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 — ‘Finding Beauty In A Broken World’

“A mosaic is a conversation between what is broken.” — “Finding Beauty in a Broken World,” a book by Terry Tempest Williams

In what has been described by many as a “soul-crushing week” in the United States, I’m trying my damnest to focus on the blessings and gifts in my life.

One of the finest gifts of friendship in my life has been that with the writer and deep thinker, Terry Tempest Williams. In the years since I first discovered her books, I have absorbed so much of her wisdom. My own aging, I hope, has brought on my own wisdom, through pain and joy and sorrow and mistakes, and that wisdom includes embracing the cycle of seasons here on the northern Plains and simplifying my life inasmuch as is possible.

I’m also deeply committed to learning something new every day.  It is my hope that in the upcoming year or so, I can learn the creation of mosaics from my friend Molly McLain. Every day I can listen online or to Prairie Public Radio and choose carefully what I watch on television or read, to achieve that goal of enlightenment.

In the afternoon sunshine of Saturday, we walked over to a friend’s house, for treats and delightful conversation. Our path took us by one of the best trees in our Highland Acres neighborhood.

As I write this, I’m munching on a homemade apricot kolache baked by our friend, Tasha Carvell, who sent home with us. Yummy!

I strive to pay attention to the tiny joys in life, such as the perfect red oak leaf I found on my front patio yesterday. Rather than feel frustrated that I will have to pick up all of these fallen leaves, I try to see the beauty in the leaf and approach these leaves as a substance that will enrich our soil and protect our strawberries and garlic from the upcoming harsh winter.

In another example of finding a silver lining, earlier this week I dropped and lost an earring and could not find it anywhere on the floor or bed. As a last resort, this morning, I tore that room apart and completely cleaned it, on hands and knees. I did not find the earring and had given up but looked in one last place, and there it was. It was a trifle, but a triumph nonetheless, and the room is now clean for the winter.

On Saturday, I attended the North Dakota Yoga Conference, learning new things from masters, a blessing. I told Jim he’d be surprised by how many people in North Dakota have a yoga business.

 The rooms bustled with people (yes, mostly women) who were eager to deepen their practices. My friend, Debi, experienced a wonderful epiphany at a session we attended together, Yoga Nidra and she generously shared those insights with me after the class.

I’ve also incorporated essential oils into my daily routine.Although we open wide our windows during the temperate months and live in the glory of fresh air in our house, there are many months in which the windows must be closed (although we have many large windows that we have left uncovered in order to bath the interior in light year-round). Now that autumn has arrived, in our bedroom, I use an infuser and apply three fragrant oils that enhance sleep: lavender, geranium, and sweet marjoram.

In my landscaping of our yard, I have striven to create beauty for every stage of the year. It has taken years to achieve this goal, helped by the fact that I started with a good palette, a large and private backyard bordered by mature trees.

Today, the firewood is stacked, the kindling box is full, the garlic is planted, and a hard frost is in the forecast. Jim brought in the last of the bell peppers, and these are now in brown paper bags for a final ripening.

In the night sky this week, the harvest moon has been bright. Jim has been busy in the kitchen today making 11 pints of salsa, from my sister Beckie’s recipe, with the last of the tomatoes and jalapenos. I took Lizzie for an afternoon walk through the coulee and while she went swimming, I stood completely still and watched a flock of the sandhill cranes migrating over the Missouri River Valley, the first I’ve seen this fall. I did not move until the flock had disappeared on the horizon, into the blue.

From the book “Words for Birds ,” crane is an English word derived from the bird’s cry, which has its origins in the root for “calling” or “crying out.” The sandhill crane is grus canadensis. Grus refers to the bird’s call and canadensis is a Latinism for “of Canada.”

The coup de grace for the day will be my homemade apple crisp.

Rather than bemoaning that summer is over, I try to focus on all of the projects I will be able to tackle inside during the winter. Bring it on!