Tag Archives: north woods

Quiet Love

If God is a Father, I can surmise that godly love is like pure parent love. Knowing little about godly love and more about parent love, I shall address the latter.

NOTE: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD and other past stress. June shares Love.

While I was in Bien Hoa, Vietnam, I bought a pair of ceramic elephants to be used as end tables or lamp stands. The Army crated and shipped them home for me. I still have one.

One arrived intact, but the other was broken, the elephant separated at feet and trunk from the base. At the time I really didn’t care. In the thrill of being home, it seemed insignificant.

My mother worked for hours, days I think, to repair that elephant. She found some glue that worked and chinked pieces into gaps like putting Humpty Dumpty together. It worked. I can still see her on her knees toiling away.

I wonder if she really knew, consciously, what she was doing.

When she grew feeble in her mid-nineties and had difficulty remembering names, she still recognized me, even though I only saw her a few times a year. Near the end she told me again that she loved me. She needn’t. I had always known.

I had not always known that my father loved me. Like me, he was not particularly verbal or demonstrative on his feelings. Until that day I signed away my little farm.

It had been on his recommendation that I bought it. I believe he said something like if I didn’t buy it, he would.

Then came divorce and I had to sell it, but that was during a real estate bust in the late seventies and it took two years.

I had to get a perk test and my dad came to fill the hole using what had been my D-17 bucket tractor. I was having a rebellious period and refused.

Then came that awful day when we stood in the little kitchen of that little ramshackle house and signed the papers. My dad stood there with me, silent as usual as I signed away my little dream.

I am sure he consciously knew exactly what he was doing. He taught me something really important about being a father that day, and I never doubted his love again.

It took me almost twenty years to get another piece of land and another sixteen to get a bucket tractor. And when I use it, I think of him.

I stopped grieving the loss of my father on Father’s Day of 1990, a little over two years after his death. I prayed aloud, that day in the Arizona Sonoran Desert, a prayer of gratitude for my father and for the privilege of being a father.

When I garden, I think of both my parents. Planting, cultivating, and harvesting is what we did.

Near the gate to my garden in the north woods stands a wounded ceramic elephant with a pot of flowers on its back. It symbolizes a few things for me, but most of all, it represents the healing power of Love, especially Agape Love.

Happy Father’s Day.

Happy Tracking.

Love Echoes

There are spaces between the trees, today, where my friend and companion of thirteen and a half years no longer walks. Our Yellow Lab, Serenity, has passed from the pain of this physical world, and her absence leaves a void.

Across that void I feel the echoes of her love. That love lives. It touches me. And, I reach back.

Love is like that. It transcends. It echoes across the void, reverberating softly without end.

Spring flowers come and go. Trees endure a few more years. Even rocks become sand and silt carried to the sea. But love remains. I can feel it upon the land.

We leave tracks, you and I, physical tracks upon the Earth, emotional tracks upon the hearts, and spiritual tracks upon the void. We cannot do otherwise.

PTSD is a kind of reverberation; echoes of tracks from our past, only these were not the tracks of love. I think we can just leave it at that.

Some words attributed to Chief Seattle haunt me: Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove has been hallowed by some fond memory or some sad experience of my tribe. Even the rocks, which seem to lie dumb as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore in solemn grandeur thrill with memories of past events…. (I do not use quotes because Seattle did not speak English.)

The wake of a Combat Veteran riding wildly through the noradrenergic dysregulation of the brain’s limbic system, a Dinosaur Dump, is turbid turmoil. It is stressful. PTSD generates more PTSD.

Love is the antidote. That, I conclude, is the whole point of this inquiry into love beyond Eros.

But, love lost is painful. I miss Serenity. I cannot touch her, hear her, see her, smell her.

Or, can I?

Love leaves tracks. I know that.

There are places I love and places I do not. Some places make me nauseous. Some call me back, again, and again.

