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First, the woody stems swell,


then a tight bud pushes forth and changes,

a petal at a time,

from winter wear into a silken skirt. Stylish Springtime flair..

Tree Peonies.

The epitome of how to dress for tea.

half a mind
to dress up and bow down
to the peony
~ Shiki

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It has been awhile since I’ve picked a book up and was unable to put it down. I have had a good run of audio books, but, one can only spend so much time “reading” in the car, so, I took my chances when “The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” called to me at one of the libraries I frequent.

The La Grange Library has several racks of new books, movies, and audio just beyond the entryway. Upon those racks, are a few select shelves of books with a bright yellow sticker proclaiming LUCKY DAY. These are often newer releases and popular books; books readers hope to get their hands on but haven’t been able to.

Michael Finkel’s “The Stranger in the Woods . . . ” stood there, looking directly at the door as if waiting just for me to enter. On my honor, it beckoned me, held my gaze, and what was I to do? I snatched it up and moseyed on down (well, actually on up) to a comfortable spot, sat down, peeked between the covers, and promptly checked the book out.

LUCKY DAY books are granted for one only one week. They can be renewed.

A shy, intelligent, twenty year old man from a peaceful Massachusetts childhood takes off one day, leaving his family, his job, his possessions and his new car and walks into an unfamiliar Maine woods where he remains, alone, for twenty-seven years.

Chris Knight survives brutal winters and never-ending solitude hidden in a small, well hidden clearing in the forest, amazingly close to others. He is content with his existence there. No one notices him. He lives by his wits – and by burglarizing the summer cabins nearby, as well as a summer camp. He takes only what he needs to survive, including canned goods, soap, National Geographic magazines, sleeping bags, propane tanks, mattresses and batteries. He steals almost exclusively on moonless, early winter nights, hopping across rocks in the dark, never leaving tracks behind. He takes only from summer residences and the camp, leaving year-round homes untouched. He has robbed some 1,000 times.

Community members are perplexed, terrified (especially those who are robbed repeatedly) and troubled. Some blame their children or neighbors for missing things while others wonder if they are just becoming forgetful.

Chris Knight manages to avoid or disarm alarm systems, motion detectors and sensors. He is masterful at picking locks, opening windows and otherwise finding ways to enter, always leaving homes in good if depleted condition. He takes only what he needs to survive and understands that stealing is wrong!

One night, after setting up silent alarms, Sargeant Terry Hugh’s’ beeper goes off. He catches the thief, demands he hit the ground, calls in reinforcements and thus begins the end of decades of robbery and the beginning of this story about the fabled hermit, now known as Chris Knight.

Michael Finkel, a journalist who lives in Montana, first hears on the news of the arrest of Chris Knight, a loner with a hermit-like existence. He is curious about a man who had not spoken or interacted with anyone in more than two decades. Mr. Finkel writes a letter, includes copies of some of his own stories and sends them to Knight in prison. They correspond and Finkel eventually visits him there, attends his trial, and eventually writes this captivating story. I suspect will one day be a movie.

“The Stranger in the Woods; The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit ” was an enthralling narrative of 200 or so pages – and it left me hoping that no hermits were living here along the Cutoff.

Have you read an “un-put-downable” recently?

 

 

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We used to make popcorn in a pan. The bigger the pan –  the more popcorn. The pan would be put on the stove top, the burner ignited, a few tablespoons  of oil and two or three kernels of popcorn would be added. Then, we would wait for those three kernels to pop, which often seemed like forever.

POP!  POP!  POP!

It seemed like forever to children waiting for an after school treat and to grown-ups needing a late-night snack. Eventually, that signature triad of pops indicating that the oil was hot enough would erupt and we knew it was THE MOMENT to put a cup or so of kernels into the pot, put on the lid, and pop the corn.

 Spring has felt much like that long wait for the first kernels of popcorn to pop.

Here in the Chicagoland area, we have had hot days and cold, stunning sunshine followed by endless days of gray and gloom and rain. It was actually been one of the warmest of Aprils with early blooming of seasonal bulbs, ephemerals and flowering trees. May Day, however, brought cool weather in the 40’s and endless rain. Creeks are filled to overflowing, rivers rush past well beyond their banks.

The many trails and paths I wander have been closed off, but, there are spots where the pavement is clear and evidence of springtime is apparent.

In our own little neck of the woods, the celandine poppies have been welcome bursts of sunshine, the tree peonies are ready to unfurl and the brunnera have not forgotten us.

Spring is always such a hopeful season to me. In spite of the weather, the turmoil that bubbles around the globe and the troubles that intrude into our lives, Spring eventually shows up!

So, dear readers, here’s to Spring (or Autumn) wherever you are planted – and here’s to popping corn!

