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Barbara K i n g s o lv e r {ANo ve l }Pr o d i g a l Summer —for Steven, Camille, and Lily, and for wildness, whe. Barbara K i n g s o lv e r {A No ve l } Pr o d i g a l Summer —for Steven, Camille, and Lily, and for wildness, whe Prodigal · Prodigal. Prodigal Prodigal Melanie. Prodigal summer: (a novel). byKingsolver, Barbara. aut. Publication date For print-disabled users. Borrow this book to access EPUB and PDF files.


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Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. About the book. Prodigal Summer weaves together three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. If Rachel Carson (), whose book Silent Spring () inaugurated the current environmental activist. PDF | What are the emotional stakes and cultural afterlife of living with A close reading of a scene from Prodigal Summer is presented as an.

He would have judged her an angry woman on the trail of something hateful. He would have been wrong. She was used to being sure.

Her body was free to follow its own rules: Her limbs rejoiced to be outdoors again, out of her tiny cabin whose log walls had grown furry and overbearing during the long spring rains.

The frown was pure concentration, nothing more. All morning the animal trail had led her uphill, ascending the mountain, skirting a rhododendron slick, and now climbing into an old-growth forest whose steepness had spared it from ever being logged. This lifetime. But to know for sure she needed details, especially the faint claw mark beyond the toe pad that distinguishes canid from feline. She could be a patient tracker. Eventually the animal would give itself away with a mound of scat which might have dissolved in the rain, too or something else, some sign particular to its species.

A bear will leave claw marks on trees and even bite the bark sometimes, though this was no bear. It was the size of a German shepherd, but no house pet, either. The dog that had laid this trail, if dog it was, would have to be a wild and hungry one to be out in such a rain.

She found a spot where it had circled a chestnut stump, probably for scent marking. She studied the stump: The downpour would have obliterated such fragile things; these must have popped up in the few hours since the rain stopped—after the animal was here, then. Inspired by its ammonia. The mix of forests and wetlands in these mountains could be excellent core habitat for cats, but she knew they mostly kept to the limestone river cliffs along the Virginia-Kentucky border.

And yet here one was. No human could fail to be moved by such human-sounding anguish. Remembering it now gave her a shiver as she balanced her weight on her toes and pushed herself back upright to her feet. And there he stood, looking straight at her. Surprise must have stormed all over her face before she thought to arrange it for human inspection.

It happened, that she ran into hunters up here. Or cocked, rather. It was a tactic learned from her father, and the way of mountain people in general—to be quiet when most agitated. He was very much younger than she. Wonderful news. An outsider, intruding on this place like kudzu vines. She watched his hands, but what pulled on her was the dark green glint of his eyes. Or bite, for that matter. They stood without speaking.

She measured the silence by the cloud that crossed the sun, and by the two full wood-thrush songs that rang suddenly through the leaves and hung in the air between herself and this man, her—prey? No, her trespasser. Predator was a strong presumption. His grin dissolved, and he seemed suddenly wounded by her curtness, like a scolded son. She wondered about the proper tone, how to do that. But usually by this point in the conversation, it was over.

And manners had not been her long suit to begin with, even a lifetime ago when she lived in a brick house, neatly pressed between a husband and neighbors. Long enough for her to understand suddenly that Eddie Bondo—man, not child—had taken off all her layers and put them back on again in the right order.

No one had been there in quite a while. Then he was gone. Birdsong clattered in the space between trees, hollow air that seemed vast now and suddenly empty. A hot blush was what he left her, burning on the skin of her neck. She went to bed with Eddie Bondo all over her mind and got up with a government-issue pistol tucked in her belt. The pistol was something she was supposed to carry for bear, for self-defense, and she told herself that was half right. For two days she saw him everywhere—ahead of her on the path at dusk; in her cabin with the moonlit window behind him.

In dreams. For when he showed up again, it was in the same spot. Her pistol was inside her jacket, loaded, with the safety on. No question, these tracks were canine: Hard for a human ever to know that mind. And once again—as if her rising up from that stump had conjured Eddie Bondo, as if he had derived from the rush of blood from her head—he stood smiling at her.

