Ferns, Creeks, and Wizardry

May 29, 2011

It’s a sunny, mild morning, a day full of the promise of summer.   Earlier I took  Sallie for a walk along the bay, down Agate beach, up into Donahey woods, and then along First Creek.  She galloped along, stopping often to smell things at great length.  She was oblivious to anything but the moment–this branch, that fern, this spot in the sand.  That focus and a tendency towards joy  is one of the things I so admire about her or any dog.  I do know that it’s not possible or even desirable for people to be just like dogs, but I don’t think it would hurt to keep being inspired and informed by certain of their attributes.

I was happy too.  The sun felt good in my eyes, the lake washed hypnotically on the sand.  There are a thousand shades of green to choose from in the woods, and the Dutchman’s breeches and twin-flowers are in bloom.  The ferns have just uncurled, and First Creek was burbling in exactly the way a creek should. Just saying those words–Dutchman’s breeches, twin-flower, fern, creek–is a source of great satisfaction to me.  I like words.  Always have.  I used to read the dictionary when I was home sick from school as a kid.  Still do, sometimes.   In fact most of the things I loved as a kid I still love.  Words, books, dogs, cats, cookies, being outside, the color red, riding my bike, walking.

Down by First Creek there’s a log across the water that is like a log that crossed a creek in my childhood.  My friend Laurie and I spent endless hours there, only a few hundred feet from her house but a million miles from anywhere, too.  The creek burbled and riffled over pebbles.  Trillium bloomed nearby in the spring.   Maples cast a deep shade.  We waded in the water, crossed and recrossed the log.  Piled rocks up in mounds to what end I don’t know now.   We pretended: to be explorers, I think, and princesses, too, probably.  I don’t recall exactly.  I do remember the deep, incontrovertible happiness I felt there, as if everything was possible, including and especially magic.  Time as a constraint or threat or reality did not exist.  We just were.

That’s a state of being that fascinates me, one I’m always in search of, and sometimes find.  I found it in the bakery the other day, by accident.  It found me, really.  Something–a smell, a sound–catapulted me back to the Indianfields Public Library, and being ten or so, about to open a book by an author I loved, Eleanor Estes.  I looked her up today, and I think the book must have been “Pinky Pye.”   I remember an illustration of an attic window, a setting of a cottage on the ocean, and the word aerie–I got it confused with eerie–and wikipedia says that “Pinky Pye” involved a summer cottage and a pygmy owl, which rings a very faint bell.  What was not faint was my feeling of gladness, a deep anticipation at the experience about to come.

I stood there for a moment, amazed at having traveled across thirty five years so unexpectedly.  Happy, that’s what books have always made me.  Just purely happy.

A college friend wrote the other day to congratulate me on publishing  SOUTH OF SUPERIOR.  He said as a kid he’d always wanted to be a writer, not so much because he had stories to tell, but because he admired writers so.  They were his heroes.  Mine too.  For that wonderful ability they had to take you anywhere.  A writer could do magic and transport you.  I just realized, that must be why I’ve always wanted to write.   To do that magic.

Category: Life | Tags: , , , , , , , 14 comments »

14 Responses to “Ferns, Creeks, and Wizardry”

  1. Mary Airgood Vecellio

    You transported me to a place only words can take you!

  2. ellenair

    Thanks, Mary! What a great comment.

  3. Pamela Grath

    Eleanor Estes!!! The Pye family! Did you read the Moffat books, too? I still love them.

    As a girl, I had a little secret spring in the middle of a cornfield, and this morning in Northport I walked from the harbor to the millpond, following and photographing the little creek. That made me happy. Knowing you and Sallie are enjoying the outdoors as much as Sarah and I do makes me happy, too.

  4. Karen Casebeer

    You revved up my day with having another blog post made so quickly! I am imagining what it must feel like to have become one of those people you, and your college friend, have so admired: an author. Can’t wait for your book to arrive. :-)

  5. ellenair

    Karen, I like having revved up your day! Yay!

  6. ellenair

    Pamela, I LOVED the Moffats. I probably read everything Eleanor Estes ever wrote. I was devoted to her. I loved her books and felt connected to her through them. Also I think I thought it was cool that our names were sort of similar! Enjoy that creek…

  7. Lori J. Acre

    “Dutchman’s Breeches… are in bloom.” Awwww love them!!! Ellen I was just asking my mom about them; if they still bloomed on the river. My mom still lives on the road I grew up on, a dirt road that is said to be an old Indian’s path along the river. When we were young the Dutchman’s Breeches would bloom all along the high side of the river. Its blooming meant the end of the spring rains and the beginning of summer’s endless freedom from spring chores, being inside, long school days. Probably why I still love saying those words too!

  8. Mary Frances Yoos

    Ellen, I love reading your blog, and today’s was especially enjoyable. I feel as if I’ve been for a walk in the woods, and seen, felt, smelled and enjoyed all the things you describe.

    I anxiously await my opportunity to get your book on my e reader. I read the excerpt to mama the other night from my android, and when I got to the end she said, “that’s all?” and I said Yeah, isn’t it killing you? She said, RIGHT. You just want the story to keep unfolding.

    I will be up at some point this summer, and plan to ask for an autograph in a hardcover copy of your book too. By then I will have read the e-copy at least twice, I’m sure. I plan to read it to mama in installments.

  9. ellenair

    Lori, What a lovely memory–so lyrical. I love it.

  10. ellenair

    Mary, You have made me all teary. Thank you so much, and thanks for reading the book to your mom, who I miss so much. That means a lot to me.

  11. Mary Airgood Vecellio

    I know I’m a city girl and I know I live in the most violent city in our good ole USA, but I know you would appreciate my Memorial Day whimsy as I headed to work…. I saw a bird up ahead and decided to slow down because I couldn’t see what it was and as I got closer I rolled down my window to greet the mallard duck that was trotting down Circle Drive!!! He even greeted me with a couple quacks!!!! It just wasn’t something I expected to see:)

  12. Kerry

    We have been vacationing in Grand Marias for several years. We love it so much we bought a cabin in the School Forest. The first time I came in to your diner I notice a wonderful book store of your favorite authors for adults and children. Via this tiny bookstore we have have been introduced to many great authors. I purchased my first Louis Erdrich book (Tracks) from the West Bay Diner and have been her greatest fan ever since. You have introduced my family to many great authors. Along with delicious meals, especially your salad bar, we have aquired a wonderful library. Thank you and Good Luck .

  13. ellenair

    I love this story, Mary!

  14. ellenair

    Kerry, Thank you for this wonderful comment!


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