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By Timothy Collins

 May 26, 2017: Magical Twilight

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Sitting out on a quiet evening is certainly one joy of small-town living.

 If  the neighbors have their lights out (they usually do), life tends to settle down around 8:30 or 9:00. It can be quite still, with an occasional interruption from a train on the BNSF line a few blocks away. Amtrak, when it races by each night, is, for whatever reason, comforting.

A rising moon can cast wondrous shadows through the old trees, as it did during our early May full lunar spectacle.

By now, the fireflies have started to come out, and the yard is alight with hundreds of sparkling gold fairy-like lights.

All of this deepening twilight is magical, often marked by a flock of geese crossing overhead.

The proliferation of night wildlife this spring has broken the silence in wondrous ways. Because we have had so much rain, the tree frog chorus is the biggest I’ve ever heard. We seem to have some ducks or something else nearby, perhaps in a neighbor’s pool. An owl has taken up residence in a nearby tree.

Simple gifts, all of these.

I am grateful.

I cannot ask for more.

Except for the end of buffalo gnat season, which isn’t too far away.

I hope.

Night Sounds audio


May 7, 2017: Rural Sunday, a Reflection

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The American custom of observing Rural Life Sunday (also called Rural Sunday) during the spring transcends denominational boundaries. It has its roots in the ancient custom of “Rogation Days” from the Latin “rogare” ― “to ask.”

(In modern English, we find the root in our word, “interrogation”).

Late in the Easter season, Christians in farming communities would ask a blessing on their fields, their seeds, their farm animals, and their own labor, that their planting would flourish and result in a good harvest.

It was a joyful, hopeful time of community prayer for the land and its people.

Sadly, the custom of Rural Sunday has diminished in recent decades as we have moved farther away from a farming society. Even those of us who live in rural communities too often find ourselves isolated from the diverse beauties of the rural land, not only its farms, but the works of all of its human inhabitants, as well as our fellow creatures.

Today, following up on Earth Day, we have another opportunity to give thanks for the fullness of the land and its natural beauty, the gift of God’s creation. Today is an invitation to be just a little bit closer to the rural landscape, its people, and its creatures on a glorious spring morning. (Adapted from 

Listen to the reflection

PDF version


June 19, 2016: Preparing for Solstice

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The last evening of Spring: The Earth and Sun are approaching a balance of zenith. Read more.

Poppies: A Memorial Day Tribute

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In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row...

John McRae, May, 1915

Memorial Day is cherished across rural America. Read more.

Spring Sampler: West Central Illinois - A Photo Essay

Traveling along the backroads of West Central Illinois in McDonough and Fulton counties reveals treasures of light and shadow and splashes of color. April, 2016, in among days of gray and rain, offered some times of rich and unforgettable beauty.

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 A golden sunset bathes the Spoon River Valley on Helle Road in Fulton County, IL.

More Pictures

Essay in the Daily Yonder

Barber's Brown Hill Cemetery Book Makes Positive Waves

Sam Barber’s recent book, A Journey to Purchasing and Naming The Brown Hill Cemetery, has made positive waves in Greenville, NC, since its publication in 2015. Read more.

Maple Syrup Time in Illinois

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Eric Moe of Macomb, IL, pours sap from sugar maple trees at Argyle Lake State Park into a steaming tray of cooking syrup. The park, in McDonough County, IL, held its annual Maple Syrup Festival March 5, 2016. Read more.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Ho! Ho! Ho!

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Photo by Sam Barber, December 2015

Essay in the Daily Yonder

New: Theodore Roosevelt's Country Life Commission

Theodore Roosevelt's Country Life Commission of 1908-1909 is a landmark to remember. It energized thousands of people to work on improving rural life and developing rural communities. Its impacts are still visible today. Read More

Suffering children

There is no other way to say this. Poverty figures for the United States are horrendous.

Child poverty figures are an outrage. Read More

When a day begins with a fog

Mt. Airy, NCOne of my friends used to say that every good day in the Appalachians begins in a fog. For some of us, at least, this statement is a creed.... Read More

Never mined

Banner, IL—Our Prairie Land Conservancy had a Banner Day in Banner, IL, on June 28.We shared the joy of dedicating our new 535-acre Prairie Hills Wetland Reserve.... Read More

History and friendships matter

Greenville, NC—History matters. Friendships matter.
That's how I found myself in Greenville, NC, on June 20 and 21 to celebrate the dedication of a book by my friend, Sam Barber, called Journey to the Purchase and Naming of Brown Hill Cemetery.... Read More

The Loom is now Fruitless

When you hear about a state cutting a deal with a firm to create jobs, take it with a grain of salt. In fact, take it with lots of salt.... Read More

We just had to let him fly

... With some sense of vulnerability, I admit to encouraging my son, Daniel, to leave our small town to attend the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora for high school. Now that he has graduated, I again encourage him—even more enthusiastically—to head off to Boston for college in the fall.... Read More

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 Son Daniel with IMSA President Jose Torres

And So It Begins

The idea for Then and Now Media has been rambling around in the cellular world of my brain for several years. It took some time to translate the idea into the digital reality of the ether world, whatever, or wherever, that is. Read More

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