Which you seem to be. His hair had the thick, glossy texture she envied slightly, for it was perfectly straight and easy and never would tangle.

He spread his hands. No gun. Behold a decent man abiding by the law. Or a man. She had willed him back to this spot. And she would wait him out this time. Then gave in. At night. She waited for more, and he offered this: If you can see to keep off of it. He was good. She let him almost disappear into the foliage ahead, then she took up the trail of the two males walking side by side, cat and man. She wanted to watch him walk, to watch his body without his knowing it.

It was late afternoon, already something close to dark on the north side of the mountain, where rhododendrons huddled in the cleft of every hollow. In their dense shade the ground was bare and slick. But for now their buds still slept. But here and now, spring heaved in its randy moment.

But he never turned around. He must be listening for her step, she thought. At least that, or maybe not. They reached the point where the old bobcat trail went straight up the slope, and she let him go. She waited until he was out of sight, and then turned downhill instead, stepping sideways down the steep slope until her feet found familiar download on one of the Forest Service trails. She maintained miles of these trails, a hundred or more over the course of months, but this one never got overgrown because it ran between her cabin and an overlook she loved.

Today she would bypass that trail. But now, no; of course not now. She would let Eddie Bondo catch up to her somewhere else, if he was looking. The weeping limestone was streaked dark with wet-weather springs, which were bursting out everywhere now from a mountain too long beset with an excess of rains. She was near the head of the creek, coming into the oldest hemlock grove on the whole of this range.

Patches of pale, dry needles, perfectly circular, lay like Christmas-tree skirts beneath the huge conifers. Then, a crackle. She waited until he emerged at the edge of the dark grove.

For a while.

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She found it harder to read his eyes. She could swear his pupils dilated. She bit her lower lip, having meant to give away nothing. But especially the carnivores. Deer season was many months over and gone. Keeping tabs on the predators tells you what you need to know about the herbivores, like deer, and the vegetation, the detritovores, the insect populations, small predators like shrews and voles. All of it.

She was well accustomed to watching Yankee brains grind their gears, attempting to reconcile a hillbilly accent with signs of a serious education. Beetles, worms.

I guess to hunters these woods seem like a zoo, but who feeds the animals and cleans up the cage, do you think? I apologize. Tough life. All his previous grins had just been warming up for this one.

To get yourself hired in this place of business. It takes a certain kind of person. I did have a bear in my cabin back in February. Long enough to raid my kitchen, though. We had an early false thaw and I think he woke up real hungry.

Fortunately I was out at the time. What do you live on, nuts and berries? If I was dead, see, they could stop putting my checks in the bank.

One of those once-a-month-boyfriend deals. They send up some kid. I lose track and forget when to expect him, so he just leaves the stuff in the cabin. Under the sandpaper grain of a two-day beard he had a jaw she knew the feel of against her skin, just from looking at it. Thinking about that gave her an unexpected ache. She could hear the birds. After a while she stopped to listen and was surprised when he did, too, instantly, that well attuned to her step behind his.

He turned toward her with his head down and stood still, listening as she was. Just a bird. Magnolia warbler. Every single thing you hear in the woods right now is just nothing but that. Males drumming up business. Years, probably. And now twice, in these two visitations. Blushing, laughing, were those things that occured only between people? Forms of communication? Not the big bad wolf. Who shot the last wolf out of these parts, Daniel Boone? The gray everybody knows about, the storybook wolf.

But there used to be another one here. A little one called the red wolf. They shot all those even before they got rid of the big guys. I never heard of that. Depends on how you call it.

She spoke quietly to his back, happy to keep him ahead of her on the trail. He was a surprisingly silent walker, which she appreciated. And surprisingly fast.

She wished for a look at his face. The skill of equivocation seemed to be coming to her now. Talking too much, saying not enough.

Not to me.

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And then they just up and decided to extend their range into southern Appalachia a few years ago. Nobody knows why. She suspected he already knew much of what she was telling him. Which was nothing; she was keeping her real secret to herself. Not most girls you know, but just watch me now. In New York City, even. Somebody got a picture of one running between two taxicabs. Try, also, to keep her eyes away from the glossy animal movement of his dark hair and the shape of the muscles in the seat of his jeans.

