Walking the path that follows the cliffs along the river near my home, I often think about the people who lived here thousands of years ago.
They must have found this place an oasis of shelter, water, fish, and game in the middle of the harsh virgin forest. I imagine them making camp along the limestone outcroppings, keeping their fires and defenses close to the stone, bathing and playing in backwaters, picking berries, hunting deer.
I suppose that there were struggles over the wealth of clear springs and wild food. I speculate that when the glacial icemelt still overran much of the bottomland, one clan after another moved in and fought to control this strategic and rich valley.
In the early twenty-first century chaos of genocide and ethnic cleansing, I sometimes wonder how human beings can destroy each other so deliberately, so thoroughly and cruelly. Then I think my wonder is just the result of my isolation in this small pocket of summer and political good fortune.
I remember my adolescent lust for hunting, the nearly erotic excitement that accompanied stalking and killing. I compare genocidal madness to that passion, think of it as a kind of horrendous and keen appetite that remains dormant until keyed by circumstances. The bounty of this valley most likely provided the setting, the purpose, and the justification for its arousal.
Fully tamed by years of peace and ease, walking in this habitat, far from harm, I can hear the calls of the children playing back in the village.
This is the sweet, sweet season between wars, the landscape says to me, a little time to rest and be soft and careless.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the Fourth week of early summer. In the meantime, listen to the landscape.