Forest foliage changes from green to orange, seen from ground level

Idle Rambles, a Memoir


Something happened that Karla Kratz could not explain when she moved to a Pennsylvania mountaintop subdivision. She couldn’t stop walking -- up and down, up and down the slope in all weather from her four-bedroom house to the ridge trails. She wandered and wrote haiku, twice a day, every day, looking, listening, tasting, sniffing, and feeling her way. For twenty-four years.

The landscape changed and she was there to report it. Her family enlarged and diminished and she chronicled that. She herself transformed -- or maybe just aged. And then she walked away.

Idle Rambles is her memoir. Using a traditional Japanese form called haibun — haiku interspersed with descriptions of nature and wildlife — Kratz begins with her move as a thirty-something newspaper reporter, wife, and mother from Midwest flatlands to that Eastern hillside. The record of her walks arcs to her abandonment of the mountain: retired, widowed, and empty-nested.

Kratz’s thoughts touch on Urban Sprawl, Environment, Natural History, Geography, Geology, History, Haiku, Martial Arts, and more. Essays describe horror at the sight of unexpected new guardrails; foibles of her daughter’s dogs, who were her walking companions;  failing to outrun a thunderstorm; depredations to the forest by home builders; seclusion of practicing Tai Chi on wooded lots as yet unbuilt; addressing an unresponsive ladies’ group on environmental protection of the mountain; picking berries with a five-year-old neighbor; taking walks with her toddler granddaughter; memories of weeding with her own grandmother; reflections on quirky neighbors; ruminations on the sounds of wind chimes, insects, wind, water, leaves, and voices — human and animal. She obsessively made it all into poems and essays. “I had to put it into words to really see it.”

Progressing through the seasons, the stories reveal the mountain forest’s history: clear-cut five or six times since the colonial era — geography: part of Pennsylvania's ridge system that carries the Appalachian Trail — geology: a remnant of towering mountains and sandy seabeds that split eons ago from the African continent — ecology: “I’m a non-native here myself;” she writes.

The 78,000-word manuscript, including about six photos by the author, is presently in search of a publisher.