But the man was just one long muscle, anywhere you looked on him. They were everywhere suddenly, dancing on sunbeams in the upper story, trembling with the brief, grave duty of their adulthood: Emerged from their slow, patient lives as carnivorous larvae, they had split down their backs and shed the husks of those predatory leaf-crawling shapes, left them lying in the mud with empty legs askew while their new, winged silhouettes rose up like carnal fairies to the urgent search for mates, egg laying, and eternal life.

The trail ended abruptly at the overlook. It never failed to take her breath away: And had nearly gone right over. So easily her life could have ended right here, without a blink or a witness. To this. Her heart contained other perspectives on it, though: She scanned the sky for another one. Usually when they spoke like that, they were mating. Zebulon Valley, after this mountain. These mountains. And came back.

Not all that long ago. At the bottom of things, it was only a long row of little farms squeezed between this mountain range and the next one over, old Clinch Peak with his forests rumpled up darkly along his long, crooked spine.

Between that ridge top and this one, nothing but a wall of thin blue air and a single hawk. Some dairy cattle. Last spring a dairy farmer had found a coyote den over there in the woods above his pasture. She knew how Zebulon men liked to talk, and she knew a coyote family to be a nearly immortal creation. It was the same pack, it had to be. The same family starting over. The surprise was unbelievable, after two years of searching.

The others would be her sisters, helping to feed the young. The less those Zebulon Valley farmers knew about this family, the better. Eddie Bondo clobbered her thoughts. The nylon of his sleeve was touching hers, whispering secrets. Did he know that the touch of his sleeve was so wildly distracting to her that it might as well have been his naked skin on hers? An older husband facing his own age badly and suddenly critical of a wife past forty, that was nothing she could have helped.

That was her doing. And she wondered, what? She glanced at his face. Her home ground. Touching her as if it were the only possible response to this beauty lying at their feet. Together they took the trail back into the woods with this new thing between them, their clasped hands, alive with nerve endings like some fresh animal born with its own volition, pulling them forward.

She felt as if all her senses had been doubled as she watched this other person, and watched what he saw. It had burst out in mushrooms: Their bulbous heads pushed up through the leaf mold, announcing the eroticism of a fecund woods at the height of spring, the beginning of the world.

She moved aside to spare it and saw more like it, dozens of delicately wrinkled oval pouches held erect on stems, all the way up the ridge. She pressed her lips together, inclined to avert her eyes from so many pink scrota. He leaned close to look, barely brushing her forehead with the dark corona of his hair.

She could smell the washed-wool scent of his damp hair and the skin above his collar. This dry ache she felt was deeper than hunger—more like thirst. Her heart beat hard and she wondered, had she offered him a dry place to sleep, was that what he thought?

Was that really all she had meant? She was not sure she could bear all the hours of an evening and a night spent close to him in her tiny cabin, wanting, not touching. Could not survive being discarded again as she had been by her husband at the end, with his looking through her in the bedroom for his glasses or his keys, even when she was naked, her body a mere obstruction, like a stranger in a theater blocking his view of the movie.

She was too old, about to make a fool of herself, surely. This Eddie Bondo up close was a boy, ferociously beautiful and not completely out of his twenties. He sat back and looked at her, thinking. Surprised her again with what he said. She had to force herself to speak. Where, in Canada? Just like this, look here.

She felt a sympathetic ache in the ridge of her pubic bone. How could she want this stranger? How was it reasonable to do anything now but stand up and walk away from him? She closed her eyes against the overwhelming sensations, but that only made them more intense, in the same way closed eyes make dizziness more acute.

At the bottom of the hill they came to rest, his body above hers. He looked down into her eyes as if there were something behind them, deep in the ground, and he pulled brown beech leaves from her hair. Look at you. But she let herself smile when his hands moved to her chest and began to part the layers of clothing that all seemed to open from that one place above her heart. He peeled back her nylon jacket, slipped it off her shoulders down to her bent elbows. That wool intoxication made her think once again of thirst, if she could name it something, but a thirst of eons that no one living could keep from reaching to slake, once water was at hand.

