LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘The Hour of Land’

“The Hour of Land: a Personal Topography of America’s National Parks,” Terry Tempest Williams (Sarah Crichton Book, 2016).

The National Park Service observed its centennial in 2016. During this year, writer Terry Tempest Williams published “The Hour of Land,” her personal journey and meditation on the national parks, essays written as she traveled the country visiting some of the iconic sites that so define this country.

“There are few contemporary nonfiction writers who can capture the essence of the American wilderness landscape as eloquently and intimately as Williams. Noted for writing about the American West, her distinctive prose style is capable of conveying a deep spiritual dimension within the physical setting. This is very much in evidence in her latest book, a broadly ambitious and deeply impassioned collection of essays on a select group of settings within the national park system.” — Kirkus Reviews.

Lillian with Terry Tempest Williams at Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit, Summer 2016. (Photo by Jim Fuglie.)
Lillian with Terry Tempest Williams at Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit, Summer 2016. (Photo by Jim Fuglie.)

Williams, the writer of many books and a personal friend of mine, is one of the most eloquent voices writing about American lands in this time. One of the early chapters of this book features the previous Superintendent of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Valerie Naylor, and thus the challenges that are so familiar to readers of Wild Badlands. When Williams was a guest speaker at TRNP during the anniversary celebrations, the house was packed and her warm wisdom kept everyone enthralled.

When I am feeling discouraged about the challenges that the Bad Lands face, I often turn to her writing to ground me and give me courage and fortitude. Hers is an excellent voice to join with those of BCA, and this book is a gem I give my highest recommendation.

This book review was published in “Wild Badlands: Badlands Conservation Alliance Newsletter,” Autumn 2017, No. 42.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘Geography of the Great Plains’

Jim and I took ourselves Wednesday on over to the United Tribes Technical College for a lunchtime program by a member of the faculty there, Dakota Goodhouse. The topic was “The Geography of the Great Plains,” and we knew it would be a worthwhile use of our retired time, not to mention the huge, delicious sloppy Joes we were fed.

The Lakota words for “Great Plains” is shown in the photograph below.

Which translates to “the beautiful country.”

The indigenous names for various geographical features were very beautiful. One I remember is that the Loup River in what is now Nebraska was called the Belted Kingfisher River. My view is that the original name should have been kept.

Here are three books that Dakota recommends.

Dakota has an excellent blog that I give my highest recommendation, “The First Scout: Mystic Warriors of the Great Plains.” Citizens, do seek enlightenment.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘The New Wild West’ — A Book Review

“The New Wild West: Black Gold, Fracking, and Life in a North Dakota Boomtown,” by Blaire Briody (St. Martin’s Press, 2017).

Readers of the Bismarck Tribune will recognize several of the principal characters in this book in which Blaire Briody tells the story of the Bakken Oil boom in western North Dakota. Briody intersperses the stories of many individuals, including a Williston, N.D., pastor who becomes infamous for his Overnighters program at his church, and Donny Nelson, a McKenzie County rancher, along with transplants from places like Kentucky and Utah, people in search of jobs in the wake of the recession, flocking to North Dakota, in spite of the lack of housing and infrastructure.

Briody, a reporter by training, moves to a trailer on the outskirts of Williston, a place where men greatly outnumber women, and sets herself to learning more about the Bakken by getting to know individuals she features in the book.

She writes “North Dakota’s Bakken region, about the size of Delaware, accounts for 40 percent of the growth in U.S. oil production … (where it) became the No. 2 oil-producing state in the nation. …The pristine prairie transformed almost overnight into a maze of heavy industry and oil wells, with thousands of workers relocating to the state. The drilling was so frenzied and chaotic that David Petraeus, the former CIA director and U.S. Army general, referred to the region as a ‘war zone’ during his visit in 2013.”

The transformation of Williston from a sleepy prairie town to boomtown forms the core of the book. The chapter on the effect of the boom on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation was particularly dispiriting to read, with administrative neglect and environmental disasters taking a toll.

“More than 4,000 brine spills have been documented in the state since the boom began. … Unfortunately, state records and industry documentation of how much oil and brine spills is poor.”

