Blog of Pulitzer Prize Nominated Author, Jory Sherman. Get the latest information on his books, appearances and his candid reflections on writing.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Early morning. It is quiet when I step into the woods. Mist clings to the hollows and gulleys, lingers on the high bluffs like fairy breath. Wisps and tendrils rise from the ravine below me and the pond swirls with smoky plumes and curlicues that seem like steam from a kettle filled with boiling water. Yet the pond is glassy and serene, with pastel greens pulsating off the surface as if the pond was waiting to be released from some magical spell so that it could turn blue as a distant ocean it could only dream in its slumber.

I find my regular perch above the pond and sit down in the hollow bowl of dirt nestled at the foot of an oak tree. A pair of 6X30 binoculars dangle from my neck. I am not ready to bring them to my eyes and adjust the focus. For now, it is enough to sit on the edge of dawn and listen as I gaze downward at the wispy cobwebs of the sleeping pond.

There is a silence.

That silence becomes a hush as I hold my breath and listen for any sounds in the forest around me.

Is there only this silence? Or is this just a temporary hush?

Is there any difference?

Perhaps there is such a thing as a hushed silence. I wonder.

I wonder if there can be silence without such a thing as sound. And is this hush, this deep silence, a sign that nature is holding its breath just as I hold mine?

I realize then that there are different silences, just as there are different sounds.

This forest hush, this sylvan stillness, is just the silent wake I have left behind me when I walked into the woods. I can almost hear its faint ripples as they float across the earth and disappear into the ghosts of lavender shadows. They leave a hush on the borders of my small world, a hush that fills me with a peace beyond measure. I let out a slow stream of breath and cannot hesr it. My breath was swallowed up in the silence, washed away in the riverine hush that flows through me and around me.

I look at the thin smokes rising above the pond and dissipating in the pale glow of the windless morning. They evaporate in some mysterious way and perhaps wend their way skyward to begin their embryonic life as cloudlets, like the vanishing dew that leaves no trace of their jeweled existence on the grasses and bushes and leaves as light begins to measure pathways through the woods and onto the musty emerald hue of the glazed pond.

This, then, is another silence, before anything hearable stirs, before the auditory nerves are tickled by the scratch of a squirrel’s foot on the bark of an oak tree, or the faint whap of a crow’s burnished velvet wing as it takes flight from a nocturnal perch, or the explosion of a bass from that serene pond as a dragonfly skims through the misty columns of foggy structures rising like ghostly snakes from a charmer’s basket.

That is the silence on tiptoe, a silence leaning toward my ears in soundless anticipation. I feel it crouch next to me and then it settles within me until I am stone deaf, with eyes as big as marbles, straining to see what will break that stillness, that profound stillness that occurs before the birth of that first sound.

This is the silence I have waited for, the silence within a silence, the silence that not a hush, but a total absence of all sound. I cannot hear my heart beat, nor my breathing. This is a silence that is like the silence of Eden before Adam stepped into it. This is the silence of the void before the universe exploded into being.

This is the silence I would want to hear when I go into the dark woods on my final journey, the silence that produces the inner peace that is beyond all understanding.

That silence is the first silence and the last silence. It is fleeting, but forever buried in human memory, like these Ozarks woods, like this Eden and that first one, the Edin of Sumer, which blossomed so long ago and so far away.

Note: For more such glimpses into the mystical Ozarks, see my book HILLS OF EDEN, an ebook from

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


There was a velvet autumn haze that morning when we left the road and climbed through the fence. The dawn sky was mother-of-pearl streaked with long thin ruby clouds and the woods were solemn and quiet. We walked on amber pine needles that cushioned our footfalls in their bed of springy loam. Bill wore his customary sandals and I had on my hunting boots.

We were hunting, all right, Bill and I. We carried orange mesh sacks that had once held grocery store onions. The sacks were empty, but if you held one close to your nose you could smell the pungent aroma of Sedalia onions. I followed the burly man as he headed for a small ash tree that grew next to a small mound of earth.

Bill stopped and picked up something off the diminutive hillock. He held it up to the pale light and beckoned for me to come close.

“This is the first one,” he said. “A morel.”

I had never heard of a morel before I met Bill Letterman down at Cedar Creek in Missouri. The night before our hunt he had extolled the virtues of the morel in glowing terms. His mouth watered as he talked about them.

“What’s a morel?” I asked him.

“A wild mushroom. Delicious. We’ll get some in the morning. You’ll see.”

The morels grew on mounds near ash trees. We found a great many, but I realized that only Bill could find them. After our foray, I began to think of those morels as wood sprites. Oh, I found a number of toadstools and some poisonous mushrooms, but it took me about 3 years of hunting with Bill to forage and find the elusive morels on my own.

He washed the mushrooms thoroughly, then dipped them in milk and fried or boiled them. I developed a taste for morels and, when I was deer hunting with my .50 caliber muzzleloader Hawken, I often stuffed my camo shirt full of those I found in the woods.

Bill told me that the reason we carried those mesh sacks was so that the spores could escape as we walked around. That would mean more mushrooms the next year. The morels took on a mystical quality for me. Wood sprites, little wood folk who hid in plain sight. Life is astonishing, no matter what form it takes. But, those morels seemed to be sentient. They hid from me until I became adept. I hunted them with other people over the years, but Bill was the most able of the hunters.

He taught me how to tell the different between poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms and I soon learned to trust myself to pick the benevolent ones. My mouth waters now as I think of those little wood sprites which seemed to have emerged from children’s fairytales I read as a child.

You can’t see the spores, but those morels released their invisible seeds and the wind carried them to the right places. I pictured them in their winter nests, growing underground, until the sun seeped into them and they pushed upward through the earth where they flourished in autumn shade and sunlight beneath those ash trees and on those pine-needled mounds.

I still marvel at the process and, although Bill has since passed on, he left me a valuable legacy. I know where the wood sprites live now. There are colonies of them all through the Ozarks woods. They seem to be waiting for me to return and pluck them from their perches, like living manna sent down from heaven.

Or, perhaps their spores flew through the air from that faraway Eden and landed in these Ozarks hills like parachutists in the night. I could see these tiny moths of spores fall silently to earth and nestle in the lavender shadows of scrub pines and cedars as the dawn stretched its fingers out like the dainty wave of a maiden’s hand.

And my book full of this same wonder, HILLS OF EDEN is now online at Only $2.99.