She worked her elbows free of her jacket and let it drop into the mud, raised her hands to the zipper of his parka, and rolled the nylon back from him like a shed skin.

Helping this new thing emerge, whatever it was going to be. They moved awkwardly the last hundred yards toward her cabin, refusing to come apart, trailing their packs and half their nylon layers.

She let go of him then and sat down on the planks at the unsheltered edge of her porch to pull off her boots. She opened her eyes and caught sight of her pistol at the edge of the porch, aiming mutely down the valley with its safety on.

The last shed appendage of her fear. Carefully she took both his hands off of her, raised them above his shoulders, and rolled over him and pinned him like a wrestler. Straddling his thighs this way, looking down on his face, she felt stunned to her core by this human presence so close to her. He smiled, that odd parenthetic grin she already knew to look for.

She bent down to him, tasting the salt skin of his chest with the sensitive tip of her tongue, and then exploring the tight drum of his abdomen. He shuddered at the touch of her warm breath on his skin, giving her to know that she could take and own Eddie Bondo.

A breeze shook rain out of new leaves onto their hair, but in their pursuit of eternity they never noticed the chill. He lay looking past her into the darkened woods, apparently untroubled by his own heart. Thrushes were singing, it was that late.

She studied a drop of water that hung from his earlobe, caught in the narrowest possible sliver of a gold ring that penetrated his left ear. Could he possibly be as beautiful as he seemed to her? Or was he just any man, a bone thrown to her starvation?

With his left hand he worked out some of the tangles his handiwork had put into her hair. But he was still looking away; the hand moved by itself, without his attention. She wondered if he worked with animals or something. Do you have a name? Or it is, but he was.

Scent marking. Put his territorial mark on everything I owned, and then walked away. When she went away to college she found herself taken in and mentored by much older men—professors, mainly—until she married one.

Her farm-bred worldliness, her height, her seriousness—something—had caused her to skip a generation ahead. Eddie Bondo knew what he was doing and had the energy to pursue the practice of making perfect. She knew that most men her age and most other animals had done this. The collision of strangers. But the sight of him now asleep in her bed made her feel both euphoric and deeply unsettled.

Her own nakedness startled her, even; she normally slept in several layers. His pack appeared to be a respectable little home: He had a lot of food in there, even a small coffeepot. He found a place to prop his small shaving mirror at an angle on of one of the logs in the wall while he scraped the planes of his face one square inch at a time.

She tried not to watch. Theory of Population Genetics and Evolutionary Ecology: That was all. She pulled the ladderback chair away from the table, set its tall back against the logs of the opposite wall, and asked him to sit, just to get a little space around her as she stood at the propane stove scrambling powdered eggs and boiling water for the grits.

It would be July before mornings broke warm, up here at this elevation. He moved to the window and stood looking out while he ate. Not only younger but half a head shorter than she. They kindly like to glare at me from the far side of the room. That was amazing. That, she appreciated.

It was his youth that made her edgy. She suppressed the urge to ask if his mother knew where he was. The most she allowed herself was the question of his origins.

A sheep rancher, son of three generations of sheep ranchers. She did not ask what might bring a Wyoming sheep rancher to the southern Appalachians at this time of year.

She had a bad feeling she knew. So she looked past his lure, through the window to the woods outside and the bright golden Io moth hanging torpid on the window screen. She watched it crawl slowly up the screen on furry yellow legs. A sheep rancher.

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It was bad enough even here on the tamer side of the Mississippi. It was a dread built into humans via centuries of fairy tales: But they were working on that, for all they were worth. A thirty-thirty, it looked like.

Where is it now? He was clean-shaven, barechested, and cheerful, ready to eat up powdered eggs and whatever else she offered. It occurred to Deanna that she was in deep. It had drawn hunters from everywhere for the celebrated purpose of killing coyotes. In the eleventh hour of the ninth day of May, for one single indelible instant that would change everything, she was lifted out of her life.

