Standing in our open kitchen doorway this morning, waiting for coffee to brew, I watched a turkey vulture sweep silently over the barn, wings outstretched, so near I saw its feathertips fluttering in the air currents. Hours before, walking in the evening’s mist-soaked gloaming, my 12-year-old daughter counted 40 vultures dropping and ascending over an empty ballfield. Gradually, their drifting and layered circles widened, so we appeared to be in the center of their vortex.

Carrion eaters.

I looked at my daughter, wondering if she was afraid. The vultures – black against a gray sky – dipped especially low, reminding me of Andrew Wyeth’s stunning painting of a single vulture. I had seen it for the first time in a museum’s basement room, beautiful and ominous, imbued with human emotion. But my daughter kept walking beneath these circling birds, face tipped up, curious.

Under our feet, earthworms, grubs, centipedes, work in the soil in my evolving garden, in the forest behind our house, beneath the stream hidden in the thickets of August’s greenery. Between the earth and the sky, human life unspools busily all day, sometimes into the night in our small town. Then, these birds. Silent, skilled. How could she not admire them, as I was again, this early morning?

I light
a small fire in the rain.

– Galway Kinnell, from “Under the Maud Moon”

Abandoned granite shed. Hardwick, Vermont.

Antidote: Wild Bears

When I visited Michigan as a kid with my family, years ago, we saw a man with a t-shirt marked with the phrase Say something GOOD about Detroit. These days, I often feel that way about the news. Or, worse, just say something not underpinned with corruption or misery.

So here’s my something: nearly 70 curious folks showed up in tiny Woodbury’s town hall last night to hear New Hamphire’s Ben Kilham speak about his experience raising orphaned bear cubs, reacclimatizing these creatures into the wild, and his decades of studying and admiring these beautiful woodland mammals. On a hot July evening, in this historic one-room building, friends and strangers listened, asked numerous questions, bought books. The Kilhams themselves reminded me of my parents, with an IMAX filmmaker in tow who I thought at first was their son, navigating their route and arranging a late post-presentation dinner plan.

Afterwards, lingering and chatting under a floodlight, we passed around the leftover donut holes and swatted mosquitoes. Summer. July. Vermont.

In late winter
I sometimes glimpse bits of steam
coming up from
some fault in the old snow
and bend close and see it is lung-colored
and put down my nose
and know
the chilly, enduring odor of bear…
From Galway Kinnell’s “The Bear”