The book ends with the downturn that began in late 2014, and Briody summarizes it all by detailing what the individuals she had featured were doing with their lives in the wake of this development. Most have moved on.

“For the tens of thousands who migrated to Williston and soon left, the boom will likely fade into a distant memory.” Rents have gone down, cities are left with huge debts and empty buildings, and the prairie residents will continue on with their lives, forever altered by what has happened in the “New Wild West.”

This book review was published Sunday in the Bismarck Tribune.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘Beyond the Bedroom Wall’

The year I was a sophomore in college, one of my mentors, my Lutheran pastor, was reading a novel. He told me I should read, it and so I did. I remember exactly where we were and what the car in which we were riding looked like. I paid attention, as I greatly respected this man.

The book was “Beyond the Bedroom Wall,” a novel by a North Dakotan, Larry Woiwode.

I had a full academic load and a part-time job, but I found the time to read the novel. Profoundly moved, my mentor asked me what in particular I liked about the book, and I told him that I felt the author had captured the protagonist’s voice, a woman, exceptionally well.

Here is the first paragraph of the novel:

“Every night when I’m not able to sleep, when scrolls of words and formulas unfurl in my mind and faces of those I love, both living and dead, rise from the dark, accusing me of apathy, ambition, self-indulgence, neglect — all of their accusations just —and there’s no hope of rest, I try again to retrace the street. It’s an unpaved street and it’s the color of my hand. It’s made up mostly of the clayey gumbo from the flat and tilting farmland all around this village so small it can be seen through from all sides, and its ungraded surface is generally overrun with ruts that are slippery and water-filled in spring, ironlike in summer, furred in fall with frost as phosphorescent as mountain ridges on the moon’s crust, and in winter buried beyond all thought except for any thought that clay or gravel or the booted feet of people crossing ice-covered snow above might have. It’s the main street of Hyatt, North Dakota, and it’s one block long. I lived in Hyatt from the time I was born until I was six and returned only once, at the age of eight, wearing a plaid jacket exactly like my brother’s, too light for the weather, and ran up and down this street with changed friends, playing hike-and-seek between buildings that stand deserted, now that time has had its diminishing effects.”

By the time I read this novel, I was a college English major and I was immersed in the glory of learning new things every day from all of my professors. I recognized the places Woiwode wrote about as I, too, had grown up in rural North Dakota.

That there was a New York Times best-seller written by a North Dakotan was big news. Little did I imagine that one day I would become friends with the writer, well-acquainted enough that I would recognize him when our paths cross in the Bismarck Menards parking lot.

At the time that “Beyond the Bedroom Wall” was published, Woiwode lived in New York City, but he now lives in the rural Hettinger County, near Mott, and teaches at Jamestown University, traveling back and forth each week.

Perhaps I should reread the novel, with my hard-earned wisdom of years changing my perspective and appreciate it anew.

What is your “Beyond the Bedroom Wall” memory?

The shelves in the library at Red Oak House are filled with Woiwode books, and we attend his readings whenever we are able. We eagerly await his new writing, this author who captures the essence of this place so well that he was named the North Dakota Poet Laureate.

Write on, Larry, and godspeed.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Laura Ingalls Wilder Quest

Friends and family know that I’m a fervent fan of the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’ve written about this before on my blog, including in this book review. There was a time in my life when I read her books over and over, but I eventually moved on to devouring the books about her, of which I have a dozen or more.

Just Monday, a good friend sent me the link to this article, “Little House in the Prairie and the Truth about the American West” in Monday’s New York Times that just goes to show that Wilder’s writings continue to inspire and interest readers.

Over the years, I’ve made a pilgrimage to all of the LIW sites in the United States with the exception of Walnut Grove, Minn., and Malone, N.Y. It is my intention to travel to Walnut Grove next summer with my sisters. Maybe we can even talk my daughter into joining us.

On our recent blue highways trip to Iowa and back, I lobbied Jim to let me stop at the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa. We had been there once before a few years back, but I did not learn until later that Laura’s daughter Rose’s papers are deposited there. These papers include handwritten documents by Laura, a treasure trove of interesting items. In advance of my visit, I communicated with a member of the staff and he graciously provided me with very helpful links to review to prepare myself for the visit.

