Wherefore Walking?

110331 jim and ruth

After a morning of volunteering, what better way to spend the rest of the day than walking through the recovering landscape of Midewin with a poet? My dear friend Jim Ballowe is Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at Bradley University, where a personal essay contest is named in his honor. He’s the author of a recent biography of Joy Morton (of the Morton Salt Company and Morton Arboretum) and the even more recent Christmas in Illinois, a collection of Christmas stories by such Illinois luminaries as Gwendolyn Brooks, Mike Royko, and Carl Sandburg.

But it’s Jim’s poetry I most love. And as he, his wife Ruth and I stroll through the restored Prairie Creek Woods and out into the recreated prairie along South Patrol Road it’s hard not to think of Jim’s “Wherefore Walking:”

Take ten thousand steps marching

toward a healthy life untouched by wildness.

Sure. It’s done almost everywhere:

on city streets, unrestricted lakeshore,

on paths through parks, restored woods and prairie.


How then along the bourne, bedraggled,

accosted by devil’s beggartick, nettle, and wild rose,

startled by a ravening coyote pursuing a doe,

do we emerge, feeling in fine fettle,

cheered that ferity, unleashed, has not forsaken us,

while civilization’s  abominable accoutrements

— bags, bottles, and boorish babble — have vanished,

and we, dwelling in our savage imaginations,

think ourselves in the presence of good men and lovers?

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