Kyle L. White’s collection of 26 essays arranged around the four seasons, begins and rises out of “The Dead of Winter,” that post-holiday valley of gloom, now presided over by the “Ghost of Christmas-That-Didn’t-Last.”
I spent a quiet evening alone, enjoying Wisconsin River of Grace while soft powdery snow was silently blanketing the woods around my home in Fish Creek. I didn’t know until I started reading the first entry, why this book has been waiting patiently since September for my attention.
It’s hard to explain, but the first time I picked it up and started reading, the sentences seemed to swim apart like random thoughts. All I can say is that it just wasn’t the right time… Now, every phrase is in sharp focus, logical and precisely aimed at slapping me awake and sometimes hitting the funny bone.
The humerus, in this case runs on a line lovingly traced south over several years by the displaced author, a Wisconsinite who reconciles his losses and gains from an observation point in northern Illinois. Many of Kyle White’s pieces were written in and about places in Door County and some first published in the former Door Peninsula Voice and the Peninsula Pulse.
I’ve never met the author but after reading his works, I feel like we should be friends. His vision and mine regarding what-is-it-about-Wisconsin-? resonate. Mine came about opposite to his, in that I was born in Illinois and eventually migrated north to set my roots in Door County. Like Kyle, I remember a somewhat mystical feeling that would come over me as a child when we crossed the state line and paid homage to the Mars Cheese Castle.
In Wisconsin, everything was clean and fresh. There were Garter snakes, dragonflies and fields of Sumac, sprinkled with Milkweed pods. I remember how much I became aware of the sky each summer spent in Door County and how attuned that made me to changes in the weather. And sadly, I recall how that same awareness faded within a few short weeks of returning to Illinois.
Kyle White speaks about these spiritual powers, the natural currents of grace running throughout Wisconsin:
Tomorrow morning, I’ll wake here in Illinois, step out on our porch on a cool, clear, breezy morning, and my kids will roll their eyes: “I know what Dad’s going to say, ‘It’s a Door County day!'” And it is. Minus the water and trees. Minus the smooth, bleach-white stones. But still, there’s some hint on the wind of the grace of Door County. And, of Ephraim. Of harbors and boat launches. The grace of this old man dreaming dreams. Now, becoming a young man seeing visions.
I knew from childhood summers spent in Wisconsin, in Door County, that I was connecting and disconnecting with the source. And Kyle White, in writing his 26 essays, formulates his own take on making and losing that connection. His season-by-season collection is the perfect way to take stock of one’s thoughts and responses to life in Wisconsin, so intimately linked to the changing cycles of nature. On a cold winter night, I really enjoyed the time spent swimming through Kyle’s Wisconsin River of Grace.
Order a copy of “Wisconsin River of Grace” online at author and Illustrator Kyle L White’s Blog. Copies of Wisconsin River of Grace may also be purchased at Wisconsin bookstores or obtained from Cornerstone Press Website: www.uwsp.edu/english/cornerstone.
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