We arrived at the Hoover Library early one morning, just as it was opening. Jim went to the museum to see new exhibits and I went into the library. The library was built in 1960, and Rose Wilder Lane wrote a biography of Hoover so her papers were felt to be a natural fit to be deposited here by her executor, Roger Lee McBride.

Spencer Howard checked me in and issued me a Researcher Identification card. As a past librarian and museum archivist, I have a particular affinity for the people who labor away in places such as this, ensuring that our history and literature will be preserved in perpetuity, and Howard couldn’t have been more helpful.

The Little House Heritage Trust owns the copyright for Wilder’s works, and many of her artifacts can be seen at Rocky Ridge Farm near Mansfield, Mo. I visited there in 1982 and so wish that I could go again. Maybe someday.

Howard brought me the finding aid and I requested 12 boxes, mindful that I had only the morning for this visit. My photographs in this blog are reproduced as a courtesy of the Hoover Library.

I was so thrilled to sit and look through page after page of her letters to “Manly Dear,” Laura’s husband, Almanzo, letters that illustrate her powers of description, many written to him when she traveled to San Francisco, where their only child, Rose, was living.

Here are a couple of the passages that spoke to me:

  • “Feb. 5, 1937: But I am so having to live over those days with Pa and Ma anyway, so I did.” She refers to correspondence with her relatives who shared remembrances that added rich detail to her books.
  • “March 12, 1937 People drive me wild …”

There is a copy of her father, Charles Ingalls’ homestead document dated May 11, 1886, from Watertown, S.D., for which he paid a $3.86 filing fee. There are the original manuscripts for “Little House in the Big Woods” and “Farmer Boy.” There is the handwritten first page from “By the Shores of Silver Lake” and galley proofs for “Little Town on the Prairie.”

Another document that was of great interest to me was the questionnaire that Almanzon completed for Rose as background for her book “Free Land” as well as the manuscript for “Free Land.” Almanzo’s answers were fascinating!

I’ve always felt that these books have resonated with me all these decades because I am the granddaughter of pioneers. When I was a young girl, my mother sewed a pioneer girl dress and bonnet for me out of green calico, and I still have these cherished items. This year, I loaned these to my granddaughter, Seraphina, and just in the nick of time I shipped these to her as the fit was, her mother reported to me, perfect. She wore the outfit for Halloween.

Backtracking to an earlier day in the trip, our first night was spent in Spring Grove, Minn. (I know, I know, so close to Walnut Grove!) As we reached the city limits, I immediately spotted a sign for The Wilder Museum. I made inquiries at a downtown pizza place, and the girl working there proudly told me she also worked at the museum. I had completely forgotten that Almanzo’s parents had moved to Spring Grove.

We explored the area the next morning, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to get into the museum, as it was the off-season. It is housed in the old Methodist Church where the Wilders worshipped. At one point, Almanzo and Laura lived with his parents in Spring Grove. We drove out to the city cemetery and located the family graves, including Almanzo’s brother, Royal.

On we traveled on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway, where we saw a couple of Amish buggies, driving along the same road.

Our next destination was tiny Burr Oak, Iowa, just across the Minnesota border. Again, it was the off-season, so everything was locked up tight, nevertheless we enjoyed a walk around the town, and Jim even persuaded me to pose for a silly photograph or two, channeling my inner pioneer girl.

And wait, there’s more! Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — As Kingfishers Catch Fire

Some weeks ago, my dear friend, Ken, loaned me a gem of a book, one he had enjoyed and he knew that I would like it too, entitled “As Kingfishers Catch Fire: Books & Birds,” by Alex Preston and Neil Gower, an exploration of birds in literature.

I started it very soon after that day, but then the library alerted me that a book I’d requested, a new biography of Ulysses S. Grant, was being held for me and Chernow’s more than 1,000-page book diverted me for many weeks.

When Ken brought me his book, I told him that another close friend of mine considers the kingfisher to be her totem bird. This is how birders talk, gentle reader. We are all a wee bit bonkers about birds. The Red Oak House library holds many different books on birds we’ve accumulated over the years.

