When I was growing up, our family went to visit Grampa Anderson every Sunday afternoon. He lived alone in a fusty old house on the other side of town and didn’t have much to entertain young children—so my brother and I played outdoors.
There was a horse chestnut tree in Grampa’s backyard and in the fall we could find dozens of chestnuts buried in the grass. Bob and I collected them like treasures—so smooth and glossy, shining red and gold and brown.
On a bright fall day, my husband and I are canoeing the Betsie River. Our favorite stretch is the flooded area above the Grass Lake dam which was created as a habitat for waterfowl.
We steer between high walls of cattails—against a strong wind. My head is down in fierce concentration but when I glance up, I see how the cattails are dancing. They bow and sway with such grace, I stop cursing the wind and celebrate this perfect partnership.
High above the river in a dead pine tree, we see two bald eagles—watching us as we watch them. Further on, we notice a fresh beaver lodge and stare at the swirling water, hoping to see a neat brown head appear. Oh, there he is. No, he’s gone.
Suddenly a great blue heron leaps out of the reeds and soars over the river. We meet him again and again as we paddle around each turn. He is always standing on a muskrat house—and each time we glide a little closer before he jumps into the sky. I wish he could trust us enough to stay—to have a conversation. And then I realize that this is what we’re having.
Elon Cameron studied photography, printmaking and bookbinding at the Art Institute of Chicago but wasn’t sure that was her life work. “I had a longing for a career calling but I didn’t know what it was,” she says.
I lasted about six weeks after my cat died. Although I still miss her (and will always miss her), I needed another cat in my life. In my house, on the windowsill, on my lap. So, before I headed out to the Cherryland Humane Society, I asked a friend who’s a Vet Tech for some tips. I thought she’d tell me stuff about bright eyes and a shiny coat.
Instead, she said one word: Personality. Thus it was that I picked a calico stray. There was something about her intelligent face that spoke to me.
When you step back from pet ownership, you notice it’s kind of a strange idea—the way we bring animals who are very different from ourselves into our houses. The way we want them to be human and admire them for the ways they’re not.
My cat seems to have little interest in being a person and who can blame her? She can leap onto the refrigerator in a single bound, fall asleep in an instant and wake up just as fast. In my next life, in fact, I might prefer to be a cat. Agile, affectionate, independent, inscrutable. My next nine lives.
Tom Power started thinking about being a judge when he spent a summer as a volunteer court clerk. “I came to appreciate the efforts made to help people resolve their disputes,” he says. Today, Tom is a judge for the Michigan 13th Circuit Court—a job he’s held for 21 years.