A couple of years ago, a woodchuck came to live behind our house.
It was entirely at home there, with a burrow at the top of the hill and an elevator in a secret rock fissure down to the ground floor where the dining room was.
It munched daisies as an appetizer, clover for an entrée and finished up with a dessert of sweet, wild raspberries.
Then it would rest on a rock ledge overlooking our house.
I’ve spent hours gazing at the wildlife that surrounds us. And I’ve noticed this: the mammals and birds are completely comfortable in their landscape. There’s an ease with which they move around it.
It’s as if they grew out of the billion-year-old rocks, that they know they’re made of minerals and water and maple sugar goodness.
While we – as humans – are not.
We’re awkward interlopers on our landscapes. We’re afraid of what’s out there. We’re more at home in subways and shopping malls than we are in forests.
So we use dynamite to blast rocks and diggers to fill marshes, erasing the landscape to start with an unthreatening blank slate.
We build our houses on the land, not in it. Like we’re aliens who’ve crashed into a strange planet.
This, I contend, is a problem.
When we’re not at home, we don’t truly know who we are. We’ve forgotten our birthright, so we’re uneasy. Deep down we know this, so we seek temporary refuge in the ocean and the mountains – as if they’re distant calls from barely-remembered ancestors.
Can we instead learn from the woodchuck and feel at home once more in the land that birthed us?