But back to the book in hand. Each chapter is devoted to one species of bird, and the first page is a remarkable illustration of the bird subject. Although just as I struggle to identify my favorite bird species, it is difficult to decide which chapter I liked the most.

Preston interweaves stories about the bird with various poems and prose. T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf and many others make an appearance. The writer lives in England, and he works from his lifelong collection of notes on the topic, citing hundreds of books, leading me, the reader, on a path to even more books I wish to read.

Sunday morning, as I was in my home office, there was a hairy woodpecker and red-breasted nuthatch on the suet feeder.

One of the books Preston writes about is “The Christmas Robin,” a book my children and I have read dozens of times over the years. Soon when I decorate the house for Christmas, I will find this book.

The book ends with a chapter on nightingales, a bird I’ve not seen nor heard. So I looked up the song and listened.  It is particularly beautiful and I hope to hear it someday in the wild.

He writes “I wanted the nightingale to be the last chapter in this book precisely because the bird seems to be live trapped, trembling, between the page and the sky. Poets have broken themselves, and their language, trying to express in words the eternal moment, always dissolving, of the nightingale’s song. There is a nobility in this struggle, to make new a creature that has become a trope, more fable than bird. In our age of great lies and slippery truths, attempting the accurate expression of something as pure, as unpartisan, as a nightingale’s song is a political act.” (page 174)

Serendipitously, this past couple of days the folks of the ND-Birds world (a listserv that shares sightings for those in North Dakota who are interested in birds), have posted notices of the sighting at Lake Tschida, south of Glen Ullin, of an “accidental” (the word for a bird that is not normally in a location) red-throated loon.

I finished this delightful book just as Jim was home from running errands and told him that I’d like to make the road trip, so we did. While I drove, he looked up the loon in the Audubon app on his phone, reading the details to me, including that this bird is almost always seen on the coastline, in the ocean.

Shortly after we arrived, two other birders joined us, and they had with them the bonus of a spotting scope. And we added a new species to my life list on a cold and windy day. A red-throated loon. Hurray! We also watched a bald eagle fishing on the lake.

Below is a photograph of my trusty field guide  where I’ve noted details on each species, the sighting location, and date. I started keeping track in 1982. The red-throated loon brings me to a life total of 419 species.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — France Will Live Again

Facebook friends know I buy, read and mostly keep a lot of used books. Call it an obsession.

My most recent acquisition is titled “France Will Live Again: The Portrait of a Peaceful Interlude 1919-1939,” by Samuel Chamberlain. It was priced at $3 new in December 1940, a bit less the other day for the frail used copy.

For the modern reader, the book is an interesting leap back in time.

Like Ernest Hemingway, Chamberlain served in the Red Cross ambulance corps during World War I.

He decided to remain in France, devoting himself to photographing and drawing French villages, towns and cities, cathedrals and churches, the seashore, bridges, cottages, farms, manors and chateaux.

Eventually, he decided that much of this would be destroyed in the coming war, and therefore documented it in his book. Much of it was.

Some of the sites I’ve seen while visiting France, especially during my and Dorette’s three-month retirement sabbatical on the Riviera in 2010.

We rented an apartment a few miles east of Nice in the town of Menton and used it as home base for our travels. Thus my favorite Chamberlain drawing is the one of Menton, shown above.

At the right, is a photo I took in Menton. Notice that the church steeple is the same, although much of the town has changed during the 70 years since publication of the Chamberlain book.

Menton remains on my list of places to see again.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Willa Cather’s Red Cloud

Although it is now more than 30 years ago, I remember very clearly the day when I was a graduate student at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Michael Rothacker gave his students the assignment of reading a novel of our choosing and writing a report on said novel.

My friend, Pamela Jean, and I went right over to the Main Library on the Vanderbilt campus, where I gravitated to the American literature section. Likely Pamela recommended to me the novel “My Antonia,” by the inimitable Willa Cather. I devoured it, with its sumptuous details of pioneer life — and I aced that assignment. If you’ve not read this book and are interested in learning more about the prairie, I urge you to do so pronto.

