As the weather gets colder, I start thinking more about foods that are warm and filling, such as a nice bowl of hot stew.

Because of that, what I share with you today is another sort of stew — a fall “olio” if you please — assorted thoughts about things occurring in the world on Hays Hill.

We have opened our river-bottom land to a friend of our younger son. He is a transplant from the north country, homesick for the outdoors.

In proper season, he plans to bow hunt deer down in the timber. He emailed me the other morning to tell me what was happening south of the house, and I choose to share his observations with you.

“I sit here along the riverbank this morning, the first time in three years that I have had the opportunity to watch a sunrise. I had the pleasure of watching several wood ducks on the river, saw and heard several fish surfacing and managed to see a handful of does cross the far field. There were coyotes, raccoons and turkeys, too.”

That made my day. I didn’t have to see those sights myself but could enjoy what Neil saw vicariously. There’s a lesson for me, too, about keeping eyes open and basking in the miracles of our world even while other things go awry.

A major thing that went greatly awry was the death of a nephew by marriage. He was only 44. His death was caused by complications of an inherited condition.

Each time he was hospitalized, we feared he would not come home. This time, he did not. He leaves our niece Beth and two children and a legacy of courage and determination.

He was a “city boy” and did not have the relationship with nature that did Neil. He struggled against pain and increasing disability and, just a few days before his demise, coached a winning soccer team. I can learn from Shilo, too — keep on keeping on as long as you can.

There aren’t any lessons here, but as I think about hot soups I am trying to think about including more vegetables in them. I don’t eat enough veggies. I tire of the fresh ones and don’t take time to prepare the others. Still, I found a statistic that made me feel almost virtuous.

According to, one in four Americans claims never to have eaten a vegetable. Can you imagine? That means they did not have to tolerate the pureed baby vegetables — those peas and carrots — that Gerber sells and most parents use as beginner foods.

I can definitely add more veggies to my stew. I can borrow Shilo’s determination and Neil’s sense of wonder and appreciation and be thankful for all of those. Most of all, I can be grateful to the people in my life who continue to show me the way to live.

I think author James Lee Burke was right when he wrote that “My experience with age is that it instills a degree of patience in some, leaves the virtuous spiritually unchanged, feeds the character defects in others and brings little wisdom to any of us.”

Life’s not going to be better just because I’m getting older, but it is definitely improved by the other people in it, just as my stew is improved by adding healthful vegetables.

Margaret Hays is a longtime Osawatomie resident who writes a weekly column for The Miami County Republic

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