I believe the last time I grieved a loss such as this, when I said goodbye to Serenity, was the day I said goodbye to my little farm in Cambridge, WI. I lost more than land, that day. I lost all the tracks on that land.

Twenty years I searched for more land until I noticed an ad for this place in da Nort’ Woods. I did not buy this land. The land adopted me and I inherited all the tracks upon it.

A year later, a puppy adopted us. Her tracks are upon this land, her best memories in the woods and water (and, mud) of this place. I cannot own these. I can only accept the responsibility to care for them for a little while longer.

There are many days when I feel I have made enough tracks. Including today. That, however, is not my choice to make. My choices are only what kind of tracks I leave, today, and how I care for the tracks left by others.

Today, I choose love, and I believe Serenity is happy about that. I feel it in the echoes.


I think I shall never see,
A poem lovely as a tree, (leading couplet from Trees, by Joyce Kilmer)

No tree is perfect. I have looked. All my life.

I have studied trees, climbed them, planted them, pruned and trimmed them. I have chopped them down, picked them up, carved them, and burned them. I have bathed in their shade, hidden in their branches, ducked under them, leaned against them, and hugged them. I have even written a poem or two about them, notably imperfect.

I love trees. I own about a million of them. For real. Our several acres of Northern Forest in Wisconsin is recovering from logging a few decades ago, and many thousand Quaking Aspen and Balsam Fir grow here, along with many Sugar Maples, Paper White Birch, Black Ash, White Spruce, a few White Cedars, Red and White Pines, American Larch (Tamarack), some Slippery Elm, and one big Red Oak. Have I missed anybody? Oh, a couple American Linden (Basswood) and a few I may be forgetting.

Not one is perfect. One White Pine has two heads. A favorite Red Pine is so crooked we call it Dancing Pine (or, Kokopelli Pine). Most are irregular due to shading, crowding, insects, and disease. Some are in the wrong places for my human purposes (I can’t see through them down the stream valley to watch critters).

The forest is…perfect, I mean. No, my forest is not the best forest. Perfection is not a competition. Nor, is my woods better than what it will become. It is perfect in its becoming.

A forest is not a thing as people think about things. In the first place, it is many, many things—different kinds of things, living and nonliving (in Western cosmology), finned, feathered, furred, and green, brown, and colorless. But, more than that, a forest is a process.

With the movement of accent one syllable, the adjective becomes a verb: to perfect, to complete or make nearly perfect.

That is a forest, any forest. It is a process of becoming better, growing into a more perfect community.

I call my woods Lonesome Pines because that is more poetic and less gruesome than Pine Bones. The massive logging of our native White Pines, scattering discarded branches among the tops, resulted in terrible fires. The fires charred the stumps, preserving them for many, many decades. I walk among them in reverence.

Today, I also amble among growing trees. Sure, many of the Aspen and Balsam die and fall, but others grow. I found two new Tamaracks in the swamp just this morning. We celebrated, the forest and me. We are living a process of perfection. We are getting better—recovering, if you will.

No human is perfect. No marriage or nation is without flaw or dysfunction. But, then, again, these are not things. They are processes. We are acts of perfection.

I write this on a Fourth of July, and I marvel at the process of these United States of America. Our Constitution is not perfect. Our forefathers were men of flaws. But, this process of growth, of constantly re-inventing ourselves, of becoming a more perfect union—that is what this holiday is to me.

Combat Veterans understand imperfection. See, the thing about combat is, when we do it right, somebody dies. When we do it wrong, somebody else dies. Right or wrong, we risk dying, ourselves. Combat is like logging a forest: everybody suffers.

Recovery is like re-growth, a process perfection, of becoming more perfect, and we aren’t done, yet. It grieves this critical old Veteran to witness America’s focus on imperfections rather than on the process of perfection. We can do better, America, you and me—and that is all life really means, making choices to become better.

Happy Birthday, America. We’re growing up.