Since that time in Nashville, Tenn., I’ve read more of her books as well as her “Selected Letters” and have enjoyed many conversations with friends about Cather, including one just this very afternoon with North Dakota’s Poet Laureate, Larry Woiwode, in the Menards parking lot.

As I’ve described in another blog, Two English majors take a mostly blue highways trip, one of our travel guides is the book “Novel Destinations.” Our recent travels also found us in Red Cloud, Neb., Willa Cather’s childhood home.  Fortuitously, as we were finalizing our plans for our trip to Des Moines, Iowa, the New Yorker magazine published a story by a writer who had visited Red Cloud, entitled “A Walk in Willa Cather’s Prairie.” I put it on Jim’s reading pile and made my plea for adding a day onto our trip to go there ourselves. He was skeptical that we’d be able to find a room for the night given the timing of this article, but I called and booked one, in what is called “Willa Cather’s Second Home,” a lovingly preserved home in an enchanting prairie town.

We arrived on a Sunday night, after dark, and followed the detailed instructions for letting ourselves into the home, beginning our full immersion into Cather’s world. To our great delight, we discovered that we were, in fact, the only guests that night and had the entire house to ourselves! We settled in and made ourselves quite comfortable, and then explored every square inch. It was ever so quiet. Like little kids, we texted photos to our close friends who we knew would most appreciate this news. Jim mixed up Manhattans, and we settled in to read some of the literature that the Willa Cather Foundation, which operates this house, has left here and there for guests. Here is the link with lodging information if you are interested in staying there.

When I was a child growing up in Slope County, we had a bureau like this in the kitchen, next to the round oak table.

This book on a table in the home caught my eye because just the day before as we drove through Nebraska we were talking about the poet and Nebraskan Ted Kooser, who wrote the foreword. I was so excited about being in this place that I couldn’t sleep, but the pages of this book lulled me into a calm and I finally crawled into the comfy bed and drifted off.

The next morning, we ate the breakfast that had been left for us and set off for the Visitor’s Center, which occupies a full block in the downtown, in the historic Opera House. But first, we walked around the exterior of Willa Cather’s Second Home. When she would come home to visit her parents, she would often be seen on the balcony that is just off her second-floor bedroom, scribbling away in her notebook.

There we took in the excellent exhibits and recounted to each other our personal Cather memories, asked questions of the committed staff members and made plans for further explorations. Next we walked around the downtown area. which is chockablock full of interesting old buildings, getting a feel for Cather’s time, followed by a drive around Red Cloud, where many of the historic homes have markers out front describing their significance to Cather’s time.

Below is the house her parents were living in when she was born, where she lived from 1884 to 1890.

This is the train depot, her embarkation point for the wide world east of Red Cloud. It is very well-preserved, and there are exhibits within.

Our final Cather destination was south of Red Cloud, the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, purchased by The Nature Conservancy, with the help of the Woods Charitable Fund, in August 1974, 612 acres of native prairie. The Willa Cather Foundation acquired the area from the Conservancy in 2006. Here one truly gets the sense of what the prairie was like in Cather’s time, complete with a cold, stiff wind the day we visited. With good reason, Visit Nebraska calls this place “a botanical treasure.”

Today I donned my souvenir sweatshirt and realized that this was a sign that it was time for me to write this post. I need only look at it to know there are some of her books I still need to read. Meanwhile, we hope to visit Red Cloud again and meet some friends there who share our love of literature. Do go.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Read Bluemle’s New Book

John Bluemle’s new book, “North Dakota’s Geologic Legacy” (actually published in 2016 and now in its second printing), is a culmination of a career of more than 40 years he spent with the North Dakota Geological Survey, researching all facets of North Dakota’s geology, carrying the title of state geologist.

It’s his fourth in a series of books designed, as he says, “for physical and arm-chair travelers.” His earlier work, “The Face of North Dakota,” comprised three editions, as he constantly updated it to keep up with demand and the changes we humans have brought to our state’s landscape.

This new work, from the North Dakota State University Press, should be required reading in our schools, and for those of us past school age, it can serve as a marvelous guide as we take advantage of the outdoor recreational opportunities our state provides.

