Wild Comfort

Some books touch you in just the right way, like a warm ray of sunshine on a chilly morning. Lately, that book for me has been Wild Comfort by Kathleen Dean Moore.

Reading it on Whidbey Island helps me to remember why it is I come to the island. I come for a piece of nature that I don’t find anywhere else. The book makes me evaluate what truly makes me happy, and it’s this place. But why?

When I retreat to the woods, curled up in a chair in a screened-in porch, I feel like I’m reaching for memories from my childhood. I have memories of being out in the Minnesota woods, next to a small lake. A friend’s family owned the cabin, and I spent many weekends of my youth there.

It was a special place, and still is, even though I haven’t been there in years. I remember mornings of fresh, homemade waffles. These weren’t just any waffles. They were legendary. A secret recipe that had to be combined with an old and very specific waffle maker. Even if you had the secret recipe, you could never replicate these waffles.

There were mornings that I would go and find fresh flowers to put in a small vase, and my friend’s mom always appreciated them, even if they were flowers she’d planted or simply weeds.

I spent hours weaving through trails spanning acres of fields and trees. The fields always had butterflies. I was specifically concerned with the Monarch butterfly, searching all the milkweed plants for eggs and the black, white and yellow striped caterpillars. I’d put them in my little carrier and feed them until they grew, and I’d release them back into the wild. I saved many caterpillars from the natural fate some of them faced when flies laid their eggs in the caterpillars. It wasn’t a pretty sight when your chrysalis birthed maggots instead of a butterfly.

My friend and I collected many insects as pets, releasing many, while some died in their jar. There were many fireflies that didn’t quite make it, but I still have those memories of catching the little specks of light on those muggy summer nights.

We had many books that told us what kinds of insects and mushrooms we’d found, and we were always learning. We learned the hard way sometimes, when the beetle you were playing with left a stink on your hands that couldn’t be washed off.

We’d sit on the deck and watch the lake through the trees while cicadas hummed in the branches. Later, we’d go down to that lake and head off in a boat, fishing for lilypads. Of course, it was never the intention to catch the lilypad, but sometimes that’s what happens when you’re trying to stealthily land your hook in the hiding places of the fish.

All these memories surface when I come to the island and hide away in the woods. Those nostalgic moments make me happy, and they carry me into the next phase of my life where I will make new memories on this island. Until then, I will continue to try and recapture those lost moments of my past. I’ll sit back and listen to Josh Groban’s self-titled album from 2001, the music that takes me back to that little lake in Minnesota.

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