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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

First Frost

Air Date: Week of

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For some folks, living in one place, year after year, sounds like a bore. For commentator Verlyn Klinkenborg, a place gets more interesting the longer he’s been there.


KLINKENBORG: The other day I noticed that I was walking down to the barn again. It sounds like a strange thing to notice, because some days I walk down to the barn a dozen times without noticing it.

CURWOOD: Commentator Verlyn Klinkenborg.

KLINKENBORG: My mind is on the tape measure I worked on the workbench or the pile of logs, cluttering up one side of the barnyard. Sometimes I get down to the barn, and can't remember why I came. But there are so many things I could have walked down to the barn for, that I'm sure to find something I need, or need to do.

All the tools live there, as well as most of the things, like lumber and machines that require tools sooner or later.

I often wonder what it would be like to live your life in just one place. It would mean, among other things, a depth of repetition I can barely imagine, and with it, an awareness of the subtlety of change.

When my wife and I first moved to this small farm, I marveled almost every day at where we were, and how we lived. That now happens less than it used to, but when it does I feel like I'm walking along beside myself, through a deep tunnel of habituation. Everything seems so familiar. The sugar maples and hickories, the brambles edging their way up from the rail fences, they recapture their identity when I recapture mine.

It leaves me wondering how deep the reverie of living in only one place might really go. That is something I'll never know.

But even a little time in one place adds up. The chores never go quite the same one day to the next, because the wind stirs the dogs up, or a truck backfires on the highway just as the horses were settling down. The seasons never proceed along quite the same path either.

Even something as categorical as the first frost comes in the most uncategorical ways. Some years it drops like death on the garden, blackening everything in sight. This year it waited, and waited, then took only the morning glory blossoms along the road, before returning a week later, second frost, and taking everything else.

Up here, we live within the circumference of change, and every year the circle gets a little bigger. Some things almost never change, of course. At dusk, the chickens take to their roosts, my wife says, like ninth grade girls at the high school basketball game. Every evening the pigs still come loping over to visit when we walk out their way to check on their feed and water.

Coyotes yip in the moonlight, and it only seems to deepen the silence that surrounds them. And no matter how the day has gone, night never really begins until we walk up from the barn for the last time.

CURWOOD: Commentator Verlyn Klinkenborg writes about the rural life for The New York Times.



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