I sat in the woods with my aging dog,
Just watching Nature abiding,
When I came to know a little thing,
Without us even trying,
The dancing trees in graceful wind,
Light, colored, satisfying,
We sat immersed in something real,
Beyond our space and timing,
“Delight,” came the answer.
Without me even asking,
Ah, but I had held the question,
How will I ever,
Love enough?

Delight, a noun, 1: a high degree of gratification: joy.
Delight, a verb: to give joy or satisfaction to (Merriam-Webster)

I find it difficult to be happy, grateful, and delighted as I watch my friend and companion of thirteen years cripple away. Serenity is a beautiful Yellow Labrador Retriever, the smartest and kindest animal I have ever known, and that is saying quite a lot, and I suffer her pain. I grieve her dignity lost with incontinence, her independence gone with legs no longer capable of steps or ramp, and her tremors and confusion at sundown.

But I delight in our memories.

She taught me delight. She showed me joy in her leaps into the lake after a stick, her digging in the earth behind my shovel, her dragging the little trees I cleared, and the way she greeted people with the solid expectation of adoration.

Serenity shared her delight in the world. She began whining a few miles away from our Nort’ Woods home, getting frantic before our camp came into sight, so I had to let her jump out of the truck and run around. She always came back wet from her own little swimming hole at the stream. But those were younger times.

There was the time I laughed aloud hunting grouse with friends because after I shot at the bird zipping by, overhead, all I saw falling were leaves. Serenity came bounding, without training or being called, to see what I had. She came back with the grouse, delight dripping from her face.

Her hearing is gone and her eyesight dim. Even her nose is not what it was, and her old legs cannot get her over the logs. So, we don’t hunt, anymore.

And soon, way too soon, I will have to end her life. In that I cannot delight. But I can cherish her memories and her lessons.

If more combat Veterans had Labrador Retrievers, I believe there would be a lot less PTSD in this world. Maybe life is not meant to be so complicated. Maybe the whole point is delight. That’s what she taught me. Because I love her, I delight in her delight. And because she loves me, she hangs on, trying to give me another delightful memory.

And tonight, when her delight turns to fright and I cannot soothe her, I will know we are right, the time is near. But tomorrow morning, for a few more tomorrows, we will delight in one more walk in the woods. And I will be grateful.

Gratitude is a form of delight, and delight is the sincerest form of prayer.

Love Is Green

“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!” (Sitting Bull)

“I am grateful for green plants.” It was an assignment for my Lutheran Catechism class to write a paragraph on something for which I was grateful. I was a biology nerd before I ever had a Biology class, and I still am grateful for green plants fifty-some years later.

Here in the North Woods, growth has an urgency sometimes not found elsewhere. Our growing season for most green plants is May to September at maximum. One of the things I love is that each week, and sometimes each day, another species begins blooming. This week the Strawberries and Star Flowers are in full force, the Bunchberries beginning, and the Trilliums fading to pink. Many spring flowers have already set seed, Marsh Marigolds among them.

We have thousands of Balsam Fir trees and they sprout a few new shoots on the ends of each live branch, bright light green contrasting with the aged dark green needles. The buds grow into new branches so fast it seems possible to watch the movement. I am puzzled how anyone can be bored in the woods.

Balsams have a tendency to die early, susceptible to a vascular fungus carried by a bark beetle. They have soft wood and shallow roots, conditions of rapid growth, and they often tip over or break in the wind. Carpenter ants munch on the wood unable to keep up with the fast life cycle of the ambitious firs. So, I clean up and burn branches.

I love a good campfire. I prefer Cedar or Sugar Maple for a long evening fire with meditative coals, but a quick fire of Quaking Aspen (another fast growing, soft tree that dies young) and Balsam Fir brightens a rainy day. Campfires are as close to magic as this old nerd needs to be.

The flames and glowing coals are sunshine. These humble green plants have managed a seemingly impossible task, that of grasping light. The energy from the sun, captured in tiny green bodies inside their cells, has been imprisoned in the leaves and wood and set free as fire. It is also released by the fungi, insect larvae, earthworms, or bacteria capable of reversing the process, of digesting the food stored.

