More essays--clever, observant, sidelong--chronicling the quotidian from Pickering (Trespassing, 1994, etc.). ``I root about in the good muck of daily life,'' confesses Pickering (Literature/Univ. of Connecticut), foraging in wood and field and coffee shop ``in hopes of harvesting a sense of season.'' He's a down-home essayist, opting for celebrating skunk cabbage over lady's slipper, mosquitoes over scarlet tanagers. Though he makes much of his homespunness, what you'll find here are well-mulled, polished little ``nostrums for the mind.'' Pickering is a student of landscape and the natural world (``Knowing place is more important than knowing self''), and also of the everyday comings and goings of our species. There is no telling where he will wander off to in these pieces, ranging--all in the compass of a few pages--from reflections on backache to a celebration of forestry supply catalogs to the tale of a man drunk on eggnog getting run over by a late-night UPS delivery van. Then, having finally drawn a breath, he'll launch into a consideration of Alice in Wonderland, followed by musings on the formation of individual identity. If there's wisdom here, it's of the oblique variety (``Profound truths are beyond me,'' he declares) and it must be winnowed from the tumult of his thought processes, leaping from a consideration of colors in spring one moment to his son's soccer game in the next. The nonfictional proceedings are peppered by a cast of fictional charcters from Carthage, Tennessee--a rustic, word-dazzled bunch, schooled in the art of bombast. The prize of this harvest is in the sheer pleasure Pickering takes in life. His writing is not only a delight, it's also inviting: Flip open to any page and enter the flow.