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Biology -- Fiction. Human-animal relationships -- Fiction. Short stories. Nature stories.

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Enter a search term Clear search. Use the classic catalog. When a developer leveled the city park, Dad reassembled the jungle gym in our side yard near the garden and let the scuppernong vines go wild. We lived in a dying town with a dwindling tax base. I liked the way the water tasted, the sound of birds outside my window in the morning.

A few years in Raleigh studying conservation biology at the state university and I needed to find a place where I could look out my window and see nothing man-made. I missed the smell of things rotting, the sun bearing down on a wet log.

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Nothing in the city seemed real to me—it was fabricated, plastic, artificial, fast. After years of biology classes, every come-on was a mating call, every bar conversation a display—a complicated modern spin on ancient rules. Eventually I felt as if I was looking out at the busy world and I could see nothing but its ugly bones.

I was taught that at the heart of all people, all things, lay raw self-interest. Sure, you could dress a person up nice, put pretty words in his mouth, but underneath the silk tie and pressed shirt was an animal.

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A territorial, hungry animal anxious to satisfy his own needs. At least in the swamp, there was no make-believe chivalry, no playing nice. Another thing—I loved my dad. He was honest, fun, and unapologetically himself. I disassembled a tobacco barn.

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Numbered the slats. Aside from serving in Korea and a short stint living on a houseboat in his twenties, Dad had remained hidden from the world in the swamp, inhabiting the same house, trapping the same illegal lines, fishing the same shallow waters. That was part of the appeal, for me anyway. For centuries people had used the swamp to hide from their problems.

Runaway slaves, ruthless fugitives, shell-shocked soldiers, and cheating wives—all had hidden in the swamp at one time. When I moved from the city to the swamp, the things I could not have became special again. Cappuccino was special. Driving forty minutes to eat second-rate Indian food was special. You got about half fancy living out of town, Dad told me.

Most of my binocular-laden clients were pushing sixty and just as concerned with sunscreen and hydration as they were with spotting a pileated woodpecker. For the most part, I was happy.

Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories (Paperback)

Reading Group Guide. About The Author. Photograph by Nina Subin. Megan Mayhew Bergman. Product Details. Publisher: Scribner Books.

‘Birds of a Lesser Paradise’ by Megan Mayhew Bergman - The Boston Globe

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About this book Exploring the way our choices and relationships are shaped by the menace and beauty of the natural world, Megan Mayhew Bergman's powerful and heartwarming collection captures the surprising moments when the pull of our biology becomes evident, when love or fear collides with good sense, or when our attachment to an animal or wild place can't be denied.

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