Life works like that. Almost all life away from wet thermal vents relies upon sunlight captured by green plants and stored in plant or animal bodies. All the energy I eat every day comes from a nuclear fusion reaction 93 million miles away captured by chloroplasts too tiny for human eyes to perceive living only inside green plant cells.

No green plants, no life. Know green plants, know life. Okay, I warned you I was a nerd.

Reminder: This blog series is dedicated to love, the various kinds of love beyond the romantic and erotic that support personal growth and healing, especially the healing of invisible wounds from Combat PTSD.
There is an emotional connection between people and plants.

Think not? Buy your wife or mother some flowers. For years, my Mothers’ Day tradition was to buy my mother some Pansies and plant them for her. Gardening is an act of Hope, Faith, and Love.

I believe there is a spiritual connection between people and green plants. Oh, sure, we get pretty good at ignoring it lest some human think we might be nerdy, but it is there. Gardening is a wonderful activity for grief, and PTSD is a condition of grief for the loss of our comrades and for the loss of our pre-trauma selves.

Gardening is a challenge in these lattitudes, but the North Woods is a natural garden. I don’t have to do the gardening, just lend a hand from time to time. Harvest a tree, pick some berries, monitor diseases, prevent fires, and maybe thin some overgrown thickets.

Nature is God’s garden which man, in good sense, has preserved here and there for all of us to enjoy. So, enjoy the love, already.

Mind Wind: Honor in Duty

This is a tough topic for me. It is emotional; therefore, I am choosing to write a letter from the heart rather than crafting some argument. I present it now in honor of all Veterans.

Some years ago, I watched “Saving Private Ryan” in a theater. Later, I heard a highly regarded movie critic review some of the shortcomings of the film on TV. He missed the point. Now, I don’t know what the director or author intended the main point to be, but the message I received was duty.

There is honor in duty.

(Note: I am going to discuss the film with some detail of ending.)

Tom Hanks’s character lost his life doing his duty. He was an Army Captain just trying to get back home to his wife and his teaching career. His purpose was to do whatever it might take to get him home sooner. So, he did his duty to the best of his ability for personal reasons. There is honor in that.

Private Ryan was found, but he chose to stay with his brothers on the battlefield rather than run out and go home to his family. He did his duty for his reasons. There is honor in that.

It was a tough choice. They all knew that staying to help the ragged unit meant danger and probable death. They chose to stay. Many of them did die, but Private Ryan lived a full life. That was his duty. His prayer was that his life honored the Captains’s life lost finding him.

My good friend, a Vietnam Veteran of a battalion recon team in the 173rd Airborne, the only unit other than Special Forces to be on jump status in Vietnam, has never visited The Wall of the Vietnam Memorial. He once told me he couldn’t go there until he felt he had done something with his life. He believes it is his duty. There is honor in that.

The meaning of life is choice. Courage is duty in the face of fear. So, how do we define duty?

I got nothin’, here. I mean, there are no rules for me. Oh, people make up rules, and group leaders like to use rules to tell us what to do. But, in the end, duty is a gut reaction. It is emotional. It is spiritual. Something deep down inside tells us the right thing to do.

The best I can do is work hard to keep fear, prejudice, resentment, and a whole lot of  other selfish stuff out of my mind, heart, and gut so that I might make the honorable choice when I am called upon to do my duty.

How do you turn an idea into a story?

Okay, you have this idea that you think might make a good story. Where do you start? What is the process? How do you give it life?

The simple academic answer is that there are two basic approaches. You can craft a story driven by plot or by character. You can imagine a few characters and plan out some trouble for them (your story idea), laying the trouble out in a sequence or plot line that outlines the story. The alternative is to imagine your characters so vividly that they interact in ways that make things happen in the story. In truth, that is about the extent of my academic knowledge on the subject; however, these terms will give you the search words to discover a whole world of literature academia.

