunk, splashing into the frog pond through paper-thin ice.

In the moonlight I could see the dark blob of porcupine against the sky. It was pressing itself against the trunk, about twenty-five feet up, like a big irregular fruit stuck in the branches. I tossed a few more stones.

"That's for eating my tree!" I said.

Back in bed, as clearly as if the porcupine were answering the force of my assault, I heard another branch drop.

An hour or so later, a loon flew over. It filled the night with one long cry. What the voice said was that the ice is starting to melt off the nearby lakes, almost enough to give loons the open water they need. What the voice said was that it could hardly wait.

Just before dawn, a raccoon, perhaps the first to rise from its restless winter sleep, began to sort through the shed. I must have left the door ajar. I listened as it tossed aside what was probably a wine bottle out of the recycling bin. Then the empty plastic compost bucket rolled across the shed floor. Then something heavy dropped. I wasn't sure. Maybe one of my son's old winter boots that I wear around the yard, now that he's grown up and gone.

Everything in that cold predawn was exquisitely quiet except for this one raccoon, the only soul in the universe making noise.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Settled in the Wild by Susan Hand Shetterly Copyright © 2010 by Susan Hand Shetterly. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2010

    Inspiring,Beautiful, and Funny

    Read this book. It anchors us in the perceptions and values we human´s need to save the planet. And, perhaps even more important, it will make you laugh.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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