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We stand suddenly on the cusp of summer in these handful of days when there will be no greater daylight this year. Characteristic of all North Country climes, we have arrived here in a blur of see-saw skirmishes between the seasons of spring and something that is not spring, waking now to mornings noticeably less noisy, the urgency to sing in search of a mate gone from songbirds who’ve seen their nests empty. The apple trees and lilacs have bloomed – and while I did take notice of their fragrance, filling wet days when puddles exploded with alternating drops of...

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I’m sitting on the 45th Parallel, exactly halfway between the equator and North Pole, on the day that is precisely equal parts light and darkness. It’s 3:20am, seasonably cold here in Montana, and over the gentle whisper of the Yellowstone River’s flow, a river not yet receiving any mountain snow melt, I just heard a great horned owl call. From the very edge of earshot, its mate replies and I smile, imagining them checking in with each other during a night of hunting. “All’s well in my search for voles, and I simply wanted to hear your voice.” In front...

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A few nights ago, as store heaters clicked on behind locked doors, and the climate-controlled cabs of passing cars displayed their temperatures in precise, digital readouts, a woman froze to death in Billings, Montana. Less than three weeks earlier, it was a man. He lay down on a sidewalk, pulled a satiny sleeping bag - the kind I might use on a summer night when my only care is wondering if clouds will roll in and ruin a star trails picture - up over his head, and shivered until he died. It's been a hell of a winter in Montana, and...

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Naturally, I'm afraid of the dark. Not so much that I refuse to get up during the night and blunder to the bathroom, or tremble at the thought of camping, or hurry out of the afternoon woods before the long shadows of trees join hands, turning shade into inky pools of impenetrable blackness. But when the sun sets an ancient part of me remembers the prey my ancestors were - recalls a time when survival hinged upon hearing the scrape of claw at the mouth of a cave or the rapid breath of a bear eager to pounce. It remembers...

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When I was sixteen, my hay fever - allergies to Vermont's lush timothy - became so severe that I could no longer buck bales for local dairy farmers. I tried it on a June afternoon when the ever-present threat of thunderstorms meant going at double-time, stacking bales in the sweltering loft of a wooden barn before rain dampened them and could, on some distant, winter night, cook them to the point of combustion. With sheer North Country determination, refusing to be deemed a "wuss" by my friends in the loft with me, I soldiered through that day, staggering out of...

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