From Pickering--English professor (Univ. of Connecticut) and reluctant inspiration for the movie Dead Poets Society--more essays that distill from life's accumulated clutter the small telling details that amuse, illuminate, and often lyrically celebrate. Like the long walks he takes in search of life forced ``under a microscope,'' Pickering's essays not only explore themes in a leisurely way but digress: He makes pithy comments on family and colleagues, relates old Southern jokes, and records the summer appearance of a milkweed plant or the amount of native raspberries recently picked. In the title essay, Pickering happily ignores a gate marked State Property--No Trespassing and goes on to confess that for years he has trespassed, ``for a closed gate is an open invitation to explore. Writers, of course, forever trespass, wandering beyond the margins of good behavior into off-limits and then converting private property into public life.'' A free- spirited trespasser, he eavesdrops on conversations in his local coffee shop and roams the fields behind his Connecticut neighbors. In ``Reading Martin Chuzzlewit'' he admits that a rare visit to a mall makes him ``imagine a hidden life, an hour tangled with ribbons and sweet red surprises'' with the women he sees there. Tempted by an invitation to interview for a college presidency in his native Tennessee, he acknowledges that although a longtime critic of college athletics, he was prepared to consider football ``too trivial to become a matter of principle and prevent me from accepting'' such a position (``Sweet Auburn''); and while closing up his father's apartment, he discovers that ``selling is infectious, raising the fervor of the seller, more than that of the buyer'' (``A Different Seller''). The jokes are often outrageously corny, the whimsy strained, but they're all part of the delight Pickering so palpably creates in this endearing celebration of the ordinary, the profound, and, most of all, the absurd.