Hunched Old Jack Pine

THIS HUNCHED OLD JACK PINE has greeted every dawn here on Fawn Island for—well, for a long time. Not much left of it now, as a summer storm took its top a couple of years ago. Only a few gnarled boughs still retain their greenery. But the little tree holds firmly to its place on the bedrock as it has

Church O The Island

AT THE CHURCH O THE ISLAND, green things grow. A mama merganser clucks from the shoreline. Birds sing from leafy bowers. A light wind ruffles the lake and wavelets chuckle among the rocks. Pine bows nod and aspens shiver. The sun charts its course across the morning sky. And one notices, absentmindedly at first, how many things are good and

Bonsai Personality

EVERY BONSAI has its own personality, its own character. This character is revealed—and created—by the care it receives—the water and light, the nurturing, pruning, and shaping. Human beings, of course, are exactly the same. “As the twig is bent…” This combination of nature and nurture, of freedom and intent, of extrinsic and intrinsic, is one of the fascinating things about

Rocks Speak

ROCKS SPEAK. In their own way, to those who have ears to listen. I have long thought that every stone is a teacher and every breeze a language. Boulders have lessons to impart and stories to tell. Each of these great stones, within 25 yards of our island cabin, is a ‘glacial erratic’, dropped where it stands by a retreating

Old Turtle

“NOW, MY CHILDREN,” said Old Turtle, her voice as gentle as the breeze among the blossoms, “there is one more question you have not asked, perhaps the most important one of all. It is a question asked by every dawn—a question of the rising sun and of the light that fills the world. It is whispered by the first morning

Growing Bonsais

AT THE CHURCH O THE PINES, surrounded by so many glorious trees, it may seem odd to spend so much time and trouble on little trees in pots. Bonsais. But if you love trees, you love trees. And the process of helping them to grow—protecting, nurturing, shaping them—is richly rewarding. Although larger scale forestry is certainly rewarding too, it cannot

In The Quiet

IN THE QUIET, tucked away side of the island, far from the open lake, a boulder has stood for, oh, about 10,000 years. Give or take, since the retreat of the last glacier. For all those millennia, nothing happened with that boulder. The bark canoes of the Anishinaabe passed by, the brigades of the fur traders, the arrival of lumbermen

Leap of Faith

I WATCHED a dozen baby mallards follow their mother to the edge of a dock three feet above the water. Watched as she plunged in and encouraged them to follow, for their very first swim. And after a bit of peeping and shuffling back and forth at the precipice, they did. First one, high into the air and into the

A Good Day to Be Alive

ON THIS SUNDAY at the old cabin in the Church O’ The Pines, it is a fine day to be a goose, gabbling from the river. Or my favorite songster, the wood thrush, singing ethereal songs from the deep woods. Or my old friend Sparky the Cardinal singing his own heart out, or a flame-sided orilole flashing across the yard

The Grandson Humor

FROM THE DEPARTMENT of 9-year-old grandson humor here at the Church O The Pines: Knock-knock. Who’s there? Panther. Panther who? Panther what you wear on your legth. OR… What did the fisherman say to the magician: Pick a cod, any cod. OR PERHAPS… How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh? 10 tickles. AND FINALLY… It’s inappropriate