For North Dakotans who love the Bad Lands, as I do, Bluemle provides a rich and easy-to-understand explanation of what we are seeing and why we are seeing it as we drive, hike or canoe deep into the canyons carved by eons of wind and water on fragile soil.

He devotes a lot of ink to the Bad Lands, rightfully so, since it is our most interesting geologic area, but if you have ever been curious about sand hills, eskers, anamooses, geologic beaches, buttes, potholes, cannonballs, flint, kames, veblens or natural terraces and the forces that formed them, this book is for you.

Or even if you’re not overly curious about those land forms, it’s fun to look out the car window as you drive through our state and know what it is you’re looking at and how it got there.

First, a bit about the author, John P. Bluemle. He came to North Dakota from Montana, right out of college, geology degree in hand, and went to work as a geologist for the North Dakota Geological Survey. He never left. Instead, he spent more than 40 years traveling our state, studying every major landscape system in the state.

In his foreword to the book, geology professor Eric Brevik writes “There probably isn’t anyone alive today who knows more about North Dakota’s geology or who has reached out to the public to expand general knowledge of the state’s geology.”

In this book, Brevik writes, Bluemle takes the reader on a wonderful journey through landscapes dominated by deposits from glaciers, ancient lakes, running water, an erosion. And, Brevik points out, the book is written for nonscientists.

Geology is important. It helped determine where people settled and where people live today. Our vast energy resources — not just coal, gas and oil, but wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric energy as well — are a direct result of our geologic heritage. And Bluemle discusses each of these in one of the book’s most interesting and timely chapters.

How and when was the Bakken formed? How does horizontal drilling work?What’s the future of solar energy here? Did you know that North Dakota’s long summer days and dry climate provide more sunlight than any other state along the Canadian border? Did you also know that lignite coal could be gasified 2,000 feet underground, producing vast quantities of synthetic natural gas without disturbing the landscape and without any air pollution? The book is a treasure trove of information and caution about the use of our energy resources. I hope the owners of every energy company doing business here read it.

But mostly, for me at least, the book answers the questions I have about what I am seeing as I drive through North Dakota, or walk through my favorite hiking and hunting places.

And since I spend much of my time in the Bad Lands, I love that he gives that area of the state special attention. In his summary of that chapter, he writes, “The geology is only part of the badlands story. The weather and climate, vegetation, animals, birds, insects, sounds and aromas — all of these, along with the human history and the ranching heritage — work together to complete the story of the badlands.” (Note he and I have different treatment of the area called “the Bad Lands” or “the badlands.”)

“I have hiked and camped in the badlands many times,” he writes. “Evening summer showers accentuate the colors, and the clinker beds assume intense shades of red and orange. The fresh, pungent aroma of wet sage and cedar enhance the experience. At night, the stark, intricately eroded pinnacles can seem unreal. In the moonlight, or in a night lightning storm, it is easy to imagine the strange shapes as ruins of a magical city, rather than structures of mere sand and clay. Blend in the sound of coyotes conversing, and the badlands environment is complete.”

Who says scientists can’t write?

The book takes us across the state from west to east, and as we travel, we learned that the tops of our thousands of buttes, and indeed, even the Killdeer Mountains, were once the bottom of giant lakes. The hard caprock preserved them while all around them, the land eroded away as the lakes receded, leaving what once were lake bottoms as now the highest points in our state.

Midway through the ice age, a glacier blocked the Missouri River, likely not far from where the Garrison Dam is today, Bluemle tells us, forming “the original Lake Sakakawea: an early ice-dammed lake that predated the Corps of Engineers version of Lake Sakakawea by thousands of years.”

The Missouri Escarpment, the near-absence of rivers and streams flowing into the Missouri from the east, The Turtle Mountains, the terraces of the Sheyenne and James rivers, and the flat, flat Red River Valley, once the bed of a glacial lake, all have geologic origins. Their stories are fascinating. As are the stories of things no longer here, like Glacial Lakes Souris, McKenzie, Dakota, Minnewaukan and Cando.

