Photograph by Mikko Lagerstedt, Used with Permission

A few years ago, once the Holidays had past, I began looking for a way to beat back the dreariness of winter. And so I joined a fitness center, thinking that the physical activity would do me good–that it would lift the mood and re-energize. Somewhat surprisingly, there was still the sense that these routine workouts on the elliptical machine weren’t quite doing the trick. It didn’t take long to discover that what was needed was regular time in the outdoors. The following winter, therefore, the fitness club membership was ditched in favor of a pair of cross-country skis. And it made all the difference: Read more

"The Two Trees", Mary Philpott, Used With Permission.

The Silmarillion is J.R.R. Tolkein’s creative masterpiece and forms the cosmology of The Lord of the Rings. In it, he describes a world–peopled by Elves and Dwarfs, but not, as of yet, men–when it, sunless, derived its light from the Light of the Two Trees of the Valinor. Such a world opens up to the imagination the possibility of a world not permeated by a depressive darkness, but of a darkness enchanted by a mythic source of light. That such a world could exist is encouragement, indeed, for us who endure the cold days and long, dark nights of winter in Western Michigan, when we almost seem engulfed in a perpetual night. Read more

Photograph by Sherman Chu, Used with Permission

Married in late August and celebrating the event at an outdoor reception reminiscence of Bilbo’s 111th Birthday Party (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), my bride and I had long-desired a Michigan Honeymoon.

There was first camping on the shores of Lake Michigan in the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area, at a site found after hiking along the ridge of a steep bluff amid the poplars and dune grass.

Our next stop would be a bed & breakfast in Leeland. And so we made our way from the Manistee National Forest up picturesque Highway 31 and then continued north on M-22 where, somewhere between Empire and Glen Arbor, a rustic roadside stand drew us in with its fresh blackberries, blueberries, and vegetables being sold out of a weather-worn wood shack. What really began to unlock my inspiration for a recipe was a fresh herb garden behind the stand. Read more