There in front of me was a plate, full of steaming, wonderfully garnished squash. Here and there was a spattering of crispness, all colored in handsome golden brown.  Steam rose from this main course much like a wisp of vapor from the geysers of Yellowstone and the aroma hinted of maple syrup and a magical touch of sage. It was a grand presentations rendering the making the vegetable both elegant if not regal. Denise, the quietly smiling cook, had in her way made a statement, almost philosophical presentation that seemed to say, “Here is the world as I see it.”

The first bite brought together all of the robustness of this fine dish. But, it was the sage that wrinkled my brain. It is the simple spice of the garden, and interestingly, wild prairies and woodland openings. It was just magic there nestled in the golden flesh of nature’s bounty, the squash, the gift of Wisconsin’s natives.

Ann with a sage smudge—not a giant doobie.

In truth, the dinner was also set off by the lifting of a few drafts of fine wine and that too also enhanced the overall ambiance. I remember pausing and reflecting on the Wild West we once settled on the high plains of Colorado. We had a tepee then and there was no way to avoid the wild plants and the many smells of the chamisa and sage, and the wild sunflowers of late fall. It was there we learned to use the grey-blue leaves of wild sage, to smudge the canvas lodge for a quick spiritual cleansing— more likely a crafty method of ridding the place of the smell of musty dogs and wet kids. It was an odor never forgotten and here it was on the squash.

With the plate full of squash consumed along with the other offerings, we drifted off to conversation possibly moved by the culinary delights. “Doesn’t that sage take your mind to drifting?” I said. Next to me, I think it was Rick remarked, “I suspect you just want to be a sage.”

 “A sage?” Well, that is not a bad idea but it was not where I was going.

I looked at him apparently puzzled but enjoying the jump of language. I’m sure I lifted an eye and twisted a lip but he held with an inquisitive grin. This is the guy whose favorite book is Crime and Punishment. Was I about to get sage stuff from him? I thought a sage was a positive sort of an individual, not some Russian literature-lover who enjoyed trudging through a heinous crime singing the Volga Boatman.

While whiffs of the seasoning and the faint hint of the Wild West crossed my mind’s paths, others heard the word sage being bantered about and out of nowhere a sage want-to-be at the end of the table, Jim of New Hope, leaned forward and with some fanfare made the following statement, “By all means marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.”  He thought it was Aristotle but later said Socrates. “Hey man, that was very sage like.”

All of us sitting the table round were old enough to be sages but had never really given it a real thought probably because there was not a real call for sages. Still? Pontificator?

In thinking about a possible new career, a sage did have a certain ring to it and the instantaneous recognition the Sage of New Hope had just garnered, certainly indicated that some community hierarchal gain might be available to a well versed pontificator/sage, even though there would likely be no financial rewards—free wine maybe.   

It was then while thinking of sagedom, Tom made knowledgeable references to Nepalese monks finding comfort in simple surroundings and non-materialistic life. I was sure the holy ones said many sagey things.

For a brief moment I suspect we all expected to experience a pause, a quiet moment and Tom would begin by saying, “Grasshopper.” He had our attention but probably sensed we were not grasshoppers. Thoughts flew around. Books were mentioned and we drifted off trying to understand the plight of man while still immersed in the smell of the sage infused squash and the fine taste of that well executed Old Fashion.

Being a sage could be rewarding and I am still working on it. Right now I will be sticking to enjoying the wonderful flavor over squash, the fancying the faint smell of sage drifting across a Wisconsin prairie, and contemplating the history and magic of burning sage. Then too, there are real sages offering us words to guide our lives, or at least to pause in reflection.

“If and when everyone is mindlessly stupid, will anyone notice?” Buddhist saying

“In this world shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without passport; whereas, virtue if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.” Melville, Moby Dick

“Science reminds us that we dwell in a mystery that is ultimately more to be savored than to be solved,” Overbye

“From such crooked wood from which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned.” Kant

“Those that make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” M L King

“The highest form of bliss is living with a certain degree of folly.” Evasmus

“Men argue; nature acts.” Voltaire

The Fourth Estate

Somewhere in my meanderings, I learned that the press can be referred to as the Fourth Estate. While the phrase originated in England and may have drifted around historically, it would seem today that journalists and their publications are viewed as being as powerful as the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government. As a result of this revelation, it seems only reasonable to view the Jensen Community Spirit and its fabulous writers as full-fledged members of that Fourth Estate.

Being one of those writers has definitely lifted my ego, as can be seen when I strut about town. This has put me in a position to pontificate and offer great insights as to how this place should be run or, maybe in a more subtle tone, hint in an almost covert way about what is right and wrong.

Up to this point, I have not really felt the power or the assigned royalty of this position, but rather just shuffled about marveling at the local fauna, flora, and colorful individuals frequently seen in our surroundings. Yes, I have glorified the local fish, even the walnuts (hazel nuts were incredible this year), and been known to almost disclose the location of some lady slipper orchids.

Armed with my new designation as a Fourth Estater in the darkness of my writing den and under the influence of Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Morrow, Chris Wallace, maybe Mr. Jamison, I have taken on a new responsibility right next to the Supreme Court.

What this community needs is another gifted individual to tell people what to do, even if I am self-appointed and not elected by anybody.

Interestingly, the esteemed editor of this Fourth Estate publication, one Brent, has by his sound judgment, allowed me to write here and even promoted me. [Editor’s note: While promotion may have been implied by the use of “esteemed” on the cover of the September Spirit, it was meant as a descriptor of columnist Wright, not a title.]

I know my readers are going, “For the love of God, man, no more ill-conceived pronouncements and political drivel. Just leave us alone.” However, and with great pride, I can say I have been a two-bit politician, was almost religious after my confirmation in the Methodist church, owned property, and always voted the right way.


I had no sooner mentally settled into my new position when Gayle, the spouse of another writer, sent me a quote from Roger Rosenblatt of the Write America Project. He said, “Writers, as you know, are not a group. We’re usually mavericks or hermits or worse.” What did he mean “or worse”? Just when I thought I was a Supreme Court Justice, I get this “or worse.” Did Gayle send this to slyly hint that Dennis and I were possibly worse?

Just when my sails were filling and after having a month off from my esteemed position in this Fourth Estate publication, I might be worser than I thought! So even though I am rested, my mind lifting with a possibility of a new assignment in the estate of journalism, I suspect I should actually go back to glorifying those little things that make me delighted with life right here in paradise. What it comes down to is maybe I should just be an “influencer” like those folks on the interweb. That’s right, an influencer from the Fourth Estate.


This morning, in the dew-covered shadow of the side garden, a huge squash blossom jumped out of the foliage close to the house.

It seemed futile, being September, because frost was maybe only three weeks away. It was a robust male flower, strong, well intended, anthers covered in new pollen, welcoming to all bees, wasps, flies, and moths. Nothing but an elegant display with no real future.

I suspect the flower was clueless, and maybe the female flower embedded in the vine across the walk was no better, but still willing. They were all participants, just acting out the dance of the agenda of their genes.

It was a waltz, I would think, even though one of the bumblebees seemed in a hurry. The dance of the bumble bee.

I stopped and, for a brief moment, marveled at the splendor, maybe the fall-time futility, and nodded, “Nice job. Thanks.”