What I do know amounts to two other things. First, different writers find very different ways to craft their stories. Second, my personal experience lies somewhere between the plot-driven and character-driven processes. I can share that with you.

I dreamed up this idea about an old soldier caught between two impulses while immersed in a milieu of violent chaos, partial amnesia, and personal confusion. That’s about all I had to start—well, that and an obsession with the story that kept me thinking about it for a couple of weeks. I thought of the letters, “LG”, until I made up some words to fit those including “Little Guerillas” and “Last Generation” soldiers.

I started writing a scene for the character, now called Kenny, and a rough description. I decided to set the story in the North Woods I love. (Write what you know.) I gave Kenny a biography, you know, family, past, profession, personality characteristics. I wish I could recall how that happened. I think I basically wrote some bits and pieces that I shared with our local writing group, Write on the Edge, for critique.

Sometimes an idea would literally pop into my head. I would get some image or concept and have to write it down. By the time I prepared to take our RV back to the North Woods for the summer, I had a few thousand words written for different scenes not really connected. I also had made a decision to write a novel and the commitment to come back to Yuma with a completed first draft.

I am blessed. I have 27 acres of open forest land with a stream and lake access,
a well, a septic system, and a fenced garden. I also have a beautiful Yellow Labrador Retriever who loves the woods almost as much as I do and a wife who
not only encourages my writing but approves of me going to the woods for a few weeks alone. I was sequestered. Except for weekend fishing excursions with my neighbor and an occasional trip into town, all I did was garden, walk in the
woods, and write—sometimes four, five, or even six thousand words in a day.

Somewhere in the process the miracle happened. The characters started telling the story. It’s true. I know, I never really believed that, either, but it happened. That was really cool, worth all the effort for the entire project. I believe in
muses, now.

By nature or experience, I am a bit of a control freak. So, I naturally planned
out my story. The characters changed it, took it in directions I hadn’t
really planned. I just wrote—sometimes starting sentences without knowing how
they would end, frequently getting into places I did not know how to escape.
Then I would take a walk, garden, go to bed on it, and/or work on something else. Sometimes my characters surprised me so much I would laugh out loud, but nobody was there to hear me but the dog.

I think I wrote a good story, but the experience was wonderful. Somewhere along
the way I came to understand that I was learning about myself. I was growing. I
was metamorphosing with my characters. I am healthier and happier for this
endeavor, but do you know what? When I started, I didn’t really know much
about how to turn an idea into a story.

Enjoy the journey.

Mind Wind: My Stuff

Because of this blog, I’ve been doing a little inventory of my stuff. Yes, I have both kinds of stuff, matter and energy. Granted, energy may be a little harder to hold onto, but I work at it—pun intended.

Here in my beautiful North Woods, I have literally tons of stuff. I have sand and soil, including rocks of various types. Some rocks are high in quartz and suitable for knapping, making them into sharp tools such as knives, spear points, and arrowheads. Others are coarse and useful for sharpening wood and bone into tools. Many would make excellent construction material. Some are simply lovely, and a few have found there way into Nancy’s little rock garden. One is chocking my trailer tire right now.

I have what seems like a million trees. Aspen, of course, are good for making paper. Balsam firs provide color and aroma. Basswood is an excellent carving medium and the inner bark produces very strong string/rope cordage. Pine and spruce make excellent lumber. The black ash is particularly tough for poles, spears, and clubs. I expect it would be very strong for primitive shelters. The birches offer bark for shingling shelters or making baskets and other forms of functional art. They are also high in combustible oil that helps to start fires in wet conditions even when rotten (a fungus grows upon it and stores the oils). The wood makes fine, quick fires—speaking of which, the cedars are awesome for this. Not only is their wood full of heat, but it does not absorb a lot of moisture, and dry twigs are abundant under spreading branches of live trees.