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There is always some room for Frost in Spring.

Robert Frost, that is.

Here is one of his poems, recently featured on The Writer’s Almanac. I find it fitting as we come to the end of National Poetry Month.


Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

A Prayer in Spring
by Robert Frost

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When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

– Wendell Berry, The Peace of Wild Things

April is National Poetry Month.

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I was wandering about on an unexplored path in Lyman Woods when I spotted crocus pushing through the remnants of last Autumn. Not yet open, they were  a wee bit of optimism on a cool and cloudy day. The path was muddy and the grayness of the day lent an air of melancholy to my mood.  These determined early spring bulbs offered an antidote of encouragement. Here was life, in its simplest of forms, in budding blooms and clinging to decaying logs on the forest floor.

Sometimes, we just have to look to find hope just beyond our footsteps.

The day turned misty and there were not many folks walking the woods, so, I stayed closer to the entrance, exploring the small, still sleeping gardens near the nature center, scoping it out for future visits with our Up North family. As I shuffled about, I could hear a chorus of spring peepers in the near distance, which called me further along a rustic path.

As I walked,  I wondered aloud –

 “What is that I see beyond this tree?”.

A little library calling me.

One never knows where a Little Free Library will appear. It may even pop up in a forest.

Of course, I opened the small little door, well appointed with a knob fashioned into a twig. There were several books inside, and I found these two, which I know will be enjoyed by our grandchildren – and their mommy who is known to go owling when she hears the hoots of owls late at night.

What discoveries have you made along your paths lately? Have you found any good books?

Owl Moon image from here

Owl Babies image from here.

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Herons and hawks and eagles, oh my!

It has been a mad March hereabouts, with temperatures fluctuating 40 degrees in a matter of a few hours! We have had snow and rain, sunshine and strong winds – March in the Midwest.

The wetlands and ponds and sloughs in our little kingdom have, however, tempered the gloom of this frenetic month, as the great bird migration takes place.

Perhaps it is my own increased awareness and interest in birds as I wander the habitats around me, but it seems that his year, this spring, there have been more birds, especially waterfowl, stopping by for some R & R, courting and breeding and feeding,

I really need to take my serious camera with me on my excursions; that and a bit more patience. I squeal and clap with the glee of young schoolgirl when I need to be still and calm and present.

I was driving, barely pedaling at 10 mph, in the parking lot at the boat dock at the Saganashkee Slough (aka Sag Slough). I thought I saw something. I stopped, looked up through the sun roof, and there he was, in all his glory – a bald eagle. He circled and circled, just over my head, close enough for me to see his white head and distinguished tail. The circles grew wider and wider, with this majestic bird rising and soaring until he became but a speck in the distant sky.

The very next day, parking my car at the grocery store, a red-tailed hawk swooped past me and landed, quite authoritatively, upon an electrical pole. A small field of dormant grasses and a paved parking lot were his domain. I am quite certain he looked at me and winked. While I was shopping, so was he. As I walked toward my car, he swooped off his hi-wire perch, his purchase in his talons as I carried a sack of groceries in my as I headed back to my car.

There was also this drama another day this past week; a day when the wind was still and the temperature warm.

I was at the very same boat launch at the Sag Slough. I rounded the bend and saw one of those puzzles common in a children’s publications with the caption “what doesn’t belong in this picture?”. I drove back around to figure it out. There it was, plumes of white peaking over the launch –  and me in my driving machine. I arrived just in time to see it, a snowy egret, arise from among a gathering of gulls and sweep across the water before resting further along the shoreline.

Wow!

Sensing the shore was where the action was, I went around the parking lot, again.

I wonder if a drone has been watching me, the goofy granny in a mocha VW, circling a small parking lot, at a boat launch with no boats, going 10 mph).

It was on that third lap of ring-around-the-wildlife that I saw a heron in the grasses.

I stopped, parked, stood next to my car. The heron turned, waded a few yards down the shore, stopped, waited, then in an instant speared his meal. Gulls and geese and ducks and cars went about their noon-time business while the heron prepped his catch, putting it in the water, then out again, repeating the process. He expertly carried the fish a few feet, lifted his head. I watched, in awe as he tossed the fish into the air – and caught it. He swallowed and I could see the fish slowly slide down the heron’s long, elegant neck. It was dramatic, dear friends, and it was nature at its most pristine.

 

This Great Blue Heron, sated and stately, prepared for lift-off. Like the egret earlier, the heron arose from the water. He flew low and swiftly along the shore. I watched in awe and wonder in this mad and marvelous month of March.

Are you seeing birds in your neck of the woods? Are they nesting? Migrating? Settling in for the season ahead? Leaving for greener pastures?

Bald eagle photo and more information from here

 

 

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