Swedish writer and photographer Staffan Widstrand comments,

“Many people have experienced for themselves the value of simply walking in nature, how you return feeling refreshed, how your thinking is clearer and you are more balanced.”

My personal direct encounters with nature throughout my life verify Mr. Widstrand’s observation.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” begins J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece. “Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole… it was a hobbit home, and that means comfort.  “It had a perfectly round door… [that] opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel… The tunnel wound on and on… into the side of a hill – The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it…”

I have discovered The Hill, my hill, invited to live there by my good friends who are building a home for Mrs. tVM and me, a home sequestered on their 35 acres surrounded by woods and farmland. It is a good place far from the maddening crowd, as it’s said.

After committing to the project, we put our home in River Falls on the market. It sold the first day. It is a great house in a great neighborhood. We will miss it.

The new house on the hill will be completed in the fall. Mrs. tVM will live with our daughter and her family across the river in Minnesota. Clarence and I will return to the land, the land on the hill. We have acquired a 10×20 shed, positioned it on the hill and will call it home until our permanent residence is ready for occupancy. We call our shed the Hobbit House. Our friends call it the Nut Hut.

My Redemptorist friend Father Paul and Joni Mitchell unwittingly influenced our decision to embark on this grand adventure on the hill. Ms. Mitchell’s hymn to “Woodstock” came to mind and has not released us since the first day we visited the hill a year ago with the apple trees – all 17 – fragrantly in full bloom.

“I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden”

My friend Father Paul often quotes those final four lines of Ms. Mitchell’s anthem in his sermons. I’m taking his advice. Indeed, “I’m gonna get back to the land, I’m gonna set my soul free.”


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