Early Spring at the Illinois Arboretum


Making a new high tide


If you’ve ever been to Bar Harbor, Maine, you’ve likely heard about Bar Island, the tree-covered sanctuary that sits isolated in the harbor for most of the day. When the tide drops, however, a wide sandbar emerges as a walking path between Mt. Desert Island and Bar Island. For about 90 minutes, twice a day, Bar Island becomes a bustling thoroughfare of tourists, giggling like children at the idea of walking across the harbor on foot, collecting rocks and shells on the way. Continue reading

Renewing myself at Emiquon

March has been a month unlike any other.

My work responsibilities have expanded and new opportunities for professional growth appear daily.

I’m helping guide a group of 10- and 11-year-old boys as they learn what it means to be leaders as Boy Scouts.

I’m doing my best to give my son my undivided attention when we’re together.

I’ve been intentional about being present and investing in those relationships that I hold dear, those close and across the miles.

I’ve even been able to dabble in the world of garden speaking, presenting three workshops to Illinois gardeners whose senses have awoken at the hint of spring.

I’ve never felt more engaged in life, yet I’ve fallen down when it comes to taking a moment to recharge myself in the best way I know how — getting outdoors and allowing Mother Nature to fill me with renewal.

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A Christmas reflection

The sun arrived in the middle of Christmas morning, streaming through the windows in beams that cut across the ripped and crumpled wrapping paper on the floor. It’s been such a grey December, even fleeting rays among the remnants of a Christmas Eve rainstorm brought cheers. Winter is only a few days old, but we’re already weary of its heavy pall.

As the afternoon unfolded and the thermometer rose, a desire to breathe fresh air fought through a head cold that was threatening to pull my entire body into malaise. I was alone on Christmas afternoon for the first time in my life. This has been a year of great transition, this last month the hardest, as I navigate the emotions that surround holidays in our newly-defined family. Continue reading

Bottling the day at Rock Mill Brewery


As I drove the hilly curves outside Lancaster, I could feel her anticipation rising. I was visiting Jess for the weekend after a long work week. She’d come up with the perfect Saturday activity — a visit to the Rock Mill Brewery tasting room where we could share good brew, beautiful scenery and a gorgeous autumn day. Continue reading

The lesson of the walnuts

I chose my steps carefully around the furrowed trunk of the black walnut. Ripening husks littered the floor of the Illinois Arboretum nut grove, greasy black flesh waiting to stain a poorly placed shoe.

I closed my eyes and took in the earthy lemon scent that filled the air, a fermented sweetness that fell on the good side of decay.

I remembered the time I was hiking with scouts, and surprised them by finding a just-fallen fruit along the trail. Many of them had enjoyed walnuts in chocolate chip cookies, but wouldn’t believe that the green orb in my hand was one and the same. In a moment of lost discretion, I plunged my finger into the flesh, digging towards the hull that would prove to them a walnut grew inside.

Three weeks later, my fingers lost the dark hue of the juglone that stained my hands.

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Captured by a snapshot

Meadowbrook Park 2014-01-01

I’ve spent much of my holiday break inside, rendered sedentary by a renewed appetite for fiction combined with a general case of the motivational doldrums. When I woke this morning to a thick overcast New Year’s sky, the cabin fever that’s been building in me the last few days felt oppressive.

A lunchtime run chased away some of the fog and lethargy, but I knew I needed to breathe more than the air of suburbia to brush away the remaining cobwebs. So I set out to hike Meadowbrook Park in Urbana.

All of our pre-holiday snow has melted, so I didn’t expect much in the way of lens fodder beyond tree silhouettes and prairie ghosts. Now, I’m certainly not beyond finding beauty in the browns and greys of the winter landscape, but the prairie wasn’t calling my name as I walked into the brisk air of the park.

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