There are many other plants useful for tools, construction, medicine, and food—even clothing. No, I don’t have any figs, but cedar’s inner bark, grasses, and other plants can be braided and woven into garments. Berrybushes provide berries and their leaves are wonderful green or dried for nutritious teas. Speaking of food, I have many growing sugar maple trees, which also make fine, hot coals for cooking when a limb falls. I don’t cut live maples (or, many other trees if I can avoid it). The point is that I do have a lot of wonderful stuff here provided by Nature. One would think I spent most of my time shopping my free forest for good stuff and making it into better stuff. Nope.

I spend way too much of my time, especially in the fall—it is fall here—as I prepare to move back to AZ, getting rid of other stuff that once seemed really important but, now, not so much. I bought some more important stuff, yesterday, a shed to keep my good stuff—or my other stuff I can’t seem to let go just yet. I blame it on growing up poor. I just never know when I might need another box, a worn out mower and chain saw, a wild game cart, old tackle boxes….

So, this morning I woke up early and went out to start my little generator, the true sine wave Honda that safely powers my computer. It burns gasoline, a kind of matter that stores a lot of energy. That energy made my coffee, stored in a plastic container sent to me from some faraway place using some more gasoline and probably a lot of Diesel fuel. I could have made a fire to brew some pine needle tea, but I have become accustomed to coffee. Note to self: roasted dandelion and chicory roots make an excellent coffee alternative. Okay, duly noted.

But, I NEED my computer, so the generator runs. If I had thought ahead (and spent the big bucks), I could be using a true sine wave inverter and my energy stored in my batteries from the sun. But, alas, my inverter will not safely run my computer, so I burn gasoline. Of course, I have limited storage in those batteries and the days are getting shorter. It’s almost 8 a.m. and I am generating only 0.5 amps with two large panels. It’s one of the drawbacks of having so many tall trees.

Soon, I will take my shower with water pumped from my well by the same generator and heated by LP gas, more stuff full of energy. Then I will get in my little SUV and drive 20 miles (about 1 gallon of gasoline) toMichigan to buy some more stuff I think I need. Of course, it will be another gallon of gas to get back home. I wonder, “How much matter and energy was required to mine the coal and iron to make my car?”

How did this happen? How did I become so dependent upon material things, matter and energy? I wasn’t born with it, and I don’t need to die with it. Why do I think I need so much of it to live? I know I didn’t have a binky, but I wonder if I ever had a blankie. Somehow, I came to believe that I needed a whole lot of stuff to stay alive.

I know I don’t. Maybe there can be a blessing to poverty. I hope so, because it is approaching, but that is a subject for a future blog.

Re Quest: Space Entitlement

Toward the end of my teaching tenure, I proclaimed to students in our environmental problems class, Solar Starship, that land use would be the issue of our lifetime. Actually, that was not prophecy so much as observation: Land use has been and may always be a primary issue in human relationships. Yet, I was wrong, and my lesson came, as it often did, from a student. But, first, a brief view of land use as space entitlement.

I “own” Lonesome Pines, our 27 acres in the North Woods of Wisconsing where I write today. I am entitled to call this space mine because Nancy and I exchanged thousands of dollars with the people who then held title, and that entitlement can be traced back some years to the mining company that owned the county. Before that, it was presumed owned by some Native Americans and “ceded” to our government in exchange for certain perpetual rights including spearing walleyes in the lake I fished yesterday.

My point here is that we claim entitlement to land space because of some business deals and treaty agreements. We also claim some special entitlement as superior human beings–Manifest Destiny being one example. I believe the people who lived and died on this land still hold some claim because of the bones and spirits that remain. The question looms as to who they might be.

They might be Sioux people who seemed to have been pushed out as Anishinaabe people arrived from the east, fleeing a prophecy. Perhaps title belongs to people here long before any Sioux. Land Entitlement is often murky. My sense is Pottawatomi history lives here along with Ojibwe, but that is just a feeling.

