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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Salt Marsh Diary

Air Date: Week of February 20, 2009

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(Photo:© Salt Marsh Diary)

Poet Robert Frost writes that “good fences make good neighbors.” But Mark Seth Lender – who writes the syndicated column Salt Marsh Diary – thinks otherwise. Watching a young hawk in his backyard, Lender concludes that good neighbors make good fences.

Transcript

GELLERMAN: Poet Robert Frost wrote that good fences make good neighbors. But as writer Mark Seth Lender found, sometimes the quality of the fence doesn’t matter.

LENDER: An old cyclone fence, posts and rails rusted and misshapen. You can see through it, hop over it. Probably knock it down with your knee. Walk around it if you wanted but there is no need. The yard beyond grows rough and wild and no one left to tend or care. All this fence can tell you is this little place used to belong to someone long gone.

The new owner does not own. Unsympathetic to recorded deeds and boundaries his nation is contained by range of flight alone. The fence is a convenience. The unkempt land below of value because it is unkempt. Talons grasped to the iron crosspiece (this branch not made of wood) he adapts, as if this were the natural thing to do. Had always done. Head pivots unperturbed, side – back – front – side – down, each motion in clickstopped precision. Each detail captured and absorbed.


(Photo:© Salt Marsh Diary)

The bird is a Cooper’s Hawk, a young one as they usually are in winter on these coastal grounds and by youth, and inexperience perhaps, unusually tolerant. Standing a few paces away I am seen, recorded, and apparently ignored. It is as if the hawk has viewed the tractable demarcations made by human beings and deemed them sufficient.

Wings cupped like parasails the hawk drops silent as a whisper. Whatever has ventured from the tangle had best scurry or be sorry. When those talons find their mark they never do let go.

Cooper’s Hawk has learned to make do with the ground given - meager though it is and likely to remain so. Better there were more open space, but that is not the case. After all, it is about limits. The fence, the water’s edge, the flat line of horizon where hazy atmospheres meet a flat metallic sea. The hawk respects neither these nor any earthly boundaries. Nor, in our deep heart, should we.


(Photo:© Salt Marsh Diary)

[MUSIC: Marco Benevento “Sing It Again” from Me Not Me (Royal Potato Family 2009)]

GELLERMAN: Mark Seth Lender lives on the coast of Connecticut and writes a syndicated column called “Salt Marsh Diary.” He also takes photos – check them out at our website, loe.org.

Just ahead: two stories about toxic lead - in drinking water and batteries:

GOTTESFELD: There are 120 million people who are overexposed to lead around the world – that’s three times the number infected with HIV/AIDS - and this problem seems to be growing throughout the developing world.

GELLERMAN: Finding lead in all the wrong places – Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

ANNOUNCER: Support for the Environmental Health Desk at Living on Earth comes from the Cedar Tree Foundation. Support also comes from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman fund for coverage of population and the environment. And from Gilman Ordway for coverage of conservation and environmental change. This is Living on Earth on PRI, Public Radio International.

 

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