“If you pay attention to the land where you live, you enter into conversation with it, until it becomes a voice inside you, and some of the boundaries between you and it dissolve,” write Susan Hand Shetterly. In this collection of elegant, spare, and often passionate essays, Shetterly explores what it is to live in a Down East coastal town, and to pay attention, over time, to what it offers of land, water, wildlife, and community. She takes her cue from Henry David Thoreau and Wendell Berry, who advocate for the virtues of staying in one place, believing that as we delve deeper into the landscape of home the more we learn about the world.
As in many other places, this particular home place is in trouble. Shetterly celebrates the work of communities to restore environments their people know and love, and takes a closeup look at what is changing and what has been lost. Among her subjects are the reestablishment of the bald eagle, the reintroduction of the American turkey in Maine, and the turkey vulture’s northward trend. She also writes about shorebird migrations, the bluefin tuna and the humpback and right whales in the Gulf of Maine, counting alewives along a stream in the spring, seaweed cultivation in a bay, a forest’s rebirth, the island that gave her the imaginative space she needed, and more. She recounts how she and her neighbors kept each other company at a distance during the long months of the pandemic, and she celebrates coastal culture, its particular, deep history that anchors a person’s sense of place.
Susan Hand Shetterly is the author of Settled in the Wild and Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge, as well as several children’s books including Shelterwood, named an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children by the Children’s Book Council. Shetterly has received a nonfiction writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and two grants from the Maine Arts Commission. She lives in Surry, Maine.