All those things, and more, Bluemle shares in the pages of a 375-page book, beautifully printed on heavy gloss paper, and making it more enjoyable are the abundance of high-quality color photos (taken by the author), charts, graphs and illustrations and Bluemle’s translation of the vernacular of geology into layman’s terms.

Yes, John Bluemle probably had the best job in the state. He got paid to drive around and explore and examine our landscape. And he has used it to share with us a wealth of easy-to-read information no one else has ever compiled. His book is available at the North Dakota Heritage Center, most North Dakota bookstores and online. Because of its high-quality printing, it’s a bit pricy at $40, but worth every penny, especially when we read the words of a crusty old geologist as he sends us on our way at the book’s conclusion, much like he did in his earlier books, with these words:

“We ask much of our land — and the land, in turn, challenges us. We farm the fields, drink the water, build our homes and businesses, pump the oil and gas, mine the coal and sand and gravel, bury the wastes and play in the parks. Our land provides the basis for all we are. City people depend on it just as much as those who live in rural areas. Each of us needs clean water, fresh air, open space and the chance to experience the natural marvels surrounding us.

“As we look at today’s North Dakota, we strive to appreciate yesterday and anticipate tomorrow. Both our past and our future are rooted in our land, and in its ability to work for us and with us. If we understand the geological history and natural processes that have shaped the landscape, we can better apply that knowledge to conserve and renew it.

“As we constantly mold and remodel the land to suit our needs, it is important that we adapt to the changes we impose upon it. However we choose to treat our land — gently and with respect, or harshly and callously — we are shaping the legacy we leave our children.”

Read this book.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘This Secret Luminous Place … Where All Bibliophiles Go’

“That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. … Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.” — George Saunders

My next door neighbor’s ash tree glows in the dusk, so each day I lounge on my patio and admire it. Our ash tree is a study in contrast, the leaves all blown away in the wind of three days ago.

On Thursday, after my daily chores were complete, I curled up in an armchair and finished the novel I’ve been reading, “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead, a Pulitzer and National Book Award winner. In my view, the accolades he received are all on target and, for a time, I escaped to the luminous place Whitehead describes in his book.

I’m a lifelong bibliophile, as is my mother. Her parents bought her books such as all of the Nancy Drew books, “Bambi,” “Heidi” and others, and she saved them all for her children to read. Her copperplate handwriting within the book makes me smile.

My favorite place in my high school was the library. When I was attending college, I worked in the library. After earning a bachelor’s degree in English, with a minor in library science, I went to work at the Dickinson (N.D.) High School library as a paraprofessional.

In April of that school year, the director at Stoxen Library (Dickinson State University), Bernnett Reinke, got in touch with me. There was an opening, and they wished for me to apply. I worked at Stoxen Library in various positions for the next 26 years, performing a wide variety of jobs, everything but janitor, and I retired as the director.

October is the month for the semiannual used book sale sponsored by the Bismarck Friends of the Library organization. Jim and I made a pass through the sale on the opening morning, and Friday I took my mother. I saw many friends there, happily browsing the tables chock-a-block full of treasures. One friend was buying a stack of books for her Little Free Library in front of her house.

My taste in books like in music is very eclectic, although I probably read more non-fiction, truth be told.

Once I’d returned my mother to her home, it was such a gorgeous day that I decided to take a walk somewhere near to the river.  I chose Chief Looking’s Village, in northwest Bismarck, with its sweeping vistas of the valley. I also sat for a spell in the peace of Sonali’s Garden and soaked in the sunshine. The ladybugs were busy in the garden and squirrels chattered in the nearby trees. Thank you, to the Seths for creating this wonderful place of peace.

One of my final chores before supper was the annual cleaning out of our wren house. Sadly, I found this clutch of six abandoned eggs. We will never know why this nesting failure occurred, although one theory could be that wasps chased off the wrens. I carefully gathered the eggs to bring indoors and we scattered the twigs in the yard, perhaps to be reused by the birds next year. I’m still watching for the sandhill cranes over Bismarck, and there are reports that they’ve been spotted over Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Here is what my husband has to say about the autumn season.

“And the seasons, they go round and round …” — Joni Mitchell