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notes from no-man’s land, week 4

Notes from No-man’s Land, Week 4

Today I try to walk my road again toward the lake at daybreak, at least part way. My energy level remains low, my spirit in high gear.

I am greeted at the door by moist clay pots bursting with “Mexican Red” geraniums up and down the wooden steps, the work of my partner Jude, who sees to it that color return to this place in the woods, window boxes, deck, garden, after a season of winter white. She makes the house sing in spring.

I am reeling in images of RED, RED, RED GERANIUMS… remembering mornings in Mexico, New Mexico, a sun-drenched landscape almost surreal.

The air is cool still, with a hint of mist, humidity waiting for mid-day.

I take the last step down, touch the good earth, one foot at a time in the brilliant green grass…pause briefly in the yard…inhaling, bathing, showering, swallowing, gasping, drinking in the air saturated with the fragrance of three old lilac bushes.

Drunk again in lilac-time…can’t get enough…give me more, more, more…hang in there, please, yet another day…deep purple, lavender, white…too soon, too soon the lilac light swoon dissipates into the thickness of summer.

The road greets me with the first rays of morning sun. I step into it, onto it, away …past my green woods, my coop, waiting for me, tucked deep old trees, hidden amongst the maples, beech, and birch at this time of year.

Bird song: a chorus of robins, one squawky blue jay, a wren, my early morning woodpecker drumming up the sunrise. Clouds of the bluest forget-met-nots running alongside me in the roadside ditch…a few trillium still trumpeting their white presence…and ah, ah, the sweet smell of wild clover. But no sign yet of the prairie rose, a particular favorite…

I make it to the old garden, pause awhile, remember seedlings sprouting, the rows of vegetables…the agony and ecstasy of growing anything in this northern clime of stony earth…the garden gone back to weeds and wild flowers…no longer tilled by me, worked over and into spring, summer, fall… religiously, lovingly, by the woman once my wife, mother of our two grown, beautiful children living their own lives far from here…the marriage ended amicably, gone our separate ways almost ten years now. I see her bent over in the garden still, attending each growing plant…miss the snap beans, green beans, potatoes, lettuce, kohlrabi, beets, squash, green peppers, egg plant…and oh so fresh, red sweet tomatoes.

Crossing to the other side of the road at the end of the garden, under the shade of a towering old maple…I resume my inspection of the ditch for any evidence of blushing pink prairie rose…check the progress of two grand sweeps of tiger lilies that grace my morning walks in season…discover them still reaching, thrusting toward blossom.

The sun behind me, lighting my way back home, I walk slowly into my own shadow, moving us both into another day.


  1. Bonnie T. Summers

    I love this, Norb. Thank you, especially for the parts about body energy low yet spirit in high gear, joining your shadow, visiting plants, gardens, people present and present in thought, the richness of walking, seeing, being. Keep taking good care. We’re all working at healing, all the time, aren’t we?


    Bonnie T. Summers
    Visceral Arts

  2. George Bisbee

    I see that the poison hasn’t killed the spirit. Great! Hope the prose above with pix gets into your next book. A great piece of wordsmithing. Our biggest problem here is the Bickersons ( a pair of red bellied woodpeckers) are invading the peace of the steam and flowers around us.

  3. George Bisbee

    Check that. Should read stream. Have had a couple of cocktails and am careless.

  4. John Plume

    The flesh might be weak but the spirit is willing. One step at a time.
    We’ll see you when we see you–hopefully soon.
    Bless you.

  5. Barbara Luhring

    You and spring having an awakening together. As it should be. Really great words.

  6. Mary Ann

    Thank you Norb. It is a gift to see the road and to hear what you are seeing along it. I miss Door County so much. But mostly it is good to hear that you are enjoying the season and your spirit is in high gear. I’m sure the body will be back in high gear soon. I’m thinking of you down here in Petrakisland. We’re all thinking of you. Keep sharing your morning walks. ma

  7. Shaun

    It was like I was there with you, Norb. It was a nice walk. Thank you.

  8. Christo

    We’ll see you tomorrow and we’ll walk the road…Nia and Christo

  9. Ralph Murre

    Beautifully written and photogaphed, as usual. Too bad, for most of us, it will take a brush with our mortality to begin to see these things in their own light, in their own import. Lucky for you (and your readers) that you always have.