Actually, my legal entitlement does not include mineral rights, and, morally, I do not claim artifacts that might be found. Ojibwe, Pottawatomi, and others may have anything I uncover.

The questions for your consideration are these: What space are you entitled to own? By what right do you claim entitlement? How is this entitlement affected by your choice of land use?

Aldo Leopold, founder of UW Wildlife Ecology in Madison, wrote on the concept of Land Ethic. He hoped our human evolution would arrive at an application of ethics to land use including the space and everything within it, living and nonliving. This was published after his death in a collection called A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC. He was an optimist. Still, land use is one of the most important issues and ethical concerns. What could be more important?

I’ll tell you. On what I believe was my last field trip as a teacher, I asked the students, high school Juniors and Seniors, to view Devil’s Lake with a concern for land use. While one class went with a former student, I asked the second class to ponder the land use question while sitting quietly near the effigy mounds on the north shore.

Nancy and I watched as I called them back and asked what they had learned. The answer I got caused us to just look at each other. I said, “Well, I guess we can go home, now,” because the answer felt like the very reason those mounds had been built.

One student said that she didn’t know if she had learned anything, but she had decided something. “I decided land appreciation is more important than land use.”

Mind Wind: My Domain

We have established the abundance of space in our universe. Here on this finite marble we call home, Earth, there is also an abundance of space. This became clear to me as I traveled across the states west of the Mississippi. We crossed miles and miles of open grasslands, desert, and mountains. Geographically, Arizona is the fourth largest state in our Union, so I was very surprised when I looked for my own space here.

Yuma has approximately 75 RV parks of various flavors. Most have spaces somewhere in the 2000 square feet range, many less. When we began looking for a spot, I literally became ill, sick to my stomach. We lived almost 8 years in our RV full time but never in one of those crowded parks.

My wife chose to work the first 4 years in Casa Grande, and we found a new RV park with fewer amenities but very large spaces set in the desert of Cactus Forest 30 miles away. We had a space the size of a city home lot set on the park edge and a view of saguaro-mesquite desert with trails to walk. She said she made the choice for her dog, but I think she knew this country boy needed the room.

In Yuma Foothills, we found a lot to rent from another traveling nurse. We shared the space with them, but had plenty of room in a mixed neighborhood of homes, mobiles, and RVs. It seemed diverse in home style if not ethnicity. We also had a golf course and Fortuna Wash for the dog and me to wander. For Midwesterners, a wash is a stream bed dry almost all of the time—although I have seen it run wild a couple of times.

Now we live in 1300 square feet on a lot in a slow-growing development, so it still feels like I have plenty of space. There is also some undeveloped desert to walk with my dog, but it is not mine.

Mine, mine, mine. The place in Northern Wisconsin I call mine, or Lonesome Pines, is my domain. Nancy and I own it, all 27 acres. I can walk into my woods and be as alone as I want to be. Funny thing, though—I never feel alone there. Actually, regardless what the deed says, I don’t believe it is all mine. I just pay the taxes for the privilege of being adopted by the land as temporary caretaker.

The day will come when I have to let it go. The opportunity to “own” a special place, a personal space of some acres, comes along rarely. I bought one in 1974 and had to let it go in divorce in 1980. I didn’t find Lonesome Pines until 1998. But, someday, because of economics or declining caretaker abilities, I will have to say goodbye, again.

If there is a point, today, it is that space is abundant, but special places are not. This makes space similar to time. It is what it is–dependent upon our attitudes and perceptions, particularly regarding the relationship between place and us, a very personal relationship in my case. I leave you with a poem I wrote at the time I had to sell my little farm in Dane County in 1980.

But, hey, that got me to Beaver Dam Unified School District.


That old, run down farm,

Wasn’t all that much,

Twenty acres of silt over clay,

A barn and, half a house,

Too much work, too much money,

Never would reward,

It was a damned fool place all right,

So why do I miss it so?

And I have to let it go,

Too bad, I fit it so.