She closed her eyes, turning her face to the open window and breathing deeply. Now she leaned forward in her seat and moved her head a little to see out through the dusty screen. Maybe that plume of honeysuckle was just in his way. Or maybe he was breaking it off to bring back to Lusa. She liked to have a fresh spray in a jar above the kitchen sink. It seemed unbelievable that his disturbance of the branch could release a burst of scent that would reach her here at the house, but the breeze was gentle and coming from exactly the right direction.

People in Appalachia insisted that the mountains breathed, and it was true: She had come to think of Zebulon as another man in her life, larger and steadier than any other companion she had known. His work on the lower side was nearly done. Maybe they could talk then; maybe she would put soup and bread on the table and eat her bitter words from earlier this morning. They argued nearly every day, but today had already been one of their worst. This morning, he had wanted her to.

They had used all the worst words they knew. She closed her eyes now and inhaled. She could have just let him laugh, instead, at her fondness for this weedy vine that farmers hated to see in their fencerows. That had been the jumping-off point for their argument: But how could she help herself?

It stirred up her impatience with these people who seemed determined to exterminate every living thing in sight.

The family cemetery was up behind the orchard. Whereas Lusa was a dire outsider from the other side of the mountains, from Lexington—a place in the preposterous distance.

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An Io moth rested on the screen, her second-favorite moth, whose surprising underwings were the same pinkish gold as her hair. Her favorite would always be Actias luna, ethereal green ghost of the upper forests.

What mute, romantic extravagance, Lusa thought: She picked up the milk and handled it carefully, noting that it was nicely set, ready to separate.

They kept only one milk cow for the homemade butter and cream Cole liked, and milked her only in the evenings now. Lusa had shocked everyone with her proposal of eliminating the inconvenient four A. She could even pasture mother and calf together and skip milking altogether if she needed to drive to Lexington for a weekend did it take a scientist to think of this?

On days when Lusa wanted to milk, they simply pushed the calf into a pasture separate from his mother so her udder would be full by evening. She had her own ways of doing a thing. She could have it ready by noon when he came in for his dinner. She would concentrate on soup, then, and try to let this argument go by. People there just have more to read and write about than killing the honeysuckle in their hedgerows.

A male and female following their separate natures? She glanced up from her waterfall of cream, wondering how to gentle down this thing between them. He cracked his knuckles and locked his hands behind his head.

Did he actually think he was clever? Now it would take another half day to separate again. She tossed the skimmer into the sink. You have no idea. Her loneliness was her own problem, and she knew it. The only people she ever talked to, besides Cole, were all in Lexington. But lately their support had run out on Lusa, to the tune of embarrassing phone bills: Get back here while you can still recover your grant money.

She set herself to the task of sterilizing the milk utensils, trying to forget Arlie and Hal. It embarrassed her to try. Instead she soothed herself with an ancient litany: Most people never knew what wings beat at their darkened windows while they slept. Cole was there for a workshop on integrated pest management. A group of farmers in this county had raised the tuition and sent him to Lexington knowing Cole would ignore the claptrap and bring back to them anything worth knowing.

Later on but not much , Lusa and Cole had slept together in her apartment on Euclid Street. Cole made love like a farmer, which is not to say he was coarse. That delighted him. All you people in that laboratory, all the livelong day. And getting paid for it. More interested still when she explained to him that even humans seem to rely on certain pheromonal cues, though most have little inclination to know the details. Cole would, she thought. Cole, the man who buried his face in every fold of her skin to inhale her scent.

He could only love sex more if he had antennae the shape of feathers, like a moth, for combing the air around her, and elaborately branched coremata he could evert from his abdomen for the purpose of calling back to her with his own scent. The pheromones? Predator was a strong presumption. His grin dissolved, and he seemed suddenly wounded by her curtness, like a scolded son.

She wondered about the proper tone, how to do that. But usually by this point in the conversation, it was over.

And manners had not been her long suit to begin with, even a lifetime ago when she lived in a brick house, neatly pressed between a husband and neighbors. Long enough for her to understand suddenly that Eddie Bondo—man, not child—had taken off all her layers and put them back on again in the right order.