  10. Jean Casey

    Since I can no longer do it without a stick and only on good days, walking is such a treasure, isn’t it? Walking, seeing, scenting, remembering what used to be and is now overgrown. Garden with neglected fence posts and sagging wire, a few fierce asparagus plants announcing themselves, the rhubarb undying, ten more dead soldiers in the cherry orchard. All we have done healing over, becoming what it was before we meddled. Love to you, Norb

  11. Sheila Saperstein

    The joy of nature in the moment is the best Rx there is. Thank you Norb once again for bringing me there.

  12. Jackie Langetieg

    What a lovely walk you had, fighting the crap that wants to have its way with you, winning, remembering the land, that goes on and on.

  13. Robert M. Zoschke

    Commander Nazzz…to this, Joie says, “Norb really is an incredible writer…this piece is so sad yet beautiful.” Zeeee says, “I see nothing but GLORY in the images you’ve conjured in this piece…I see a street corner scribe from Chi Town in love with the woods he took to, in love with the landscape that helped make him a differently beautiful writer, I see that writer fighting boldly and full of GLORY for each and every wanted step…and I love to see that from Commander Nazzz right now so very much.”

  14. Sharon Auberle

    Heartbreakingly beautiful writing and photos, Norb. So good to have you reminding us yet again of the power of words, of summer, the earth…the great gift of us being here to drink it in until, like you, we are intoxicated with the joy of it all. thank you.

  15. Marty Robinson

    To the day, not too far off, when you walk slowly but confidently all the way to the small lake to meditate, and then return home suffused by the nature you love so passionately and describe so perfectly.

  16. Petet Kron

    Left. Right. Keep em moving.Glad your eye and joy for the world are sharp as ever. Don’t look to far up the long road… you can’t see anything there anyway. Study the next tree, the next lilac, and soon the top is under your feet. (Or wheels in my case.) Warm wishes.

  17. Christo

    Nia and I will be there soon. Hang in there. The road looks alive at 6am!

  18. MaryAnn Grzych

    That’s all any of us can do – one step at a time. Hopefully each day will bring more spring to your beloved Door County and to your step. I saw some Mexican Red Geraniums at my local garden shop. They were beautiful, but I can’t plant until my deck is rebuilt (within days) then I’ll get them and send a prayer to you as they greet me each morning while I enjoy my first cup of coffee.
    Take care of yourself.

  19. Ed Markowski

    Norb , to quote you …….

    ” too soon, too soon the lilac light swoon dissipates
    into the thickness of summer ”

    & to say ” too soon ” is just one of many great poems
    contained in the prose.

    to you & yours, blessings prayers & this poem from here on the sunrise side of lake michigan

    Ed Markowski











  20. Judy Amberg

    Norb, your insightful words and photos allowed me to see, smell, hear and touch the wonder that is on your road as you walked and remembered. I have moved the photo of you and your dog walking the road from a bookcase to the computer table. The photo sits here next to me holding hope for the days when good health will allow you to walk all the way to the lake of meditation.
    Judy – the wife of the man who loves Sister Bay

  21. Kris Thacher

    The sun is up and you are standing. Having a shadow is a good sign. I’ll always wonder though why yours isn’t in color.

  22. Pat Hewitt

    Lovely, so lovely. Walked with you and ah–the lilacs! Thank you. Last day of work for me. Am moving to the Island Friday. Gratefully. Joyfully. Take care. Pat

  23. Ron Offen

    He Norg,
    Doesn’t look to you have low energy love from you penned this wonderful piece. Are you okay?

  24. Bridget Buff

    Dad~I knew that road as soon as I saw the beautiful photo. I think you were standing in front of the tree that used to have my circle tree swing hanging from its branches. Just beautiful. Glad to hear your spirits are high. I will be right with you during your last week of treatment. Almost there!

    Love you~Bridget xo

  25. Al DeGenova

    Norb, as always, you inspire…not only to write, but to live every moment. Thank you.


  26. Tim Stone

    Absolutely stunning images and writing. You brought everything to life for us. We can smell the Lilacs.

    Love and hugs,


  27. lowellbkomie

    A beautiful pair of photographs, I remember the vegetable garden. Again , as always, a lovely piece of work…..Lowell


    We all walk a road alone, but what a beautiful road you have chosen.

  29. delphine and lee

    Back to Nebraska, but remembering Door and thinking of you. Purchased Meditations on a Small Lake while there and of course Lee had his Al Johnson Swedish pancake fix.

  30. Phil Hansotia

    It takes an awareness of deep loss to sharpen one’s senses so that the ordinary and the small shine in brilliant colors,and the magic of ‘everyday’ is laid bare. It is a gift the giver gives like plucking wildflowers in bloom with a fistful of Forget-me-nots! It is unselfishness itself.
    Thank you Norb. Phil Hansotia.

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