I found out about the storm from the owners of the cabin that my wife and I had reserved for the end of August. Our Central Ohio media hadn’t picked up on this news, so I went to the Internet to see what was up. The photos were dramatic, but I figured that it was limited to a small area, nothing that would keep us from making the trip.

I walk into the library and smell it: paper, pages, ink, sometimes leather and glue—the scent of books, the old and new stories. When I open a book, a word odor wafts up with a love tale, war epic, a medieval ballad of loss, or the aroma of an essay on food so good you want to eat it. That’s the first love of a library, that scent. My love of literature started with libraries, with that scent, the spirit of story.

Libraries are the great equalizer in America. Not everyone can afford to buy a book or a computer, but almost everyone can afford to go to the library. Libraries are the cornerstone of democracy. Free access to information is what democracy depends on in order to have an intelligent population.

“You can’t go home again,” according to author Thomas Wolfe. I say Oh! Yes! You can … If you lived in Glen Arbor for 21 happy years! So we return each summer for two months of tender loving care from so many friends. This happy reunion in this happy place is an annual reminder of lives well-lived in a naturally beautiful environment.

It looks like your standard-issue National Park sign, a chocolate brown square with white type affixed to a wooden post. Upon closer inspection one discovers that this isn’t your Uncle Sam’s signage. This summer, nature poems masquerading as official park signs can be found in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the four other Great Lakes national parks at trails, vistas and beaches as part of the National Park Service centennial celebration.

Writer Kathleen Stocking wants to change the world. The acclaimed author of Letters from the Leelanau and Lake Country has just published her third book of essays, The Long Arc of the Universe: Travels Beyond the Pale. In it, she takes readers along on her incredible journeys from her home in seemingly peaceful, picturesque northern Michigan to some of the world’s most unstable and terrifying places. Like a modern-day Scheherazade, she brings her skill with words, language and storytelling to protect herself, as well as teach an incredible range of students: from hardened criminals in maximum security prison to the offspring of Central American despots; from poor African-American children traumatized by gang warfare in their urban neighborhood to Third World children in Thailand and Romania.

This reflection on a nocturnal Alligator Hill ski was first published in our Winter 2000 edition. The alligator’s new look, following the Aug. 2, 2015, storm, prompted us to revisit these words.

Here are the winners from the 2015 Empire Asparagus Festival poetry contest. They are Empire native Sarah Marossy in first place, Rachel Reed in second place, and Elizabeth Paxson in third place.

The squirrels arrived the first summer when the English walnut tree bore nuts. The tree was perhaps nine or 10 years old and until the summer of the squirrels there had been nothing to show of its true nature. The walnuts were formed as walnuts are, perfectly, with the insides of their halved shells, the nut meat, resembling intricate passageways of brain tissue.