No one had been there in quite a while. Then he was gone. Birdsong clattered in the space between trees, hollow air that seemed vast now and suddenly empty. A hot blush was what he left her, burning on the skin of her neck. She went to bed with Eddie Bondo all over her mind and got up with a government-issue pistol tucked in her belt. The pistol was something she was supposed to carry for bear, for self-defense, and she told herself that was half right.

For two days she saw him everywhere—ahead of her on the path at dusk; in her cabin with the moonlit window behind him. In dreams. For when he showed up again, it was in the same spot. Her pistol was inside her jacket, loaded, with the safety on. Hard for a human ever to know that mind. And once again—as if her rising up from that stump had conjured Eddie Bondo, as if he had derived from the rush of blood from her head—he stood smiling at her.

Which you seem to be. His hair had the thick, glossy texture she envied slightly, for it was perfectly straight and easy and never would tangle. He spread his hands. No gun. Behold a decent man abiding by the law. Or a man. She had willed him back to this spot. And she would wait him out this time. Then gave in. At night. If you can see to keep off of it. He was good. She let him almost disappear into the foliage ahead, then she took up the trail of the two males walking side by side, cat and man.

She wanted to watch him walk, to watch his body without his knowing it. It was late afternoon, already something close to dark on the north side of the mountain, where rhododendrons huddled in the cleft of every hollow. In their dense shade the ground was bare and slick. But for now their buds still slept. But here and now, spring heaved in its randy moment. But he never turned around. He must be listening for her step, she thought.

At least that, or maybe not. They reached the point where the old bobcat trail went straight up the slope, and she let him go. She waited until he was out of sight, and then turned downhill instead, stepping sideways down the steep slope until her feet found familiar download on one of the Forest Service trails. She maintained miles of these trails, a hundred or more over the course of months, but this one never got overgrown because it ran between her cabin and an overlook she loved.

Today she would bypass that trail. But now, no; of course not now. She would let Eddie Bondo catch up to her somewhere else, if he was looking. The weeping limestone was streaked dark with wet-weather springs, which were bursting out everywhere now from a mountain too long beset with an excess of rains. She was near the head of the creek, coming into the oldest hemlock grove on the whole of this range.

Patches of pale, dry needles, perfectly circular, lay like Christmas-tree skirts beneath the huge conifers. Then, a crackle. She waited until he emerged at the edge of the dark grove. For a while. She found it harder to read his eyes. She could swear his pupils dilated. She bit her lower lip, having meant to give away nothing. But especially the carnivores.

Deer season was many months over and gone. Keeping tabs on the predators tells you what you need to know about the herbivores, like deer, and the vegetation, the detritovores, the insect populations, small predators like shrews and voles. All of it. She was well accustomed to watching Yankee brains grind their gears, attempting to reconcile a hillbilly accent with signs of a serious education.

Beetles, worms. I guess to hunters these woods seem like a zoo, but who feeds the animals and cleans up the cage, do you think? I apologize. Tough life. All his previous grins had just been warming up for this one. To get yourself hired in this place of business. It takes a certain kind of person. I did have a bear in my cabin back in February. Long enough to raid my kitchen, though. We had an early false thaw and I think he woke up real hungry.

Fortunately I was out at the time. What do you live on, nuts and berries? If I was dead, see, they could stop putting my checks in the bank. One of those once-a-month-boyfriend deals.

They send up some kid. I lose track and forget when to expect him, so he just leaves the stuff in the cabin. Under the sandpaper grain of a two-day beard he had a jaw she knew the feel of against her skin, just from looking at it. Thinking about that gave her an unexpected ache. She could hear the birds.

After a while she stopped to listen and was surprised when he did, too, instantly, that well attuned to her step behind his. He turned toward her with his head down and stood still, listening as she was. Just a bird. Magnolia warbler. Every single thing you hear in the woods right now is just nothing but that.

Males drumming up business. Years, probably. And now twice, in these two visitations. Blushing, laughing, were those things that occured only between people?

Forms of communication? Not the big bad wolf. Who shot the last wolf out of these parts, Daniel Boone? The gray everybody knows about, the storybook wolf. But there used to be another one here. A little one called the red wolf. They shot all those even before they got rid of the big guys.

