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Friday, September 27, 2013

A Words Only Friendship

His name is Fredric Klees. I’ve known him for years through his book, The Round of the Year. I can’t remember if I just stumbled on the book while browsing through some library shelves or if someone recommended it to me. It’s an almanac of a year in his life when he tried to find at least one flower in bloom every day. In Pennsylvania that would not be easy.

Some entries are so brief as to be one or two liners, but others stretch over a page or two. What intrigues me is that I got to know him (and even maybe fall a bit in love with him) though I never saw a picture of him. He wrote rarely about his occupation, (professor at Swarthmore College), his students, his friends or relatives, his marital history and such. Obviously, he loved nature and meant to share that interest, but his personal life rides quietly in the back seat. And I’m not one to pry, even on Google.

He had a little stone house beside a waterfall, which he portrayed in delicate pen and ink on the book cover, and he spoke of the weather, wildlife, and occasional visits to his stepmother’s little farm within a few hours' drive from him. He was obviously fond of her but there’s no mention of his own mother. His father, the lone parent in his childhood, is spoken of fondly with a few flash-backs but personal references seem carefully edited. Is that the way of the Pennsylvania Dutch? There is no picture of Fredric Klees on the book jacket. In my mind’s eye the man is portrayed not in the flesh but in his words, his interests, the occasional betrayal of a gentle man content with a bachelor life and glad to share his interest in flowers and nature in his book.  

There is one longer entry of a day on a walk with a young woman into the woods and their discovery of an old abandoned house. Without saying as much you can sense his feelings for her but that, the only hint of a possible love interest, was left hanging in the air. Who knows what became of her? I wish I could find a biographical reference somewhere to satisfy my curiosity. On the other hand I’d rather not. There’s just enough of him in the book and by reading along with him through the year, one day at a time. I’ve done this two or three times, and he’s become a friend to me, though I am unknown to him.

Most Fridays I’d be getting ready to leave now for the Senior Center to play bridge. Ir's about a mile or so up the street Today the whole building was taken over by some school to offer classes in art so I’m at home alone. When I came across this book on the shelf next to my bed I decided to get it out again. Since it was copyrighted in 1963 I’d guess he wrote it in ’62. 

He begins his entry with “A perfect day with a flawless sky of jay blue. The air crisp and refreshing, the sun just warm enough to be pleasant on the back. ...I drove out into the country...and then down to Brandywine, where I saw a white heron intent on fish. There was goldenrod everywhere and wild asters, masses of pale blue.” 

Couldn’t you just see yourself in the passenger seat?

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