Personal essayist Allen (The Fire in the Birdbath, 1986) returns with a second collection of ``creative nonfiction,'' musings triggered by the extended visit of a biologist friend and his family to the author's southern Ohio home. A boyhood friend in Texas whose path diverged from the fascination with astronomy he and the author had held in common, ``Eddie'' (fondly credited with having ``a kind of infectionary strangeness'') arrives in 1986 on a research grant to study the frogs in Allen's backyard. But inspired by the presence of Halley's Comet, Allen and Eddie fly to the Texas coast to view it better, taking along Eddie's eight-year-old daughter, Laura. A subsequent journey in search of Ohio history takes Allen and Laura deep into the woods surrounding his house, where they quickly lose their bearings and have to bushwhack through the wilderness for an entire day before finding the road they'd started from. Nature simple and profound is everywhere made manifest in these essays, with Laura ever the catalyst for further explorations along the nearby Olentangy River, as well as closer to home. Whether recounting the process involved in removing a massive tree stump from the yard, or detailing the intricacies of human-crow interaction as a nesting pair and their young come to accept the food offered them, Allen exhibits the same sense of wonder and keen eye that have marked observers of the natural realm from Thoreau to Loren Eiseley. Seductively contemplative and imaginative within its scope, but bound by distinct limits, with the larger implications of local observation left largely unexamined.
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