I never heard of that. Depends on how you call it. She spoke quietly to his back, happy to keep him ahead of her on the trail. He was a surprisingly silent walker, which she appreciated. And surprisingly fast. Coyotes: small golden ghosts of the vanished red wolf, returning.

She wished for a look at his face. The skill of equivocation seemed to be coming to her now. Talking too much, saying not enough. Not to me. And then they just up and decided to extend their range into southern Appalachia a few years ago.

Nobody knows why. She suspected he already knew much of what she was telling him. Which was nothing; she was keeping her real secret to herself. Not most girls you know, but just watch me now. In New York City, even. Somebody got a picture of one running between two taxicabs. Try, also, to keep her eyes away from the glossy animal movement of his dark hair and the shape of the muscles in the seat of his jeans. But the man was just one long muscle, anywhere you looked on him. They were everywhere suddenly, dancing on sunbeams in the upper story, trembling with the brief, grave duty of their adulthood: to live for a day on sunlight and coitus.

Emerged from their slow, patient lives as carnivorous larvae, they had split down their backs and shed the husks of those predatory leaf-crawling shapes, left them lying in the mud with empty legs askew while their new, winged silhouettes rose up like carnal fairies to the urgent search for mates, egg laying, and eternal life.

The trail ended abruptly at the overlook. It never failed to take her breath away: a cliff face where the forest simply opened and the mountain dropped away at your feet, down hundreds of feet of limestone wall that would be a tough scramble even for a squirrel. And had nearly gone right over. So easily her life could have ended right here, without a blink or a witness. To this. She scanned the sky for another one. Usually when they spoke like that, they were mating.

Zebulon Valley, after this mountain. These mountains. And came back. Not all that long ago. At the bottom of things, it was only a long row of little farms squeezed between this mountain range and the next one over, old Clinch Peak with his forests rumpled up darkly along his long, crooked spine. Between that ridge top and this one, nothing but a wall of thin blue air and a single hawk.

Some dairy cattle. Last spring a dairy farmer had found a coyote den over there in the woods above his pasture. She knew how Zebulon men liked to talk, and she knew a coyote family to be a nearly immortal creation. It was the same pack, it had to be. The same family starting over.

The surprise was unbelievable, after two years of searching. The others would be her sisters, helping to feed the young. The less those Zebulon Valley farmers knew about this family, the better. Eddie Bondo clobbered her thoughts.

The nylon of his sleeve was touching hers, whispering secrets. Did he know that the touch of his sleeve was so wildly distracting to her that it might as well have been his naked skin on hers? An older husband facing his own age badly and suddenly critical of a wife past forty, that was nothing she could have helped.

This ecocentric perspective is summed up in the maxim: "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.

It is wrong when it tends otherwise" , Ecocentrism explains Leopold's attitude toward hunting. In many passages, such as the October account of hunting ruffed grouse and partridge , Leopold describes the hunt with approval. However, he disapproves of programs to eradicate keystone predators because their elimination impoverishes ecosystems.

His classic account, "Thinking Like a Mountain," concerns wolf eradication. He writes, "I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise" But he found that wolf eradication harms mountains, that is, ecosystems. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails.On a farm several miles down the mountain, another web of lives unfolds as Lusa Maluf Landowski, a bookish city girl turned farmer's wife, finds herself unexpectedly marooned in a strange place where she must declare or lose her attachment to the land.

She waited until he was out of sight, and then turned downhill instead, stepping sideways down the steep slope until her feet found familiar download on one of the Forest Service trails. Their discoveries are embedded inside countless intimate lessons of biology, the realities of small farming, and the final, urgent truth that humans are only one part of life on earth. She stood up blinking, peered downhill through the tree trunks, and thought about it.

Sweet, And she wondered, what? You need to sleep. Nannie lived for neighborly chat, staking out her independent old-lady life but still snatching conversation wherever possible, the way a dieter will keep after the cookies tucked in a cupboard.

A bear will leave claw marks on trees and even bite the bark sometimes, though this was no bear. She glanced at his face.