Sue Hubbell, daughter of a botanist, a former librarian at Brown University, has been living for the last 12 years on 100 acres in the southern Missouri Ozarks, mostly alone. She was 47 when her husband all at once quit the farm, the beekeeping business and their 30-year marriage. Shock kept her for three years "out to lunch"; then, at 50, she began gaining from the Latin binomials of Linnaeus some order over at least the chaos of her surrounding vegetable world. Physical struggle to earn a living off 18 million bees redirected her energy. Eventually, Nature itself completed her healing.
These essays, written from one spring to the next, not only testify to her wholeness but extend it to all who have learned from Nature the serenity echoed in the book's epigraph from Rilke: " . . . Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves." You would not be able to live the answers, Rilke says in his letters to a young poet, so live the questions now, fully.
Hubbell's journal of life between a swift river and a rocky creek with trips in her 1954 pickup truck to check 300 hives of bees on other farms is a record of mysteries questioned, then embraced. Hens, tree frogs, coyotes, bobcats, indigo buntings and bee swarms instruct her in a far wilder Walden than Thoreau's, with winter roads often impassable. Though her interest is in the long issues of life and death, this woman, who not only shingles a roof but first makes her own shingles, is a natural and unself-conscious feminist.