The field next to us is for sale – 24 and ½ acres for $600,000. I have the same chance of walking on the surface of Mars as I do of touching that price. Someone recently wrote that “envy is the least pleasurable of the deadly sins”; well, I covet that land and will envy whoever levels the slopes and installs the same, stark carpets of grass and embeds some colossal, cheap, gimcrack pseudo-mansion on it. No pleasure in that feeling – just a seething at what will vanish, an everyday, calm, sorrowful fury.
The field sits on the far edge of hundreds of undeveloped acres, a part of the Big Woods whose fragments still range across this part of Pennsylvania. Wild turkeys nest in those hollows. I once saw what I was sure was a coyote rushing away from me. Pairs of foot tall pileated woodpeckers come down to the base of dead trees and leave their marks. Their turbulent calls ring out everywhere back in the deeper woods. For 200 yards songbirds follow the cover of the tree line at the edge of that field. They make the short glide from there to our trees and feeders. We have counted dozens of species.
In my other life, the one with the money to buy it, I would plant big blue-stem and switch grass and try to tempt Eastern Meadowlarks and Bobolinks into nesting. I would keep it open, all of it, like a small prairie abruptly raised into sunlight 40 miles from Philadelphia. I would place a few chairs at one of the margins, under trees, and once or twice a day in the summer I would listen for their songs. That would be happiness.
Last week, returning from tutoring, driving slowly up from the valley and then onto the section of the road adjoining the field, I caught movement on the bank, but low and with an odd silhouette. Not deer. Not groundhog. I slowed, then stopped. Five feet from me, level with my face, a vixen stood on the bank, a mewing kit in her mouth. We locked eyes. The moment lasted, lasted, lasted, as long as it takes you to say those three words, and then she slipped into the trees and into the open space beyond.
Sometimes I cannot speak for fear that it will reveal my heart breaking for all that is lost and will be lost.