Fall-Winter 2011




Detail of Springbok Prairie,
above left, by Connie Devendorf.

Detail of Echinacea in snow
by Gail Goepfert.

Journal Entry

Jill Spealman

Jill Spealman was born in DuPage County, Illinois, and grew up playing in the creeks and fields paved over by the current Interstate 355. A former school music teacher, she is a freelance technical writer and author of seven computer books published by Microsoft Press. She was introduced to nature writing and discovered the joy of poetry and haiku while taking natural history classes at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. She lives near the Arboretum with her husband, Kevin, and West Highland White Terrier, Cooper.

October 23. This place is mine—I come here for medicinal purposes. It’s a gradual transition to get here—a short drive, an asphalt track, and then the comfort of the springy earthen path. Acorns and black walnuts are embedded in the path, and a little clutch of feathers suggest a harrowing escape or an unfortunate end. I round the bend. Will the bench be taken? A sense of relief when I finally sit; already the light has changed since the last time I was here.

This place is an oak savanna; my bench faces south and I see about twenty mature oaks situated in grass. Two weeks ago, the oak leaves were dropping like snow and the squirrels were busier. Today they are more playful—the squirrels chase each other ‘round the oaks like a barber’s pole. My friend daddy-long-legs appears and I let him crawl around on my shoes. But, no toads call today and the crickets are farther off. The fall sun filters through the lacy red leaves. What kind of oaks are these anyway? Red oaks, then? Some naturalist I am—I’ll bring my Tree Finder next time.

A tap, tap gets my attention and there’s an occasional peep. The peep is answered from a few trees away. I scan and eventually find the downy woodpecker behind it all. Bark rains down as he excavates for bugs. In the background, the Tollway hums like surf; if only. Then a new bird appears, silent, patrolling the trunk, agile like a nuthatch. Another one to look up when I get home. I watch and listen a while longer; the tweh, tweh, tweh of a flicker seems to silence everyone briefly. But then the chasing and tapping begins again. Cars pass, nose to tail, occupants gaping.

A family stops and they get out and walk through the woods, the boy and his dad lead while the mom and little sister trudge through the thick grass. My treatment is almost over and I rise for the walk back to my car. My pace is slower, I’m breathing better, seeing more, and appreciating the day. I pass the family lunching on a sunny blanket. Somehow sandwiches are always better on a picnic.

When I get close to my car, I notice the spicy smell of the nearby white pines and wonder how I missed them on the way in.